A debate on the value of BJJ privates, seminars, instructionals and camps.
Private lessons or seminars from a black belt normally range from $100 - $500 / lesson or seminar. A BJJ camp can run a couple thousand dollars depending on the experience. So does this seemingly steep cost have enough value to make sense for you?
The answer, like most things in Jiu Jitsu is, it depends. Full disclosure, it is easy to say I have a bias on this topic as I am a black belt who does private lessons, teaches at BJJ Globetrotter camps, hosts my own Gentle Art Lifestyle camps, do seminars regularly and have multiple BJJ Fanatics instructionals out. That said, I also have gone to camps, seminars, and privates over the course of the 17 years I have been training. I am looking at it through as pragmatic a lens as I can, having been on both sides of the coin.
Let’s start out our debate by considering private lessons. A private lesson's value comes down to the coach who is teaching it. Some coaches, who may have big names in the sport, just parrot what they have learned from their coaches. Things work when they do it and therefore you should just do it how they do it. While they may be very good at something, the art of understanding the principle and taking into account the different variables like body type, established game, athleticism, etc is a different thing altogether.
When somebody just repeats what they heard it is tough to justify a private lesson in my opinion. You can look up any technique on youtube and see it. To execute it however takes nuance and a principled understanding of what is actually happening in the move, along with an understanding of the person trying to execute it. If you are 5’4” and trying to learn triangles from somebody that is 6’3” there are some physical differences. A great coach will teach the principles and work through additional methods for your specific game and body type. If your coach, or a travelling professor is able to tailor their expertise to your situation then privates will save you months or years of headaches not quite getting the move. Overall, I say it's a good value.
BJJ seminars can be a mixed bag as well. To me it seems most seminars are attended so people can tell their BJJ friends that they went and post a picture (I am guilty of this too). Seminars are normally cheaper than a private lesson but there is much less of an opportunity to tailor the move to your body type and style. Additionally, many big seminars are attended because somebody was a world champion and not because they are an amazing teacher. Being an excellent BJJ practitioner and being an excellent coach are two different things. Some people pull it off masterfully while others not so much. Seminars are worth the cost if you are going to see a world class instructor or someone that you know is a good communicator, probably not worth it just for an IG photo.
BJJ instructionals are much like seminars to me. BJJ Fanatics has done a great job of marketing instructionals and getting coaches to put their expertise to video. From my experience, It was tough to put years of detailed knowledge into instructional form. After doing seminars for years, and coaching for a decade, it felt like I needed the instructional to be a masterpiece. My videos, Guillotine glossary 1 & 2 have more information than I have ever taught before. In this way, it is super valuable. That said, having the instructional without someone knowledgeable to help can be challenging.
After hearing my reviews I did pretty well conveying a ton of info into principles that most can understand. That said, it is not always the case. Before you buy an instructional, I suggest getting an understanding of what kind of Jiu Jitsu that instructor is sharing. What is his or her brand? Is a tap a tap or does he preach positional dominance, breaking mechanics and the like. There is no wrong type of “brand” of Jiu Jitsu, just find the one you like the most.
BJJ camps are an incredible value. I was a coach for the last BJJ Globetrotters camp at Jay Pages BJJ in Arizona. It was 7 days of classes taught by excellent instructors from across the globe. Each day was jam packed with at least 8 hours of jiu jitsu seminars, then open mats etc. The camp cost was only $315. Your mind almost takes in too much Jiu Jitsu! While strictly a value proposition, this is a win, the real win is the comradery you share while on the mats. You make close friends from all walks of life. You are all going through something hard yet fun together. That mutually shared experience with others is invaluable. Camps like the Fire and water camp offer a great Jiu Jitsu experience combined with an additional benefit like the Wim Hof breathing method and cold exposure. Other camps offer camping, or training with BJJ stars. What they all have in common is they build on the culture of BJJ. The people that go to the camp all share something in common and all go through something amazing together. Every camp that I have been to has been well worth the price of admission.
Moral of the story is you rarely can go wrong investing money in education. Privates, seminars, instructionals, and camps are all different types of BJJ education. Find the environment and the coaches that fit you and be prepared to have your mind expanded!