I know I’ve been lucky, but most of my martial arts instructors have encouraged questions.
For example, my BJJ coach, Marcus Soares, is known for his killer conditioning sessions (‘warmups,’ he calls them…).
But right after putting his class through hell he always starts the technical part of class by asking, “Are there any questions.” He then takes time to answer each and every question, regardless of whether it applies to BJJ, MMA or self defense.
I often find that this Q&A sessions is the single most valuable part of the training session.
But often only one or two people ask questions, and everyone else stands around in silence.
This lack of questions always perplexes me, because asking lots of questions has been a huge factor for improving my game!
In addition to questions helping you learn faster, it also comes down to taking personal responsibility for your progress.
A good instructor might be able to notice and point out mistakes you’re making, but he can’t be everywhere at once. Maybe your instructor will see you struggling with a technique or maybe he won’t…
It YOUR job to make sure that you get the answers you need. Ultimately it’s YOU who has to make sure that your weaknesses get worked on, that you’re doing a technique correctly and that you have ‘answers’ to the most common ‘questions’ you run into on the mat.
Asking questions, even if they don’t get answered right away, is part of taking control of your development as a grappler and martial artist.
Keep in mind, though, that your instructor may not know the answer to every question, nor the solution to every problem.
This isn’t even his fault; nobody can be an expert at every single aspect of this game, and that includes instructors.
Also, people tend to be most helpful when they’re asked about techniques they use in their own game. If your instructor is an old-school closed guard fighter then he probably won’t be the best person to ask about the deep half guard…
But even if your instructor doesn’t have all the answers, that’s OK. The good news is that it’s the 21st century and you have a lot of different options.
If your coach can’t (or won’t) answer a specific question then ask your team mates and training partners what they think.
If they don’t know either, then post your question on a grappling forum, search Youtube, or look for a book or a DVD on the topic.
Back in the early 1980’s I trained JKD under Makoto Kabayama. I’ll always remember something that he said during my very first class:
“If you have a question, please ask it. If I know the answer, I’ll tell you. If I don’t know the answer then we’ll try to figure it out together.”
Now THAT’S my kind of question-answering philosophy!
P.S. Are you interested in BJJ but don’t even know where to begin (or which questions to ask)? Download my free book, A Roadmap for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and get started right away!