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This website is about Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). I'm a brown belt who started in 2006, teaching and training at Artemis BJJ in Bristol, UK. All content ©2004-2016 Can Sönmez

26 April 2020

26/04/2020 - Zoom classes update, plus thoughts on the future of online BJJ

Article #25, by Can Sönmez
Class #1234
Artemis BJJ (my living room), Bristol, UK - 26/04/2020



Insomnia as usual, so I'll take the opportunity to chat about how the shift to online teaching only has been going for me here in Bristol. I've been doing it for a month now, as I have a housemate willing to be my uke. I've been using Zoom to teach group and private lessons since the lockdown got serious in the UK a month ago. Internet connection while streaming has stayed steady, which surprised me considering my wifi is pretty rubbish.

The recording function on Zoom is terrible: it's supposed to upload to Zoom's cloud thingy, but so far has just resulted in unwatchable vids (though the quality while I'm initially streaming seems to be fine). I therefore record it on my phone instead, then upload that to unlisted YouTube links I can send to my students (as lots of them don't watch live, they prefer to check it out later, judging by the view numbers on the YouTube vids). The full vids are between 20 to 30 minutes long, though as my uke doesn't like to be on public footage, those are just for members. 😉

The main problem is naturally the lack of physical feedback. I have got a few sufficiently motivated students that have been doing Zoom private lessons and give good verbal feedback, plus I can see what they're doing and correct (thanks to the gallery view in Zoom), but most of them don't have a drilling partner, which unsurprisingly makes that a lot less useful. Interestingly, one of the most committed private lesson students is somebody who I hadn't often seen in my classes pre-lockdown: she usually goes to the nogi and women's class. I'll be curious to see if she will pop up in my classes when normal training resumes (I hope so, she's a good student, a promising blue belt).



I have modified how I teach a little as a result of the move to online-only. I demonstrate the technique for longer, also taking time to show it solo. In a normal class, I'd just teach one technique with one variation, then do a lot of drilling. With Zoom, I'll show multiple variations and some related techniques, plus anything else people ask about.

After that, I do solo drills (like shrimping, bridging, grilled chicken, turn to knees, back step etc), bunch of repetitions so people can follow along. The handy thing with that is I get a little work-out too: I have considered doing that section for longer (at the mo, isn't usually more than a few mins). So yeah, I need to ask if people want that solo drill section to be longer or not. I then finish up with stretching, which again is useful for me. That's something else I could potentially do for longer, as there isn't the same time constraint as in a 'normal' class.



I think that is one positive outcome of the lockdown. All sensible BJJ schools have now engaged with some kind of online training as a result, which is making everybody more familiar with the options available. That also means we are all getting a lot of hands-on experience with what works best online: the long-term repercussions for our sport could be significant, with a whole generation of BJJ teachers becoming very familiar with both the technology and pedagogy of teaching online.

Before lockdown, online training was something a few big names were able to use as an income stream, putting up technique videos relatively similar to what you get on a DVD. Now, I think that is going to open up, as so many of us are running full classes on Zoom, or recording full classes and uploading them. That experience and knowledge is still going to be there when the lockdown is lifted. In an ideal world, it will provide us all with a whole new potential income stream, or at least a way to increase the value of what we can offer to our students.



I was surprised when an ex-student of mine (who now lives in Australia) suggested she'd be interested in paying to just have private lessons, as I'd mentioned I was doing them for my current students. I'm not at a level yet where doing that separately would make sense, BUT it wouldn't be difficult to simply live stream my in-person classes (once those start up again). I could set up some low payment option for people like her, who have an interest in doing distance learning.

Though yeah, I'd need a wifi connection at the gym for that, probably. I could try the data on my phone, but I'm not sure my data package is beefy enough to handle repeated live streaming. It's something I've considered in the past, but the experience of Zoom classes has done a lot of clarify the idea for me. Watch this space! 😁

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