The power of the introductory lesson

An introductory lesson, or intro private for short is probably the greatest marketing tool at the disposal of every martial arts academy. Small or large.

Back in the old days, there was this shark tank mentality of putting all of the students together. Both beginner and advance. And letting them duke it out. Where only the toughest and most dedicated would survive and become members.

This weeding out process is probably why most Jiu Jitsu academies didn’t make it. They were ran by Bjj fighters geared towards developing other Bjj fighters. But your average guy off the street doesn’t want to be a fighter, a competitor, or train really hard.

Of course, there will always be a few that want the challenge.

But the majority of students starting out just want a fun and safe activity that will help them lose weight and stay off the couch.

This fact is hard for many instructors to understand. Especially those that are younger and compete frequently.

Any academy that wants to be commercially successful will need to put energy towards this demographic. People with probably no martial arts training or any active hobbies and looking for something different than the run of the mill gym experience or boring cardio.

People starting today often have no coordination or basic motor skills, and are probably overweight and out of shape.

The longer I teach the greater the amount of time that I spend working on fundamental human movements like: posture, squat, and balance.

This is where the intro private lesson shines.

Instead of having a fresh student jump right into a class with people more experienced on day one. We can use the intro lesson to introduce these basic, fundamental movements in a low pressure environment.

Have you ever tried to teach a new student how to shrimp while doing drills in a group class?

It’s not pretty.

The more experienced students often feel slowed down and the newer student(s) feel rushed and they almost never have enough time or instruction to get the technique down.

From a technical standpoint the intro lesson is a great way to introduce the movements and techniques that you deem essential to a student starting out in your academy.

Be it how to fall properly or spider guard. You can use this one on one time not only to put a greater focus on technique but to also introduce the new student to the martial art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The philosophy behind our art form and why we choose to spend so much time on the ground.

This is especially important to a beginner. Knowing why we focus so much time and effort on the ground is one question that you will always have to address.

Especially for younger students and female students.

Increased conversions

Students who spend one on one time with an instructor are more likely to stick with the training.

It’s as simple as that.

Taking the time out of your busy teaching schedule to spend time with a new prospective student is often the difference between having a new member sign up versus leaving to try out another academy.

As much importance as we place on techniques and competition. We often forget the power behind getting to know our students and becoming a part of their life.

Of course, there is no guarantee that a student will sign once you do the introductory lesson. But it will allow you the opportunity to connect on a much deeper level.

Larger academies can have more senior students hold the intro lesson while smaller academies might need the instructor to step in.

Whatever the case, the intro lesson can definitely take your academy to the next level.

Private Lessons

It’s funny but the majority of my posts come from conversations or questions that I get asked.

A lot questions about making it in Jiu Jitsu

How to make money in Jiu Jitsu?
How can you do Jiu Jitsu full time?

There are lots of ways to make money in Jiu Jitsu. Maybe I will do a later series of posts covering some of the other sources of income available to athletes and instructors.

Obviously, the majority of Jiu Jitsu practitioners won’t be in a position to do private lessons.

But for anyone considering a career in Jiu Jitsu. This is a major stream of income especially for athletes/instructors starting out.

It’s a relatively low investment, high reward situation.

Think about it.

All you need is your knowledge and a space to train and you can literally take in hundreds of dollars per hour.

Starting out

Starting out, no one’s going to take you seriously until around the purple belt level. Before this it’s just the blind leading the blind. So it’s best to be at the point where you have mastered the basic movements of Jiu Jitsu, fundamental techniques, and self defense. While starting to develop your own style and game.

I remember being really nervous the first time I taught a private lesson.

I’m serious.

I was nervous about what techniques I would show.

I was nervous if the student would like my teaching.

I was nervous about accepting (a lot) money for something that I love to do.

Even if you lack confidence in your abilities. At this point you know more about Jiu Jitsu than 99% of people.

That’s all you need to get started.

Breakdown

If I had to break down what type of students take private lessons. I could narrow it down to three simple groups (ordered from lowest knowledge investment to highest knowledge investment)

1. Belt test private lessons

Most students interaction with private lessons often start as a crash course lesson to help them prepare for their belt test/promotion.

These lessons serve as a refresher for techniques that they might have missed or need help on.

Depending upon the academy. Belt test privates are a good and recurring source of income and not very difficult.

2. General private

This level of private lesson is more complex than the belt test private. Where you have a fixed number of techniques that you need to cover.

While a general private is really a consultation.

A student will come to you with questions on how to improve their guard.

Or possibly assistance on a specific position that gives them trouble. Like passing a knee shield.

You will see general privates more at blue belt level (and sometimes even higher belt levels). Where students will start investing more time and energy developing their own Jiu Jitsu.

Once you have mastered the fundamental techniques of Jiu Jitsu and have a firm grasp of the techniques of modern Jiu Jitsu.

All that’s left for you is to create your own unique style.

Of course, you can emulate others techniques and movements. But at the end of the day you will still have to make them your own.

3. Style specific private

The highest knowledge level of private lesson.

Students actively seek out a particular instructor for a specific move or set of moves.

These are the ones that I really enjoy personally because as a student of Jiu Jitsu I’ve put hundreds of hours into my game and the techniques that I use. So I’m more invested in showing my own moves versus more general techniques.

Example: You want to improve your butterfly guard so you take a private lesson with Marcelo Garcia.

Academy Privates

Most private lessons take place inside of an academy.

If you’re an instructor at an academy then there is really nothing stopping you from having a thriving private lesson business.

In fact, I’m surprised by how many academies (big and small) ignore private lessons.

Academies with hundreds of students might have 2-3 weekly privates going on.

My advice to you is just to promote private lessons more with in your academy.

I’ve been to a lot of academies where they never once talk about their private lesson programs and then wonder why no one takes privates.

If you’re not an instructor at your academy but you are a higher belt or high level athlete/instructor then your ability to do private lessons may be affected.

Some academies only let instructors do private lessons. So you will have to find alternatives.

Some academies charge a fee for every lesson that you teach. I’ve seen anywhere between 10-30 percent.

That means if you charge $100 for a private lesson. Your academy could be taking $20-$30.

Again, you will have to find the best situation that works for you.

In Home Lessons

In home lessons is a good alternative to doing private lessons inside of an academy.

It allows you the flexibility of working during non-standard hours when your academy might be closed or unavailable and all of the proceeds go to you.

Pricing

Pricing your private lesson is very subjective. Traditionally, higher belts charge more for their private lessons than lower belts.

At the high end I’ve seen athletes, world champions mind you, charge anywhere between 250-300+ per lesson.

It all depends on your competition accolades, teaching skill, technique, demand and a whole list of things that is too many to count.

Group Privates

I’m a big believer in group privates. As an instructor it’s easier for me to show a move on one student while the other(s) watch versus having to walk a student through a technique solo.

It’s also more efficient to have the students practice their moves on each other versus having them all practice their moves on you individually.

Group privates are a great alternative for many students that are turned off from the pricing of one-on-one privates.

$200 might be a lot for a lot for a solo private. But split 4 ways is only $50 per person.

Private Packages

In most businesses you give a discount for customers paying in advance.

Sure they can pay full price for a one off lesson.

But say they want to take 5, 10, or even 50 privates with you.

At that point it’s okay to show that you appreciate them deciding to work with you.

Privates aren’t cheap.

But knocking 20-25% off of your usual pricing won’t kill you and can even help promote your lessons.

I know many academies that will nickel and dime their loyal customers. But that’s just a lack of business knowledge.

You reward those loyal to you.

Don’t be afraid

Private lessons are a great source of income that is often under utilized.

I even know world class black belts that still feel weird about teaching private lessons and worry about bringing value to the students each time.

These are guys that are high level and just by conversing with them about Jiu Jitsu would help grow your understanding of the game exponentially.

Ultimately you have to realize that you have a lot to offer and that people will spend good money to learn from you.

And that’s okay.