More often than not, a black belt competitor has two roles: competing and teaching. The two roles are very commonly associated with one another as the ability to train full-time is a luxury that few can afford. In order to financially support themselves and extend their own training they teach at either their own or an affiliate’s academy. If you are teaching Jiu-Jitsu, it not only gives you opportunities to train but also to learn– a common notion supported by athletes like Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles Maciel and Ryron Gracie.
“I like teaching more than competing,” says Milton Bastos, a black belt competitor who grew his name when he won his adult division at the 2009 No-Gi World Championships as a brown belt. The championship was not just a major win for him at the time but it also ended his 8-year break from Jiu-Jitsu. After Milton received his brown belt, he quit training Jiu-Jitsu in 2001 to seek out grappling in another realm– wrestling. He remained in that sport, competing and teaching some of the top guys in Jiu-Jitsu like Fabbio Passos who cross-trained with Milton. In 2009, Fabbio urged Milton to return to BJJ competition and tag along with him to the No-Gi Worlds in Long Beach, CA baiting him with a trip to the states as well as a chance to use his wrestling for Jiu-Jitsu gold. Milton agreed and won every match to the top of the podium; he pulled guard in every match.
After the tournament he made connections with GMA member Ricardo “Franjinha” Miller, head of the Paragon team and began teaching at the Ventura academy shortly thereafter when Fabbio visited Brazil. He has stayed ever since, becoming one of the busiest professors around. Although, don’t tell him I called him that due to his insistence that you just call him by his first name.
Today, Milton can be found up and down the west coast at any of Paragon’s affiliate academies given that he acts as a substitute teacher. Normally a main instructor at the academy in Ventura, he willingly drives as far north as Santa Maria or as far south as Hollywood to fill in as a teacher should one be needed. It was at the Hollywood affiliation where I was able to sit down with Milton and talk about his love, style and advice for teaching.
“I’ve been teaching since I was fourteen years old. I was a green belt teaching kids classes,” says the now 30-year-old. Milton is a playful guy that makes sure his classes are fun and he is seen more as a friend than a dictator. His main influence was Leo “Leozinho” Vieira whom Milton trained under for some time.
As a way to further his teaching ability, he tries to learn every style out there. In order to do so, he willingly trains at other academies like GMA members Caio Terra’s Institute of Martial Arts in San Jose, CA and Romulo Barral’s Gracie Barra Northridge in Northridge, CA. “Franjinha encourages me to seek out training in other gyms so that I can better teach the students about different styles,” he claims. Beyond that, Milton makes coaching a large priority and enjoys seeing his students win more than he enjoys winning himself!
In this list of advice, Milton offers tips to better your teaching abilities:
- Make class fun. Incorporate games, music, jokes. Be playful with your students and be less formal. You can still gain respect from your students without being serious all of the time.
- Have an open mind. Try to learn everything to be able to teach your students all the different styles out there. Visit other academies and/or train with other people. Don’t think that you own Jiu-Jitsu. Don’t be afraid to branch out to other styles of grappling, either, such as judo and wrestling.
- You don’t own your students. Be on their level and be friends with them. Should a student leave your academy, respect their decision.