Pay in Jiu-Jitsu: How Much Should Instructors Make?

This may be a very controversial blog. My intent is not to offend anyone but to start a conversation and share some thoughts about ways to handle it. Jiu Jitsu differs in many ways from other sports, and in most ways it is superior to others, in my opinion. It’s good for respect, behavior, discipline and human molding. However, where the respect crosses into money is not good.

Here’s a few things to consider or think about:

Where does respect for academy owner/professor end and individual financial worth/ respect begin?

The black belt (or the highest belt at your academy) is the one we give the most respect to, as it should be. He/she is usually the owner of the academy. Do they deserve the respect of the members of the academy? Of course! They have worked long and hard for their black belt, but the question becomes who gets paid for what?

The truth is the black belt needs to make a living that may include owning a gym or instructing at a gym, or traveling and teaching seminars. It may also include teaching privately or competing on a level to earn money. The idea here is they have learned a skill and should be paid to teach or put on a show. Whatever the case is, making enough to earn a living in this profession is difficult. What is a fair wage for an instructor to expect to earn? What is a fair wage for someone filling in? To what extent does the competition record factor into the pay?

How does the lack of adequate pay for knowledge affect the individual?

When people are paid a fair wage for the job that they do, whether they are teaching classes, giving private lessons, etc., they gain the ability to financially support themselves and can then focus on learning and perfecting their own abilities to give back even more. But this is all based on the jiujiteiro being given the appropriate pay for the appropriate knowledge given. It is a balancing act between overpaying and, on the other side, not paying enough for value of the instruction given, which is the most common occurrence. It can by physically and emotionally tiring and exhausting to give the best of what you have to offer and not make an appropriate wage. 

How does the lack of adequate pay for knowledge affect the sport as a whole?

The bigger picture is how the sport as a whole is affected by this phenomenon. When the best players and thinkers in this field cannot make a living, they will leave it or make it a hobby and seek gainful employment, and the forward momentum of the sport and the innovation will slow down or cease. At that point, all jiujiteiros are negatively impacted, many even without being aware.

What is the appropriate pay for privates?

This is a very difficult question. Deciding who at your academy is appropriate for teaching privates? What is the appropriate value for the private? Is it based on rank or is it more important to recognize the skill you can learn from that individual? One of the academies I know of did it the best I had seen work. They had a list of those “qualified” to teach at their academy and a minimum price of a private. As an instructor you could charge more, but not less.

What is the appropriate pay for academy expenses and reimbursement for others work?

Every school based their monthly fees for membership on location, experience of the instructors, and many other factors, but what is appropriate? I have heard of $75 a month to $250 a month for one person, so there is a wide gap.

What is the right answer to balance the respect for the knowledge of individuals end and the respect for the blackbelt begin?

When it comes to covering classes when regular instructors cannot be there, when is it/should it be a “favor” for the gym, or is it an opportunity to “learn” as a less than black belt (thereby gaining experience)? Should it be a paid position, much like they pay substitute teachers in school, where they pay them for covering class and based on education level as to the amount of money they earn?

I personally feel that there is a time and place to “help” out — sudden illness or family emergency. It has taken me years to learn to value myself and what I can share with those wanting to learn. It is interesting how often people want what you know for free but as soon as you tell them sign up for a private, they say they will look on YouTube.

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