Private classes are an excellent way for students to get personal, customized instruction, and for instructors to generate additional income to supplement group classes. However, many gyms do not offer private lessons, for various reasons.

In this article, I will tell you why you should be teaching private classes regularly, how your students will benefit from them, how to teach a private class (+ the big mistakes to avoid) and how to sell your private classes. 

Why It Makes Sense To Teach Privates


Take a look at your gym’s schedule. Let’s say you have one mat area. There’s the 7 am class, lunchtime class, and then at night, you teach a kids’ class, an hour for beginners and another hour for advanced students. Maybe the yoga teacher drops by a few times a week too. Even with a relatively busy schedule like that, there’s a lot of downtime when your mats are empty. Mornings, afternoons, weekends – you are paying rent but not utilizing your space.

What if you could use this downtime to generate extra income, get new people in the door, create a connection with your students and help them improve faster? 

That’s where private classes come in. They are a great way for gym owners and instructors to generate extra income. For some instructors, myself included, they can even become the primary income source. If you don’t feel like teaching privates yourself, you can let your instructors and competitors use the mat to teach their private classes for a small percentage of the class fee. 

Benefits for the students

Now we know private classes can offer some nice benefits for you. But what does it offer your students? Why should they pay a premium?

When I started teaching private classes, it was a way for me to finance my Jiu Jitsu lifestyle. I knew that some students preferred one-on-one instruction, but I was not fully convinced of the benefits. 

That quickly changed when I started teaching private classes regularly. My private class students improved in leaps and bounds; they were proudly telling me how well the techniques had been working during sparring. The results became obvious in competition as well. On one occasion, one of my students won a gold medal using a sweep I taught him in a private class the day before.

Not only competitors benefit from private classes -it can also serve as a great introduction to the art. Group classes can be intimidating to many people, and impossible to attend for others.

I’ve listed the biggest benefits of private classes below. Make sure to mention these when marketing your private classes, which we’ll discuss in a minute:

1. Level of instruction
When teaching martial arts, one of the biggest challenges is finding the right level of complexity for your instruction. Many gyms deal with this by separating beginners from advanced students, but even then, level differences can be enormous. A fresh blue belt and a competitive brown belt are worlds apart. So are first-timers and seasoned white belt veterans with a wrestling background. Private classes let you teach at the perfect level of complexity, providing a challenge, but not overwhelming your student.

2. Customized techniques
One of the famous clichés in jiu jitsu is that “jiu jitsu is for everyone”. Though that might be true, the same jiu jitsu does not work for everybody. With private classes, you can offer techniques that fit your student’s level, natural attributes, and preferences.

3. Addressing specific issues
I want to help as many of my students as I can, but usually, when a group class is over, the next group is already storming the mats, so there’s not enough time to solve everyone’s (jiu jitsu) problems. With private classes, you can take all the time to solve your student’s problems, which helps them break through plateaus. 

4. Introduction to the sport
Private classes can serve as a safe environment to learn the basics of the art you are teaching, allowing newcomers to get comfortable before joining group sessions.

5. Accommodating different schedules
Entrepreneurs, healthcare professionals, security guards… I could go on. Many professions don’t have a standard 9 to 5. Private classes can be a great option for those that aren’t able to attend the group classes on a regular basis

How to teach a private class
There are basically three kinds of private classes I teach:
1. Beginner privates
2. Recurring privates
3. Single privates

For beginner privates, I will offer a multiple-class package teaching the basics of jiu jitsu. For recurring classes, I will create a custom curriculum keeping the level, attributes and jiu jitsu game of the student in mind. For single privates, I will usually teach techniques from one position or help the student with the problems he or she raises. 

A typical private looks like this:
– 10 minutes warm-up (for beginners we’ll work on basic jiu jitsu movements, for more advanced students I prefer repeating the techniques from last class, or drills relevant to the topic of the class)
– 30 minutes techniques (usually between 3 to 5 techniques)
– 5 minutes for filming the techniques
– 15 minutes of specific sparring from the position of the class

Tips & tricks
Pretty simple so far right? Let’s point out some things that you should avoid, and some things that can bring your private classes to the next level. 

First: Don’t teach too many techniques. Your goal is not to overwhelm your students with the impressive amount of moves you know. It’s to make them better. Your student can’t get better if he or she doesn’t retain any of the 9 guard-break variations you just showed.

You also don’t want to teach privates that last for longer than an hour. This is usually where attention starts to fade, as private classes can be quite intense, information wise.

And that doesn’t just apply to the student!

Teaching private classes can also be quite grueling. It’s just you and your student, and you must be present and sharp during the entire class. Try teaching 3 hours of consecutive privates and see how sharp you are by the end of the last class.

Recently I’ve found a solution to this though. I called in the help of some of my students. I have a few young and hungry competitors that are more than happy to help me out with teaching privates. They are the uke for the student to drill and spar with, giving me an even better view of the positions and giving my body a break. The competitors are glad they can pick up some extra jiu jitsu techniques and even make some money with doing what they love.

Selling private classes

Getting the word out there is critical for actually getting people to book private lessons with you. Not everyone, and especially not beginners will assume that you provide it.

There are many channels in which you can make it known private lessons are available:

We go over those channels in our article about setting up your referral program, so check it out for more details.

It’s important to follow up on the initial mention with periodic reminders of the benefits of private lessons. Create posts and e-mails about the benefits of the classes and share footage and testimonials from members who are already benefiting from it. When people ask for information about your private classes, make sure to have it all ready (I have a PDF with all the information neatly presented that I can send to prospects) and book their first class. 

If you are a Martial Arts on Rails user, you can use our booking feature to have your members or visitors book privates with your directly from your website.

Conclusion

Private classes are the perfect way to maximize your time spent at the gym. You can teach people that might not have the option to train otherwise, help your students improve faster and create a solid stream of additional income.

Are you already teaching private classes at your gym? why or why not? Let us know what is your approach to private lessons in the comments below.

Published by Daniel de Groot

Daniel is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructor and active competitor. Since obtaining his master degree, he splits his time between his team in the Netherlands and Brazil, where he teaches at one of Brazil's premier academies, The House FC.

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