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Group Classes vs Private Training.
Which is Better? Pros and Cons of Both.

When it comes to martial arts training, something is, 99% of the time, better than nothing. Whether this is watching a few YouTube videos and doing a bit of shadow boxing in your bedroom, or spending a small fortune on gloves, shinpads, mouthguard, BJJ gi (complete with a shiny new white belt 😊) and all the rest of it, and then joining a gym or buying a block of expensive private sessions from a professional coach. Both methods will no doubt lead to some progress. Some.

As anybody that has ever tried to learn martial arts on their own at home will no doubt know, training alone with no real structure can only get you so far. This is where martial arts clubs and combat sports gyms come in. To provide guidance, equipment, a safe place and a few good training partners to help speed up the progress of martial artists in training.

However, upon entering the gym/club/academy, the prospective martial artist is often met with a new issue. Should they sign up for the group classes programme, giving them access to a timetable of classes, instructed by a qualified coach and training in a group with a bunch of people with similar experience levels to themselves, or should they spend a bit more and book in some one-to-one, private sessions with the coach?

This is a conversation I have had countless times over the years with prospective students who are trying to ascertain which option would be the most beneficial to them. The answer to this question, and to be honest the answer to so many questions when it comes to martial arts, is, it depends.

The main difference as it relates to the student will more than likely be the cost. Membership to group classes, whilst not always super cheap, will no doubt work out much more affordable per hour of training than booking a one-to-one session with a coach. However, we must consider the pros and cons of each type of training before we can decide which is more valuable to, and which is right for the individual.

Lets talk first about group classes, as these are the most common path of entry taken by people looking to get into MMA, BJJ or any other combat sport.

Group classes are great, and it is not rare for people to train for many years, often even getting to a level where they are regularly competing, solely in the group setting and never, ever pay for a private lesson. Groups allow the student to get some instruction from the coach, reps of a given grill or technique, and even some live training in and pressure test their techniques against resisting training partners.

A secondary benefit of group sessions is atmosphere. Some people love to train in a room that is full of energy and they feel as though they feed of the vibe in the gym for extra motivation. This is definitely true for myself, I love training in a busy class and have travelled the world to seek out the best gyms with the best training partners because of this. If the instructor running the session is positive and enthusiastic, the group setting for combat sports training can be one of the most inclusive, friendly and supportive environments one can ever be a part of. Look at the wrestling culture in America and the old Soviet states, and the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu scene worldwide, members of social groups often talk of the ‘brotherhood’ they share with the guys and gals on the mat with them day in, day out.


So what about private sessions? Why would one fork out a much higher price for an hour of private training with a coach over jumping into a group class and getting quality training in with a variety of training partners?

The main reason for the beginner to do so, in my opinion, would be speed. With privates, the level of detail and depth that the instructor can go into is tenfold that that is possible in a group session. This dramatically shoots up the rate of progress. For example, if somebody has never boxed before, they may learn the basics of how to correctly throw the jab in a boxing group class, but if they were to work on the jab for an hour, on the pads with a highly skilled coach, that same jab would have a whole lot more sting on it after the same duration of training.


Another aspect that must be considered is the complexity involved in learning combat sports. Often times, people that are first getting into training have no real prior knowledge of fighting. People may have watched a few boxing or UFC matches, or had a scrap or two as kids, but when it comes to the fundamental concepts, techniques and terminology of proper combat sports training, they often feel a bit lost. Joining a group session and learning the technique of the day, whilst it can prove valuable for those with some base knowledge and who are regularly attending, for others it can sometimes feel a bit abstract and lacking in clear structure.

Private sessions allow you to work directly with a coach and fill in the gaps in your knowledge from the ground up. Take learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for example, at first BJJ training can feel chaotic and random, new starters often struggle to grasp the main aims and objective of each position.

This confusion can sometimes be compounded by learning random techniques in the group classes that they can make it in to attend. Within a few private lessons however, a good coach could fully outline and explain every major position of the sport, what the person on top should be looking to do, what the person on bottom should be aiming for, which aspects are the most important and how to go about improving position or attacking from there. This can lead to developing a much more holistic understanding of the sport in a much shorter period.

Finally, private sessions allow the student to seek out a specific expert coach that can help them with a certain aspect of their game. This allows them to go direct to source and fine tune an area or idea they have been having issues with, rather than wait for that specific technique or concept to come up on the group class curriculum. This again saves the student time and speeds up rate of progression.


To conclude, I would say the better option for the individual truly depends on their current knowledge, their financial situation, and the speed at which they hope to progress. Of course, most people want to see results and progress relatively quickly, so I would argue that a combination of a few private lessons, combined with regular group class attendance would be the ideal training set up for somebody looking to seriously improve. This way they can get rounds of sparring in with partners of all abilities, and then take any issues or feedback that arises from them sessions into their private sessions with their coach to dial in on and fix their game.


At the Academy, we have group classes every evening, and plenty of space for private tuition students. We are happy to discuss your options and will always give you an honest assessment of what we think would benefit you the most, given your goals and current situation. If you would like to chat with us and find out what kind of training set up would be best for you, please reach out via any of the channels at the bottom of this page.

Thanks for reading,



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