Actions Speak Louder Than… Certs


As with anything in life, continuing to learn and to grow is of the utmost importance. Getting outside of your comfort zone, surrounding yourself with people that are smarter than you, trying new things. These are all necessary.

In the world of teaching, especially strength and conditioning or self defense, it’s imperative to continually seek out other trainers, certifications and learning opportunities to make yourself a more well rounded coach/instructor and challenge what you’re doing now.

The biggest crux of that comes simply in the way the vast majority approach certifications. All too often the attendees assume that once they leave the cert (assuming that they passed) they now “understand” the material. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

You might have a new insight into the subject, you may have had numerous “aha moments” but the reality is it’s impossible to have absorbed 100% of the material presented in front of you AND as of now it’s only sitting in your short term memory banks.

The title/certification/qualification itself doesn’t mean shit if you don’t begin to apply it, drill it, test with it, fail with it and continue to build on the knowledge.

If all you’re doing is paying the money and showing up so you can add it to your teaching resume, then you’re part of the problem and you’re no better than you were before you got there.

When an athlete is having back problems and I need to fix the way they look at breathing and bracing, it doesn’t help for me to hand them my resume and say “I attended a DNS Level 1” over and over again. The fact I was there doesn’t improve their quality of life like it improves your feeling of self-worth. Now you have to use your words and fix their movement.

The action you take before, during and after a certification will tell a lot about your character as an instructor.

Here’s a few things I think about.


  • Know why you are taking the course. This is more important than you think and can make or break you going into it.
  • Read whatever course material is presented before hand
  • Come up with the questions or concerns that really speak to you and you are looking to get answered
  • Ask others that have attended the course, what to expect
  • Approach with an open mind. If you have a predetermined assumption on how great or terrible this will be, you WILL NOT get out of it what you need.


  • Get the contact information for the instructor (you never know when you need to ask questions later on and networking is always a good thing)
  • Take notes. Like a lot of notes.
  • Listen to intently
  • Participate willingly
  • Take all criticism into account
  • On topics you already “know,” listen to the way the instructor presents the information. Maybe you know the topic, but you can always pick up on new teaching cues, ways to present the information or ways to relate to other groups
  • Ask questions and get clarification on any material you are cloudy on
  • If you find yourself at anytime rolling your eyes or telling yourself “this is a waste of time.” Immediately, stop what you’re doing and stop being an asshole. Every moment is a learning opportunity… check your ego at the door.


  • Apply it.. immediately!
  • Study through your notes and pick out a segment or topic and put it to work.
  • If it’s a program/style/technique/etc… try it on yourself
  • Grab a student/athlete who could benefit from the information and offer to work with them as a guinea pig on the new things you learned.
  • Don’t be afraid to look stupid, say the wrong thing or fail. If you tell them to step left when they were supposed to step right, guess what… you’ll see them again and can fix it. If it’s not going to kill them, then it’s not a big deal. But you CANNOT be afraid to fail.
  • If you find it hard to apply the information, reach out to others that have taken the course and ask them how they are applying, seek out the instructor in charge of the course and ask questions or TAKE THE COURSE AGAIN if it’s something that is important enough.

The moral of the story is this… you’re in charge of you own destiny. As an instructor, if you’re not continually getting better, learning more, challenging your old ways and fighting to continually supply the best information for your students.. than you’re going to quickly find yourself obsolete in the grand scheme of things. You may teach full time, but you should always be looking for opportunities to be the student.

Your certifications and titles don’t mean anything.. what you do with them is what matters.

I say this all the time, but I’ve met black belts who aren’t worth shit  as instructors and blue belts that I’ve learned amazing things from. And that’s just in my BJJ studies.

Titles and certs and resumes are what gets your foot in the door and makes you look flashy… but once you’re inside, what you do next will be what builds your legacy… don’t take that for granted. If you can’t transfer that knowledge in a meaningful way to others, than the knowledge is worthless.

I have a box full of certifications and training diplomas collecting dust in the loft of our gym… they don’t matter. What matters is the hours and hours I’ve spent talking with students, teaching, failing, fighting my own ego and keeping an open mind.

I’d rather see “2500 hours of trying, failing, trying again and succeeding. Still learning and still trying to improve myself” on a teachers resume, then a list of worthless titles and certs.

If you want to be a great instructor, you need to always be learning. Always be open minded.

But at the end of the day… what do I know

train hard, stay safe, one love


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