Functional / Emotional Fitness Private Lesson Example

Below is an example of some functional/emotional fitness private lessons I’ve taught:


1. I began by showing the students which muscles were too short, too long, and causing them pain/harm (e.g. “kyphosis”).
2. I taught them how to stretch and lengthen certain muscles.
3. I also taught them how breathing can help them lengthen their muscles.
4. Then, I taught them which muscles need to be strengthened.
5. I showed them how gaining a little more strength, endurance, and range of motion in specific joints can help them in their everyday life (e.g. getting in and out of the car, reaching down to pick something up, walking up and down stairs, getting down onto as well as up and off of the floor, decreasing lower neck pain, decreasing lower back pain, decreasing knee pain in squatting/walking/stairs, etc.).
6. I finished by teaching them how to measure where they are as well as observing their progress along the way.

At the beginning of our first session, I have them measure where they are. At the end, I have them measure their progress. EVERYONE feels better, has greater ranges of motion, and can move more efficiently at the end of their first lesson!

STORY: I remember teaching this topic to a group of police officers. I showed them how they:

• Slept in flexion.
• Ate breakfast in flexion.
• Drove to work in flexion.
• Worked at work in flexion.
• Had lunch in flexion.
• Did some more work in flexion.
• Drove home in flexion.
• Had dinner in flexion.
• Watched TV in flexion.
• Went back to bed in flexion.

I told them there was very little “extension” in their lives – meaning their back, neck, and shoulders were always curved/rolled forward – and that they needed to put some extension into their lives. I told them these short but simple stretches and exercises would make a powerful impact on their daily lives!

One sergeant who was presented wasn’t so sure – especially with the exercises I told him he could do while on duty. Long story short, after doing these stretches and exercises for two weeks, not only did he feel better but the pain in his shoulders, neck, lower back, and knees had gone away! As a male in his late fifties, this knowledge and experience was priceless!


One of my blue belts came to me and asked me to help him prepare for his purple belt exam in a few months. So…

1. I began by explaining the skill sets required for this belt – because it’s not JUST a technical know-how belt. And since strength is a skill, I taught them the most important skill to develop in all of Jiu Jitsu – one that would have lasting benefits, well into their 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond!
2. I taught him how to perform one exercise and one stretch for the hips. I also gave them two numbers (10,000 to 20,000 repetitions) to try and complete over the next 4 months – because that’s when I would test him. (NOTE: He had the technical requirements but I wanted to make sure he was fully ready for the physical/mental/emotional part).
3. I finished by teaching him how to measure where he was.

This blue belt completed the purple belt examination with flying colors! After completing forty-five rounds of sparring (i.e. nine rounds of front mount escapes, nine rounds of back mount escapes, nine rounds of side mount escapes, nine rounds of knee on belly escapes, and nine rounds of guard passing with white, blue, purple and brown belt training partners), he looked like he had just run around the block a couple of times – because he was barely perspiring!

Later, when I asked him how many repetitions he had performed, he told me, “A little over 20,000!

What was most interesting for me was the fact that his brown belt training partners were frustrated because they couldn’t hold him down from the side mount position!

This was a memorable example of what clean technique plus a tinge of attribute development looks like!


A student came to me with a desire to improve her standing striking skill. I asked her what her favorite technique was and she said, “Rear hand straight.” So…

1. I began by telling her, “Let’s put another 12-24 inches of footwork underneath your favorite technique. Imagine being able to hit a training partner with finesse and ease while standing two feet farther away from them!” So, we began our journey together.
2. Next, we measured her current abilities. I measured her step and slide footwork at 36 inches (91cm). This was one single step while being able to hit a focus pad at 70% power.
3. I taught her how to use her stance more efficiently.
4. I taught her some subtle nuances to the footwork.
5. I taught her some exercises and stretches to increase the distance of her footwork.
6. I taught her how to measure the distances on her own and sent her on her way.

Two weeks later, she came back to measure her progress. She had increased her step and slide footwork to 48 inches (122cm). That’s almost an inch (2.54cm)  a day!!!


1. A prospective client came to me and enquired about learning self-defense. After he signed up for private, I taught him the four elements of self-defense.

2. I began by teaching him the primary element.

3. I continued by teaching him the second element (i.e. the techniques). This is the easy part of learning self-defense!

4. When we moved on to the third element, I told him this area of training would change him forever. I did so because he was a soft, smiling, easy-going kind of guy. Long story short, I told him I was going to do something that there would only be one way to escape – he had to bite me, and do it hard! He argued and said he couldn’t do it. I smiled and said, “OK.” Then, I proceeded to attack and “betray” him. When I got to a certain point in the scenario, he yelled, screamed, and moaned that he couldn’t breathe. I yelled back, “There’s only one way to escape.” He replied, ‘But I can’t!” So, I kept squeezing. Finally, he bit me! This was the end of round one.

5. I put him through several more rounds like this.

6. Finally, I committed the two final acts of betrayal. The last one was the most memorable. I did it as soon as he walked into my gym. He had on an expensive suit, Salvatore Ferragamo shoes and was carrying an expensive leather briefcase. I assaulted him the moment he walked through my doors. Long story short, he ended the fight by kicking me in the face with those expensive shoes.

NOTE: I teach self-defense differently than many other instructors. While the technical elements are important to learn, I also believe if an instructor ONLY teaches the technical part of the equation, he or she is not fully preparing the student/client for what could be a violent encounter. Because, in my mind, if a student/client is unable to handle the emotions of a violent encounter, they may put themselves in greater danger. This is why I spend 2-3 hours developing the student’s mind and heart – because making them FEEL empowered at the end of a lesson is a bit of a disservice!

I hope this glimpse has been eye-opening, and I hope it inspires some of you to seek out personalized instruction – because this was just an example of two (of twelve) levels of training!

If you’d like to learn more about the topics mentioned above, send an email to and let’s talk.

Thank you for your time,

Roy Harris

P.S. Do you have questions or comments about this post? Let me know in the comments below, by sending me an email, or by clicking on the social media icon above and writing to me there!

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