Yay or Nay?

Over the past few weeks I've frequented a few new jiu-jitsu academies. All of my jiu-jitsu muscles hurt, but it's that good type of pain that gives you a sense of accomplishment.  Like you got a real work out.  Its been a while since they've (jiu-jitsu muscles) been used.  I am glad to know they still work.

 My first and second week back were rough.  I seriously felt like a white belt on the mats.  My timing, coordination and ability to focus were all off.  I had the attention span of a two year old.  I think what's made it harder is that I am learning new technique and style instead of things I am already used to.  Although It was particularly frustrating, I've found amusement in my awkwardness and am working through it.  Thankfully I am getting back into the groove.  I can only hope the worst is over. 

Through my visits at these academies, I am also realizing that there is no best or worst Jiu-Jitsu schools, teams or instructors. It's all about finding what's right for YOU!  We don't all have the same outlook, or learn the same ways, goals or share the same values.  It's important that I find an academy and team that best aligns with my vision and meets my needs.  I feel it's crucial that I choose wisely, because I believe that the ties we have to our schools and teams are a reflection of common qualities and similar outlooks.

That patch on our backs, shirts that we wear and sticker on our car mean something to me. It identifies us as a representative of  a  team, school, and  instructors. That is why it is important to remember that not only does our conduct and demeanor represent who we are, but our actions reflect upon what we choose to represent.  Just as we are an extension of our lineage
(team, academy and instructors) , that lineage  is an extension of ourselves and what we believe in.

What most people don't realize right away is that there are underlining politics and rivalries involved in Jiu-Jitsu that go way back. I don't really understand most of it and it's none of my business anyway but I've been around long enough to have heard different perspectives. But is it fair to allow what rumors you've heard dictate where you train?  Aren't you just selling yourself short?  I think so.  My goal as I visit each school is to
enter with an open mind and an unbiased opinion so as to truly gain a worthwhile perspective. I owe it to myself to give all schools and teams a chance before I make a decision.    

I never used to understand why someone would want to leave a school or a team.  I thought people who left their schools were traitors, weak or deserters.  I wondered how loyalty could be so fleeting.  It is funny that no matter how wonderful a relationship might have been at one time, it is the bad that most of us remember.  Loyalty is incredibly important but at the same time I believe that it is also important to look out for ourselves too.  After all this is our personal life experience and ultimately each and everyone of us have the right to choose what is best for ourselves.  Some people get lucky and find the right school on the first try. While others might not find the right school immediately or after they do find it things change.  Once again I am reminded of how hard it can be to look out for our own best interests even when it sometimes it means hurting people you care about the most.  Everyone has their own reasons for leaving and it takes strength to move on. I don't see this as being selfish anymore, but as being a wise investor in our life path.


  1. I understand if you don't want to answer this, but why did you want to leave your previous school? Or to put it a different way, what is it specifically that you're looking for from your next school?

    I think I'm fortunate in that I've been able to train in eight different schools, but avoided political fallout in the process. That's because in my case, my exit has always been due to what is pretty much the only 'safe' reason for leaving a school: moving to a different city.

    Although having said that, I've generally stuck with the same team. I started at the main Roger Gracie school in London, and when there is one available, I've since always trained at either a direct Roger Gracie affiliate or a Gracie Barra school.

  2. I view it a little differently. I don't have this loyalty to one team til death to us part. For me it is a place to train. I am the customer, the school is the service provider. I pay every month and expect good service and respect, the same way you expect good service from your hair dresser or cable company. If your cable company doesn't satisfy you, you change it, not stay with them grinding teeth.
    Changing schools should not be a dramatic event that makes you an outcast and your previous school mates stop talking to you. At the end of the day it is just jiu-jitsu....

  3. Very well said Triin. I absolutely agree. :)

  4. I am the customer, the school is the service provider.

    I can see your point, but I wouldn't totally agree. Specifically, the instructor is the service provider, who is teaching you in return for money. Depending on the school, you might also be getting certain facilities included in the price, or something like that.

    However, a big part of the reason I wouldn't quite agree is that your training partners are arguably just as important in your development, but you don't pay them a penny. That relationship is not based on business, but on friendship, shared goals and trust. Hence why it normally is - and indeed should be - a considerable wrench if you have to leave a team.

    As ever, I can do a Blue Peter and link to something I wrote earlier, where I go into the topic in more depth. ;)

  5. Excellent post. I agree that most people choose a school based on the general rapport within the structure and not just the amount of black belts in the room. I've always referred to my training partners as my brothers and sisters and the gym as my home. However, life changes constantly and sometimes, that may necessitate a new training schedule or style that may not fit in with your current gym.

    Congratulations on getting back into training!

  6. Slideyfoot, you will probably find it weird when I tell you that I don't socialize outside of the gym with the guys who train BJJ. I do enjoy the friendships of women I've met throughout my training (from different gyms) though but there is not just one common thing between us. BJJ alone is not the glue for me to create a relationship.

    I agree with you that there are friendship and trust developed between training partners (some deeper some shallower) and that is why I don't understand why you become unfriended when you leave the gym. It's almost like 'I'm your friend as long as you train here, if you leave, we are over'. This is something I dislike and disagree with.

    I also think it is different for people with kids and other hobbies. I have to divide the 24 hours in a day between me, my activities and my kids and theirs. So at the end of the day, if there is conflict of schedule, the kids come first and I don't freak out that I'm missing out on training.
    That keeps it very simple for me, it's just jiu-jitsu :)
    Oh, and we are spoiled here in Dallas, girls can pretty much train anywhere anytime, always welcome regardless of the school.
    And your blog post on the subject is excellently written. You don't ever disappoint, do you?

  7. Thanks for the kind words, Triin! :)

    It would be unreasonable for somebody to stop being your friend just because you changed schools, but I could understand if they were upset. If it wasn't for an obvious reason (e.g., moving house), some people might take a training partner's switch to a different school as effectively saying that the previous school - and by extension, they - were either not good enough or sufficiently unpleasant that you didn't want to spend time in their company.

    Most likely that is rarely the case, as it is more commonly personality clashes with the instructor, financial issues or scheduling trouble, but training partners might still feel rejected.

    There are a number of people who I train with and would count as friends, but yeah, you're right that if BJJ is the only thing you have in common, they are unlikely to ever be more than acquaintances.

    I'd also agree that it is important to have other hobbies (and yeah, I've written something about that too ;p).

  8. Thank you all for your responses. I appreciate the different perspectives on the topic and your input. That’s what I love about Jiu-Jitsu, it can impact our lives in so many different ways and have varying purposes and meanings to all of us.

    Jiu-Jitsu has always had a lot of personal ties for me since I began. After all, it was my close family friends that introduced me to and encouraged me to train BJJ as my instructor and coach. Plus, I don't have any family near me in Texas. So over the past eight years my team, training partners, instructors, friends in the community and academy has filled that void. :)

    Can-There were a number of reasons I decided to leave, but what it came down to is “what is in my best interest” and in this case it lead to me move on. Things change and sometimes what once fulfilled our needs may not anymore. As for what I am looking for, that’s a tough question. There are a lot of elements my old team and academy had at one point that I am looking to find again. Ultimately, I am looking for an academy that will help me grow, learn and reach my goals in BJJ. I'll get into this all more in some upcoming blogs. :)

    Triin- Thank you for offering a different perspective. I completely agree with you. It is a business transaction and a service we pay for. We spend our hard earned money on BJJ and it's not cheap. Therefore if we are not happy with the service, we should have the option to terminate services.


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