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Creonte:

 Loyalty versus Self-Perfection 

in Jiu-Jitsu

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"a crime once exposed, only finds refuge in audacity."

Robert Drysdale

May 24, 2022

  

              The term gcreonteh (turncoat) is widely used in the jiu-jitsu community and was made famous by Carlson Gracie and his distaste for students who lack loyalty to their team and instructor. In what is perhaps one of the most common problems in any academy and pretty much every instructor has dealt with or will deal with this at some point. So, what is fair here? Should students be able to cross-train with friends and in other gyms without any repercussions from their gym/team/coach? Or is reprimanding them as gcreontesh justifiable in the name of team loyalty? Having been involved in this sort of politics from both perspectives, I know well that this is a problem with no perfect solution. But hopefully due to having had this dual perspective this article can help shed some light on what is one of the most hotly debated topics in martial-arts schools.

              The issue here is of the individuality of both the coach and competitor as well as in terms of how they can both benefit from being within a cohesive group of other competitors with the same vision as themselves. Which may seem like stances we can easily choose from, but truth be told, these two are in a constant state of shifting and of being in a state of conflict of interest.

We shift from side to side according to our own financial and social-political standing and as these change in the increasingly competitive gym landscape. Competitive both in terms of gyms and their overall purpose of growth and the competitors themselves, who look for new challenges to train with as well as the exposure to new techniques as well as to increase their own social-political-power through the creation of various networks in their surrounding jiu-jitsu community.

Because these are conflicting interests, and because I have been on both sides of that fence, I will break down each of these perspectives into two different dynamics (in no particular order of relevance), because they arenft always the same: The competitorfs and coachfs dynamic; and the practitioner and business owner one. Taking a quick look at all the advantages and disadvantages of all this and at the end give my personal opinion as to what some reasonable solutions to this might look like.

Competitors are the future generation of jiu-jitsu coaches, business owners and the overall leadership within the sport. I often tell those whom I promote to black-belt that now they are ambassadors to the sport, which has the purpose placing a high degree of responsibility in terms of monitoring the evolution and direction of the art, whether I achieve this goal or not is a completely different story. It is in the hands of competitors not only the future of the sport, but also the responsibility of further developing and evolving that which their instructors taught them. With this in mind, what we teach them on and off the mats, is our own responsibility towards the sport.

But young competitors donft care about any of this. I know I didnft. To a competitor, a true competitor, it is performance in the moment that is (or should be) in their sights, not the future of the sport. That is the responsibility of the current leadership. Naturally, competitors find themselves at odds with their coaches in cultural terms when not in technical ones as well. These differences arenft few and are a whole new topic in and of itself. Due to this, for the purpose of this article, we will stick to what is it that is in the competitorfs interest that urges him to look for training elsewhere: Performance or socializing?

Learning at the highest level takes place at the highest level of what both your mind and body can withstand. Performance, is by definition the act of constantly being on the threshold of what you are capable of in terms of your chosen practice, any practice, well beyond jiu-jitsu in fact. By learning how to navigate this threshold and stay its course regardless of all the difficulties brought forth by the hardship of the currents, the competitor accelerates his learning as he achieves what we call peak-performance. Which is essentially what every athlete looks for in order to be victorious, as the very nature of competition is to outdo those around you.

With this in mind, competitors (particularly jiu-jitsu ones), are in a constant lookout for what is the best training method for this performance to take place, as they should. Knowing all too well that their membership fees (in case they even pay, as many competitors manage to talk their way into not paying) help fund the gym owner or coachfs mortgage and car payment, they are naturally suspicious about the gym-owner/coachfs intentions. Which makes sense, since someone who has a financial interest in your training and loyalty, can clearly be (or more likely than not, is) in a situation of conflict of interest towards the policies that ultimately, does protect their livelihood.

Problem is, that while competitors may be suspicious of their coachfs intentions, the competitor rarely, if ever, knows what is best for their own performance because they lack the experience to make that judgement. Which their coach has, or at least should have. So, how does the competitor know when the coach is acting out of his own self-interest and individualistically, and how do you know when he is acting with a particular competitorfs interests in mind or even when he is acting with the interests of the whole-group in mind? Lastly, to what extent are all these interests conflicting and/or overlapping?

Human behavior is too inconsistent to ever become systematized. There are however some guidelines we can observe and follow to help us make informed decisions regarding our lives. In terms of the conflict outlined above, I have some ideas that might help: Watch your coach and see his level of passion and involvement when teaching. For example, if he isnft passionate and happens to be more active and friendlier towards people due to their wealth or social-standing (in case they are famous for example), this teaches you something about what motivates him.

Conversely, in case the coach grants all his studentsf equal attention and energy, that also says something about his motivations and passion for teaching. Of course, befriending and focusing on people in places of power has many advantages and no one fully escapes this. Yet small actions can teach you a lot about what people are motivated by.

Understanding the coachfs track record competing and training champions is another valid criteria worth learning from. Of course, this doesnft mean that only good competitors make good coaches. In fact, some of the best coaches I have ever seen were not great competitors. But what they all had in common was that they had immersed themselves into a competitive environment, the environment from which they draw crucial experience from.

Because the competitor doesnft know what is best for his performance and doesnft fully trust his coach, he tends to choose the easier route and leave a decision that requires too much experience to be made wisely up to the forum of public opinion, which in these days is social-media. While social-media does have the advantage of helping technical information spread, it has the negative effect of shaping culture and behavior according to the opinion of the majority. Which is a wonderful idea when opinions are rigorously informed. But grigorh and ginformedh are far from good definitions of internet users in the 21st century (no offense to anyone, we all suffer from ignorance). As a result, the indecision is of what the fast track towards the best of their performance is in the hands of social-media algorithms and those who best manipulate it. Which would be fine if it werenft for the fact that manipulating algorithms and being right or possessing any true know-how rarely go together, in fact, they might be inversely correlated.

This is one of the main reasons that leads students to seek training elsewhere, the notion that the grass may be greener on the other side coupled with the suspicion of whether or not the coach is guiding the group towards the desired peak-performance. Alone, this factor is not an unreasonable one, as the grass may well be greener on the other side and your coach may well be acting out of his own self-interest. But there is another factor here that is just as relevant as the first one, if not more so. The issue of networking and how important this is for a younger crowd.

Much of it reminds me of high-school and the need to be around the gcool-kidsh in order to derive social validation. I often joke that there are only two professions that allow for their teen years to be extended well into adulthood: highly paid professional athletes and musicians. Because in case you can make enough money doing what you do best, you never really have to mature into adulthood because your success covers most problems others less fortunate have to deal with on a daily basis and from a young age. The high-school mentality I am describing here has a lot to do with this.

It is my impression that when people cross-train they rarely do so because they need new training partners, normally what they are looking for is to increase their network (which is a form of exercising and increasing their social-political-power in their community) and find out where they sit in that particular pecking order (because they already know where they sit in their current gym). While the networking has the immediate effect of increasing the competitors social-standing in the community, the measuring of the pecking-order has as purpose either the assertion of power in technical terms, but also of measuring whether it is worth it or not to jump ship to a new environment in case the competitor can increase their social-status in the new one.

Normally this happens when the competitor values his social-rank in terms of others around him, more than his own learning and performance. A clear sign that he has no successful future in the competitive landscape, since the priorities are clearc Which is a side-effect of the popularization of jiu-jitsu and how it increasingly draws in people who train for the wrong reasons. Unsurprisingly, their competitive results follow suit. All this reminds me of behavior that is more akin to chimp behavior than that of rational competitors that should be seeking performance above all else, and certainly above a high-school like pecking-order. At least chimps are honest about their true intentions and donft need to mask any of it behind calls for variety of training partners.

Speaking of, here is one of the most commonly used arguments by students who insist in cross-training: the variety of training partners. In my experience, there are advantages to being exposed to training partners with various styles, for the obvious reason that this can help you better prepare for the uncertainty of brackets that in these days, can have over 100 competitors in it. Competitors seeking this variety of stimuli can sometimes benefit from it in case there arenft enough people at the home base with the particular set of skills necessary to be well-rounded enough to win tournaments. Add to this, the point I made above that athletes need to constantly be on the verge of what their minds and bodies can withstand. Which is to say, competitors need to be challenged daily.

For example, in 2001, I won the IBJJF World title (then it was simply called the gMundialh) as a purple. The gym where I trained at (Maromba Jiu-Jitsu led by Paulo Streckert), was going through an unusual moment where my best training partners had moved to a different city, were injured or quit training for various reasons. Despite Paulo being one of the best jiu-jitsu coaches I have ever met in terms of methodology and his investment in terms of time and energy towards his students, the absence of training partners that challenged me significantly impacted my training at a time where I was hungry for a challenge.

Having recently been promoted to brown-belt by Paulo, I was well aware that the competition was about to be a lot tougher and training with white-belts and blue-belts wasnft going to be enough for the level I was aspiring to win in. Couple this with the fact that guys like Fernando Terere and Demian Maia (at a time when Terere was making Marcelo Garcia tap in competition) were personally calling me to invite me to train with them. It was all too tempting and despite having deep respect and admiration for Paulo and everything him and his team did for me, I donft regret making the selfish choice I made.

I remember sitting down with Paulo and his father to explain my situation to him and feeling ashamed but also telling myself in the back of my head to stand my ground because in the long term I knew it would be what was best for me. It didnft go well at first, understandably since Paulo had been nothing but an outstanding coach and friend to me, no one was really happy. Years later we patched it up and remain good friends till this day (I still have a picture of him hung on my gym wall).

This is not an autobiographical tangent. My point here is to show that although today I am a full-time coach, gym owner and team leader, I have been on the other side of that fence. To be fair, my stance on this has never really flip-flopped. I would have no issues with students who chose to leave my gym because they lacked the training partners to give them a good challenge. What is less understandable perhaps is when competitors leave gyms for the social-political reasons I give above and when they are challenged and defeated by just about a third of the gym, if not more. In other words, they are far from the top of the food-chain and they know this, but they leave nonetheless, because to them it was never about performance, it was always about social and political power. Again, the results follow accordingly.

Just to illustrate my point and perhaps to better outline what I mean by glack[ing] the training partners to challenge them.h High-performance comes necessarily in parallel with high-standards. Just because you didnft get tapped today, or because you tapped a guy who is a belt or two above you, does not mean you have reached the potential ceiling in that particular gym. Where that ceiling is, of course, is up to definition, so Ifll share mine here. The ceiling of your local gym is when you can tap everyone around you 10 times in 10 minutes. In case you reach that mark, you are justified in explaining yourself to your instructor and leaving the gym.

I learned this around 2003-2004, right before I was awarded my black-belt and when I did not have a car and could no longer borrow my motherfs car or drive to São Paulo with one of my students to train, as I did for the first year when I began training under Terere in São Paulo (in what was then gMasterh team and later became known as gBrasah). Not wanting to lose whatever technical proximity I was achieving towards my training partners in São Paulo , I decided to make my blue-belts and purple-belts back home into my main training partners, thinking that if I raised the current ceiling for myself, two things would happen. First, I would overtime improve on my own students. Secondly, I wouldnft get left too far behind my training partners in São Paulo .

The lesson was one I have carried with me ever since. It wasnft my environment that needed to change, it was my outlook towards the ceiling. I will add here that this was a breaking moment in my career and when I finally bought a car and went back to São Paulo to train, not only was I not left behind, but I had surpassed those who outdid me a year before. My tournaments results followed accordingly. What I had been missing all along had nothing to do with the gym or training partners (although this can help), what was missing was the degree of accountability I placed on myself.

It is this that competitors need to understand before they leave gyms. Without this level of accountability, it doesnft matter where you train or how green the grass is at your gym or another one. It is all irrelevant if the cornerstone that upholds everything else isnft even there to begin with. The most important piece in this whole equation is how you see yourself in terms of your current technical standing.

For all these reasons, I think that competitors who cross-train are normally doing it for the wrong reasons and wonft help themselves even if that is the intention. Furthermore, training with the competition sounds like a counter-productive strategy. It is hard to imagine players from the LA Lakers cross-training with players from the Chicago Bulls. If the notion seems absurd, it is because it is. The socializing might be fun and all, but it is dwarfed in comparison to the negative costs of being in an environment that however friendly on the surface is in reality highly hostile.

Just to give you an example of this hostility, a few years ago, there was a Bellator main event between a good friend of mine and another old opponent of his. The opponent, in his last sparring session a week before the fight, happened to be sparring with someone who at the time was a high UFC profile. At some point during their training, the UFC fighter blew my friends opponent knee out during an exchange in what was possibly a case of a partially torn knee ligament. My friendfs opponent, tough as nails, decided to go on with the fight anyway.

All this would have been common in anyway MMA camp if it werenft for one thing. A few minutes after the accident, my friend received a call from someone who was present and watched the whole thing happen, proceeding to tell my friend in detail what had just transpired. Not surprisingly, my friend kicked his opponent knee the whole fight, defeating an opponent whom after a few kicks to the knee, could barely hold himself up. The fight world is indeed a small one and where loyalty is a dying quality, but this one break all records of knavery.

This is the world we live in. The idea that a large network of friends and training partners is what is necessary to excel is so widespread in the fight world, that whenever I argue against it, I get looks from people as if I were some controlling tyrant, even if I am trying to make my students aware of a problem that is so obvious that no other serious professional athlete would indulge in it. Only in jiu-jitsu and MMA. Some of it borders on surreal.

To contrast this, take another example. Khabib Nurmagomedov, the man who is arguably the greatest MMA fighter of all time with a flawless record of 29 wins and no losses. Throughout his career, Khabib stuck to a small group of selected individuals led by his father and who all had the exact same vision as him. They were all on board in terms of who they were, where they were going and how they were going to get there. With this sort of cohesion, Khabibfs flawless career makes sense. On one occasion while visiting Las Vegas , I was told that he would actually block off the mats with a curtain so him and his friends could train in private. Something that seems paranoid in the jiu-jitsu and MMA world but seems perfectly reasonable to me, both as a former athlete and coach.

None of this is paranoia or control, these are strategies necessary for peak-performance. In my own experience, as mentioned above, some of my biggest technical leaps were when I had a small group of guys who were just as committed as me to train with every day. This cohesion, the comaraderie and emotional support it breeds, the technical evolution that comes from this and followed by the consistency over the years is the fastest track towards a higher level of performance. Something I have never seen cross-training accomplishing, perhaps because it canft. Perhaps because it lacks the strengths I give above but carries at the same time too many risks, while it consists mostly of an effort towards the development of relationships that are seldom genuine anyway. 

Having trained in a gym that had a completely open-door policy before, the rotation of fighters that went through it, made it almost impossible for any kind of consistency or true comaraderie to take place. As a result, they never produced good results from the ground up (unless the champion moved into that gym and already as a champion), despite having incredible and highly skilled athletes on the mats. Also, in an environment like that, I always felt while training there that I was in a somewhat hostile place, where a third of the people liked me, a third didnft care, the other third probably wanted me to lose my fights and no one, except perhaps a person or two, actually helped me at all. Hardly a recipe to win a UFC title.

Furthermore, if the coach canft find cohesion and watches competitors seek their own individual interests (even if these individual interests, are unbeknownst to competitors doing them more harm than good), there is no incentive for him not to do the same and invest his time and energy instead towards maximizing profits. Which from a retired fighterfs perspective makes perfect sense. It is only the passion of teaching and the prestige of having good students that are incentives for coaches, which both vary from coach to coach. What is certain, is that any coach who places his time and energy into training competitive jiu-jitsu athletes finds his motivation from either one of these motives outlined above and to various degrees.

I can expand on this topic with many other similar experiences, but I think the reader gets my point that it is my view that competitors donft need a large numbers of training partners to be successful and neither does the potential benefits of cost of cross-training outweigh the potential costs. But of course, people, both competitors and coaches alike, are free to decide where to train and who to train respectively.

Moving forward, we will take a quick look at cross-training from a student/practitionerfs perspective.

Students and practitioners in general, differ significantly from competitors in that they have very different motivations to be in the gym. Typically speaking and only with the rarest of exceptions, BJJ gyms suffers from the problem of having such a wide demographic to work with. Competitors amount for a very small percentage of this demographic and considering that they normally donft pay or donft want to pay (a mistake no gym owner should ever make since it teaches them entitlement and gives them the impression they are better and more important than they actually are), they are actually bad for business.

From a purely financial stand-point, it makes no sense to have competitors in your gym, considering how much time and energy they take and how much they give in return. Just think about the countless hours you will have to spend traveling and coaching them without any pay and with no guarantee of loyalty or even gratitude at the end.

However, coaches who come from a competition background, or simply love coaching and watching their students excel through competition, are often victims of their own passion. Competitors knowingly or not, all take advantage of this passion. The coach in turn, other than the satisfaction of watching those whom he is responsible for teaching grow as individuals with jiu-jitsu as a vehicle, is gratified by all this. But he also wins the prestige that comes from his students winning. Which is mostly for his ego, since students who win tournaments donft translate into any financial gain and never have. Just to give you an idea of this, I once had the number one ranked IBJJF competitor training under me when he achieved that rank, which essentially translated into zero students signing up due to this huge achievement on his part.

The only way the coach has anything material to gain from this, is in case he trades his coaching in exchange for the competitors working for him for free, which can be a good tradeoff for both parties and Ifve seen work (granted this was a long time ago). But considering the entitlement of the age, it is becoming harder and harder to get students to help out in the gym and what used to be an honor (to help new students for example) has quickly turned into a burden for the know-it-all competitors. To be fair, coaches can be manipulative too.

Yet jiu-jitsu has a much wider demographic that not only pays, but isnft as entitled; causes less problems; buys uniforms, brings friends and family over to enroll in your gym; speak highly of you; are constantly promoting the gym for you and without asking for anything in return. They are your daily average practitioners, normally men and women in their mid to late 30fs and 40fs who are the silent-majority as well as the heart and soul underneath the demographic explosion of jiu-jitsu around the world. It is theirs the money that sustains the entire global jiu-jitsu phenomenon, not organizations, not competitors, not sponsors. The moms and dads of jiu-jitsu and their children are the financial engine behind the fastest growing martial-art in the world.

Ironically, not only do they not get the credit they deserve (because they never revendicate it) they are perfectly happy just training jiu-jitsu for what it is and expecting nothing else other than having the joy to train daily with you on the mats. With all this in mind, it is almost unbelievable that gym owners would want competitors inside their gym, in which is clearly a testament of the coachfs love for the art and teaching it at the high-level. Either that or the addiction to the validation granted by having successful students. Which is far from an irrelevant currency. Perhaps looking at all this with critical eyes can help competitors better understand their coachesf motivations.

Back to the issue of cross-training, it is my view that the average practitioner who doesnft compete should be able to cross-train with friends at their garage if they want and occasionally at his local gym. Interestingly, the average practitioner has no desire to cross-train because he is already sufficiently challenged at the gym and is well aware of it (possibly due to age and the experience and self-awareness that comes with it) and because this sort of practitioner isnft sufficiently emotionally invested in jiu-jitsu to take the time to go somewhere else. Accordingly, they almost never do, unless they just want to feel the social validation they will receive by another gym owner who is likely to treat the visiting member as royalty and for obvious reasons. And it is to these reasons to we turn to next, the coachfs and business-ownerfs perspective of all this.

The business perspective is an obvious one because the nature of business is to make a profit. Students who visit other gyms are bad for business because there is a chance you may lose them and the income they bring your gym. By visiting other gyms, a student makes himself comfortable in a new environment and is perhaps exposed to a different teaching perspective and different training partners, which has the side-effect of increasing their overall social network. To this, a student may ask: and whatfs wrong with that?

From the business ownerfs perspective, a lot. The comfort and network created in another gym pose a second option for the student (under this scope, more ecustomerf than student now) who may want to choose elsewhere in case he isnft content at the current gym. Even if the student doesnft leave right away upon visiting the gym, given that it is not unusual for competitors to have issues at some point with their current instructor, having the door open somewhere else poses an immediate threat from a business perspective. Particularly at a business that is becoming increasingly cut-throat and devoid of integrity in terms of poaching students from other gyms.

Just to give you an idea of the lengths of this sort of business practice, sometimes (how many other times this has happened is impossible to know) I am notified by current members of my gym that other gym owners were writing them privately in order to get them to switch over to their locations. Only once by someone I have never heard of and who had recently opened a local school. Normally this happens by the hands of former students who make sure to collect plenty of phone numbers and network inside my gym before they leave. Incidentally, they are invariably the ones who never paid a membership out of my belief in their potential, and in an attempt to help them out financially in their jiu-jitsu journey. But in a cut-throat world, kindness is seen as a source of weakness, while self-importance is seen as a source of strength and power.

 A more shocking example of this was when a gym owner, who had been a long term member of my gym and who even after opening his own gym, continued to regularly visit my gym to train, which I naively allowed because I thought he was still going there because he really liked the hard training I offered. This individual went to the extreme of handing out to my students, promotional t-shirts for his new gym inside my gymfs walls. He also proceeded to hire one of my black-belts to work for him (knowing full well of the network that individual had built inside my gym), as well as to enroll my students who would visit his gym upon him inviting them, going as far as promoting one of them without my knowledge. When I confronted him and put a stop to all this, he accused me of being gpoliticalh and of having gchangedh and of becoming suddenly gmoney-hungry." I believe it was Tacitus who once wrote that "a crime once exposed, only finds refuge in audacity.

Unsurprisingly, in this cut-throat eco-system, business owners become increasingly defensive and territorial, which is easy to understand why. One could hardly imagine the superstore Target allowing Wal-Mart to hand out their flyers to customers waiting in line. And if this practice seems absurd, it is only because it is absurd, yet it is becoming common-place and even tolerable as the drive to success, far outdoes any minimal level of respect.

Another interesting aspect of this dynamic is that despite many gym owners claiming to be non-political, they shrewdly invite students from other gyms over to theirs in a non-political fashion, but always make sure that the current only flows in the direction they just so happen to benefit from. All while preemptively accusing anyone who disagrees with the one-sided flow, of being gpoliticalh and gmoney-hungryh in case they are called out. Unfortunately, the double-standard is only obvious to the gym owners themselves who know exactly what is happening, know exactly what they are doing while their students are oblivious to all this (because they donft have that perspective yet).

To make matters worse, saying anything or trying to put a stop to all this, sounds like a combination between being petty, envious, controlling and desperate. Precisely the sort of flak that makes having an honest and open conversation about all this so difficult to so many people out there.

On the other hand, one can understand the anxiety of signing a lease of hundreds of thousands of dollars in your personal name while having a total of zero students. The recourse, is to quickly justify the lack of integrity by the need to pay the lease, or even the need to take care of onefs family. Something no one can argue against. Still, the bigger issue here is where do our morals lie in all this? Do these have any place in a cut-throat competitive environment? Is there a stop to any of this, or is it now open warfare? Is it even in the nature of business to be respectful when it hurts profit? While business can be ethical, the old adage of nice guys finish last, seems like an accurate description of the reality of jiu-jitsu business in its current state.

Not that my own life choices and practices have been anything perfect, far from it. Yet, at least in this regard, I simply cannot imagine myself engaging in any of this in order to make a quick dollar, even if things got tough at home (a favorite justification meant to deflect criticism;  after all, who would question the well-being of family?). In fact, I think I would be too ashamed to even attempt at doing this to those who have done it to me first, let alone doing it against someone like Leonardo Vieira who promoted me to my black-belt. The thought itself is so quizzical, that I can hardly think of any situation that would warrant the justification of the behavior.

The reality is that this is a much bigger problem between the issue of coaching and its conflict with business. The business mindset is guided by the customer always being right and in charge. The coaching mindset, cannot follow the same paradigm. It is due to this that in my view, jiu-jitsu still remains very far from achieving its maximum technical potential. Arts like wrestling and judo for example, by being funded by the government, donft suffer from the same dynamic. Which certainly hurts the coach in financial terms (because they arenft paid nearly as much as gym owners can be), the overall effect in terms of performance is higher in wrestling and judo because the coach is allowed to be in charge free of any fears of the threats made by those under his tutelage.

Ultimately, people should be free to choose, because at the end of the day, we do live in a free-market place. Competitors however, in my view at least have far more to gain from staying tightly knit into a cohesive group of peers than they do bouncing around in hostile territory where they are more likely to teach their opponents something about themselves than they are to learn anything from them.

Truth be told, controlling people is hard, demanding and self-defeating. From my experience training and teaching, I took that people prefer a coach they can trust and follow so they can focus on the already arduous mission of winning. In case a competitor does not trust his coach, it is my view that it is best for him to find a new environment where the athlete can find one to trust. Because this trust is crucial in every regard.

I have many other stories like these but it suffices to say here, that ethical business practice in jiu-jitsu is a distant memory or dream very few people stick to. In fact, it has become common practice even among team leaders that ought to be leading examples to poach high-profile competitors. Some, going as far as offering them money to switch over teams. This has actually happened to me on more than one occasion and by the hands of well-known coaches who, incidentally, are revered as some of the best coaches in the world. Despite not having trained a single one of their champions and placing all their energy into marketing and creating the perception of high-level instruction and competence. Which, unsurprisingly, works like a charm. The perception becomes reality, and high-level prospects follow accordingly. And when that doesnft work, you can always offer to pay their rent. I have my personal beliefs of what turning jiu-jitsu into an open market of cut-throat mercenaries and prostitutes will do to the sport and its future, but at this point I think it has become obvious.

The turf wars in Brazil during the 80fs and 90fs, might not be called ethical, or righteous, but at the very least they possessed a high degree of courage and respect. The lack of respect, or the attempt at poaching students in Brazil during that era, was likely to get someone dojo-stormed and have the peddling instructor confronted and called out to fight in front of his students to teach him an old-school lesson.

The practices that had previously guided the dynamic between gyms then, might seem equally or not more unethical than the current ones. Yet, in a sense, I think of them with a certain degree of nostalgia of an era I only lived through towards the very end of it. While this opens the door for abuse, I canft help but admire courage over the prostitution that team leaders and competitors subject themselves and jiu-jitsu to in order to make a quick dollar, as if jiu-jitsu had not already granted them far more than they deserve.

For better or for worse, our collective adherence to the social-contract that forbids us from settling things in an old-school fashion, has opened the door for scammers with no spine to make a comfortable living in what ought to be a practice with a minimal level of honor, respect, integrity and the work-ethic to do things yourself.

But the single-minded business mentality is left unchecked and as a result, the work-ethic, respect and integrity that ought to nourish our daily practice (if not for our own sake and peace of mind, then in order to set a precedence for future generations preserving the art as a whole), becomes a distant memory to be frowned upon and ridiculed by the Americanization of jiu-jitsu with its prioritization of financial success as the highest currency and achievement possible.

Over the years, my policies have changed and there is no perfect solution for any of this. Yet as I get older, I value my time and peace of mind more than ever and have no desire to invest any extra energy and my expertise on anyone whom does not prove to me first they have what it takes. An investment that takes the shape of an obsession with performance, not in socializing and networking in a high-school.

These days, the experience and know-how I have as well as the confidence I have in them, place the burden of proof on those who want to learn from me. I am not interested in the mad race towards money that jiu-jitsu has become and I am perfectly willing to profit less due to this. Not that I donft like money or prestige, which I certainly do. Ifm just not willing to knock on the competitionfs doors and steel their effort and merits from them for either money or for a prestige that isnft mine to indulge in anyway. I know well how much work that goes into training white-belts who canft tell the difference between their right and left hands and elevating them sufficiently to the point where they can someday have their hand raised at the end. It is this effort that myself and others like me would rather celebrate.

(c) 2022, Robert Drysdale. All rights reserved..

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More by Robert Drysdale:

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The Rectification of BJJ's Rules: To Gi or Not to Gi

Americanization of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

BJ Penn for President

Remembering George Mehdi

Reflections on the Evolution of BJJ

Who Taught Oscar Gracie?

I was Skeptical

Selling Self-Defense

Rickson Gracie is Wrong

Rev. of book by João Alberto Barreto

Maeda Promotes Five Brazilians

Science and Sanity in BJJ

Jiu-Jitsu in Cuba

Is Oswaldo Fada Jiu-Jitsu a Non-Gracie Lineage?

 

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GTR Archives 2000-2022

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