Jiu-Jitsu Letter


“I walked in one morning and I saw these tournament flyers in the reception area. I was like, ‘What is this crap? Who allowed someone to pollute my school with this garbage?’ I gathered them and threw it in the trash.”

That’s a quote from a school owner.1 It’s been on my mind for months.

Let’s say, at your school, a weekend class was canceled. The reason given was so the teachers could travel to another town to support a handful of students at a jiu-jitsu tournament.

As a competitor, I’d feel great. The class was sacrificed so that I could have my teachers with me.

As a hobbyist, I’d feel different. My class was canceled. The teacher isn’t competing or coaching, but they chose to abandon me. Maybe I only get to train twice a week and now I have to miss a day.

As a school owner, I may want medals to hang at my school, to market myself as a winning coach.

Everyone who competes says it’s important to compete. Everyone who doesn’t says it’s important not to. Both sides can be correct.

But my issue is having to separate the students into two groups. I can imagine one day having a competition team, because I’m curious about what I could do as a coach. But I’m also wary of it, because what’s truly important to me as a teacher is getting students to train forever, not to win competitions. And from what I’ve seen, training to stay on the mats into your eighties is practically the exact opposite to training to win a competition.

So now, in your school, you realize your school has two classes, competitors and hobbyists, and the hobbyist class is the lower one. And you’re a hobbyist. Do you stay? Why or why not?

And if you’re a competitor, why are you training at a school with hobbyists? Is training with them going to help you?

The answer of course, is there’s a spectrum. Black and white thinking is dumb, but it’s worth spending time thinking these questions through.

Know what you want out of jiu-jitsu. And think really hard about whether you’re going to get that from your school. If you don’t, and you just go along with whatever, you may end up frustrated and quitting, without truly understanding why.

Not every school is the same. Train elsewhere and find out.

  1. A notable, former competitor himself, but someone who believes sport BJJ is antagonistic to his philosophy. ↩︎

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