Jiu-Jitsu Letter

Culture Matters

In running a school, it’s become apparent the worst fits for me are the ones that come from another school. Full cup. Most prospects with previous experience leave after finding out it’s not like their old schools. And then I ask, “Why aren’t you still there?” I recently decided I would start contacting prospects’ previous instructors to get background. Our free trial is as much for me as it is for them.

A school owner friend took in a couple students, and eventually kicked them out a few months later. He’d heard they were kicked out of their previous school, but never reached out to get the details. He wouldn’t have accepted them if he knew the full story. And another owner friend has prospects fill out an application and he’s picky about who gets to enroll at his school.

Another red flag is when you find out a prospect reads r/bjj. It’s unlikely anyone that subscribes to that subreddit would be a fit. Things they just can’t understand or accept include uniform policies (I have one), contracts (I don’t have contracts, but don’t think they’re always bad), “high” membership fees, helping out with mat cleaning (I never expect it but always voice my appreciation for it), drop-in fees, white belts not sparring, and anything Gracie-related.

I had someone come in and tell me he expected his learning to be very slow-paced with me. I asked where he heard that, and he said his friends, but he wanted to see for himself. Well, at least he’s seeing for himself.

I know people who’ve trained at multiple schools for extended periods. Sometimes they were kicked out, sometimes they left. Most don’t train anymore. I expect the rest to quit eventually. They’ll always find a problem, not realizing they are the problem. These are almost always white and blue belts.

In a recent conference call with several other school owners, we were given homework. And that homework was to identify the one student that is upsetting the culture that we want at our school. The idea was that we need to find the one that is ruining it for the others; that most schools are so desperate for every student’s membership fee, that they would do whatever’s necessary to keep them, not seeing the long-term damage from keeping the one. We were to sacrifice one to save the rest.

I’ve yet to kick anyone out, but as my school grows, I understand better how no one is neutral. Every student is either a positive or negative, and I need to be ruthless about removing anyone that’s not positive.

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