Are You A Traditionalist?

The origins of modern BJJ lay in the traditional martial art of judo from Japan. In many BJJ schools, some of those customs are still retained such as bowing and even the use of only white kimonos in some academies such as AOJ.

Owing to the influence of Japanese culture, aspects of etiquette from outside life became a part of the culture of the dojo. Many people tend to connect these formal aspects—such as the bowing and use of honorifics such as Sensei and Master—as part of the traditional martial arts.

Brazil is a less formal culture than Japan, so when jiu-jitsu started to evolve in another countries, many of those aspects of Japanese etiquette were lessened in BJJ schools.

This departure from the traditional customs widened after BJJ became more popular and spread throughout the USA.

I’ve seen academies with colorful graffiti painted on the walls, psychedelic designed spats and – gasp! – the horrors of camouflage kimonos! Jigoro Kano would be turning over in his grave!

This is understandable as the Japanese culture around the time that judo was formed is much different than the informality of present day American culture.

The question is: do these aspects of the traditional Asian martial arts have any relevance to the BJJ student of today?

Many BJJ students say that they prefer the informal atmosphere of their BJJ academy to the strict conventions of repeated bowing and being forced to address the instructor as Sensei (“Bow to your Sensei!” – Napoleon Dynamite). Some see these practices as antiquated and of little benefit.

There are others who feel that preserving some of the values of judo is important. Many parents enroll their children in traditional martial arts programs to instill those values of respect for the instructor and reverence for the art. Some of these aspects can help cultivate a feeling of being part of something larger than the individual and worthy of their time and efforts

How do you feel about things like bowing and calling the instructor Professor? Do you prefer a traditional martial arts dojo or informal BJJ school?


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