BJJ Politics

I recall an old saying. It was something to the effect of, “If you have one guy marooned on a desert island, you have a castaway. If you have two guys, you have a team. If you have three guys, you have politics.”

Such it seems in the world of martial arts.

Truth is, every area of human endeavor involves politics. I am certain that a bunch of old grannies having tea and playing bridge for pennies cast suspicious glances and murmur their disapproval at the similar gathering on the other side of the retirement home.

Rivalries between academies are both natural and actually a positive thing for both sides. With that symbolic “us vs. them” mentality, your training sessions are fueled with a purpose.

The opposition at the local tournament can bring the best out of everyone’s abilities. 

I read one theory that tournament jiu-jitsu was a great thing for the sharing of knowledge within an academy. The reasoning being that in the absence of an opponent OUTSIDE of the academy, the competition would be concentrated INSIDE the academy.

In other words, if you and I are competing hard against each other day in and out, we want to hold onto our secrets to preserve our training edge over each other. But if we are united against the other team, we share our training secrets and grow together.

The rivalry becomes negative when BJJ politics rears its ugly head.

 One instructor breaks off from his home academy to start a new school. A member of one academy leaves and joins another academy and the whispers of creonte begin.

Emotions are high at a tournament and there is an argument followed by hurt feelings and resentment. One school is convinced of biased refereeing against their team and boycotts the other’s tournament.

The worst, however, is one school badmouthing the other.

 In martial arts, where respect and honour are held to be the highest values, we see some people who cannot contain their negativity disparaging other gyms.

Why do they do this?


Lack of self control?

Lack of respect for other people’s efforts?

Maybe all of the above?

No matter what the reason, though, my solution to inter-school rivalry is simple.

Refuse to participate.

Don’t go on record as saying anything negative about other schools. Assume that every comment can (and will) be repeated to those who are not present.

Back in the day, one student asked my opinion about another gym that was not of a very high level. It was more of a “meat head,” “Tapout,” “douche” type of place.

He awaited my reply which he was sure to be critical.

I replied simply, “They have some tough guys there. They have a good time with their training.”

Nothing negative needed to be said and if there was going to be some inter-school politics, it was not going to come from me!

 If you want to have the tallest building in your city, there are two ways you can go about it:

1)Tear down all of the other buildings.

2)Build your own building as high as you can to the best of your own abilities.

Instead of talking crap about other gyms, focus on your own training. Do burpees until you are too out of breath to talk shit if you need to.

The important thing is, make your own academy a positive place to be.

Read also on Jiu-jitsu Times – Reader Question: “I want to start training at a different school.”


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