Given the amount of time we put in on the mat and the level of dedication and sacrifice it takes to get good at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu we naturally form bonds and relationships that can be very intense. These can be as simple as the team family construct, or as complex as a friendly rivalry with an opponent, someone we admire but at the same time strive to defeat in devastating fashion. What do these relationships mean? Which ones should we seek out and which should we avoid?
Perhaps one of the most important relationships exists between coach/instructor and student. Bear in mind that not all good coaches are good instructors and vice versa. The skills needed to relate/interact with people and inspire them are not necessarily the same as the skills needed to elevate someones Jiu Jitsu game. A good coach encourages greatness; a great coach encourages greatness that enhances the individual.
Some coaches view their students as a paycheck, these kinds of coaches are normally detached. Perhaps the best kind is the one who tries to connect with each and every student on a personal level, while at the same time maintaining objective perspectives to allow the coach to help the student shed bad habits or traits.
One of the most difficult relationships to keep healthy is the one between training partners. On the one hand, we need to push each other and sharpen each others skills; on the other hand we need to be very careful to avoid hurting each other. I watched a fascinating interview with Eddie Cummings (an up and coming black belt under John Danaher) in which he said that it is not a persons responsibility to protect their training partner but rather to give them time to tap, and it is the other persons responsibility to respect the submission. This kind of relationship is best maintained with absence of arrogance or pride. My favorite training partner and I tap each other out all the time and we both tend to tap early and happily.
Another relationship that is bound to come about is friendly rivalry. I am friendly with most of my former opponents, and will very likely face many of them again in the future. Dont take losses personal, as the other person has merely exposed your weaknesses. Dont think that your victory elevates you above another person because they may learn from that loss and come back at you ten times stronger than you expected. Respect your opponents, if possible train with them, but be aware that the more familiar they are with your game the less likely you are to catch them.
A bigger kind of relationship is the team family relationship. For starters there are team parties and other activities outside of Jiu Jitsu. Since we put in so much of our time on the mat, it makes sense for us to form bonds with our teammates that extend off the mat. Just be aware that having BJJ in common with another person doesnt mean that youll be good friends. Another aspect of the team family is the united front at tournaments. The more teammates are there cheering each other on, the better the psyche of each individual competitor.
Building lasting and healthy relationships with other jiujiteiros can be a very valuable experience and part of the BJJ lifestyle. We spend so much of our time doing the art that we love so much, we should reap the full benefits of it.
Emil Fischer an active blue belt competitor under Pablo Angel Castro III training with Strong Style Brasa. For more information, other articles, and competition videos check out his athlete page at