Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: Brotherhood & Rivalry

Great weekend of training! No honestly, not so much. I was sick with this wicked curse traversing the Earth ( yes the flu, but didn’t that sound just so much more dramatic?!). And, speaking of drama, I’d like to address the topic of brotherhood & rivalry as witnessed in our BJJ community.

Not everyone participates in sports growing up; but most have a sports team or player they follow religiously. I remember growing up and having THAT team we just HAD to beat. You know the one! Either they kill you in points or every game it’s a back-and-forth nail-biting down-to-the-last-minute battle! I can only remember one time where our opponent provoked us ( of course we were complete Angels) to violence. Jerseys ripped, hair pulled & fists flying… This is high school soccer?!? Oooooh man those were the days! As adults we show our team support by dressing in team garb and screaming at the t.v.; degrading coaches and their ridiculous decisions. It’s ingrained, habit, culture, considered sacrilegious to do anything else! The loyalty drives us to madness… Cough, cough excuse me. I was carried away by the moment. As oft happens in a competitive atmosphere.

In jiu-jitsu we are loyal to our team, our coach, our lineage. We work hard side by side with people from all walks of life trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together. We spend an inordinate amount of time with our teammates; training, travel, competition, socializing and even via social media. There’s nothing wrong with believing in your professor and taking pride in your school. It would be odd if there wasn’t a feeling of camaraderie, brotherhood and loyalty. Is there a point where this is taken too far? Where lines are crossed and friendly rivalry – the healthy competitive spirit becomes something dark?

I’m part of several groups or forums and enjoy connecting with the people of our community. “Leave it all on the mats,” is quite literal for me. Leave your heart & soul, your energy and the BATTLE on the mats. Once the tournament or match is over, we’re all just people wearing a Gi; people with a common love & interest. Maybe I’ve been wearing blinders but I had no idea the level and intensity of dislike among practitioners simply due to the name of the school where you train?

In one of the forums a woman spoke of cars being keyed, disrespectful allegations & words used towards her Professor, name-calling and other intentional harmful actions toward those training at her school, from a “rival” school. Now there are two sides to every story but as far as I’m concerned this type of behavior is unacceptable! Conduct yourself with a modicum of class and maturity.

Listen, I’m a social butterfly. I’ll talk to anyone, give you a high-5 and say congrats. But I would not tolerate, and I can’t imagine any of us would tolerate blatant disrespect or BS. A healthy competitive mindset is imperative not just in jiu-jitsu , but in life. As is the ability to act & react appropriately as pertains to various situations and circumstances. Be loyal, be strong in your convictions and drive.

Am I incorrect in my analysis? Is rivalry a necessary piece of competition? Maybe it’s not the rivalry but the holding of grudges that is the issue. If this is the case, what grudge warrants illicitly and tacitly ill-willed behavior? That purple belt arm-barred you at the last tournament… Well listen, maybe your defense could use some work. Sorry, not sorry because someone needs to start spouting the truth! You’re angry because you lost?! Welllll man, learn from it and become better. Put in WORK instead of contributing to an under-acknowledge ever-growing issue. Keep the beauty of jiu-jitsu , the JOURNEY pure and RESPECT in the equation, always.

“The gym was a remarkably egalitarian place, and one where you’d been accepted, it was friendly and helpful. Everyone gave tips to everyone else; if you saw something, you mentioned it…” – Sam Sheridan, A Fighter’s Heart one man’s journey through the world of fighting.

Andrea Harris trains Brazilian jiu-jitsu in the MA area. Currently a blue belt her focus is on competing this year. You can visit her fan page


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