Should Instructors Show Their Best Techniques And Details To Visiting Students?

A packed class at Ocean County BJJ--photo courtesy of Tom DeBlass

As a writer, I often draw inspiration for what to write from other places on the internet.  I recently came across an interesting post on Reddit about cross training and the relationship between a practitioner and instructors from other gyms:

So I’ve been with a gym for a year.

Another school opened up close to where I work and I wanted to train there on lunch break.

The school is super new and not on the same overall team as my current gym.

So basically I signed up at the second gym.

And since I’m the only person showing up during noon he has basically been giving me privates more or less. He knows I have been training at my home gym. So he says to me “well understand that since I’m not in charge of your promotions and I won’t be getting the credit when you compete successfully and you’re apart of another team that I won’t show you everything I know, but I will show you a lot.”

Is this weird? Is this reasonable? I’ve only been in bjj for a year so idk the culture too well. I’m really just trying to have a place to train during my lunch break and avoid literally any drama in bjj possible. I just said ok more or less and took it for what it was.

The truth is that the jiu-jitsu community is heavily tribal.  Even those of us who freely cross train will find people to whom we are partial.  A good litmus test for which “tribe” you belong to is to look at which person or group of people you would coach in the event that you were at a competition where several groups to which you “belong” were competing.  The person or group of people that you would opt to coach is your “tribe.”

There are very few if any “secrets” in jiu-jitsu because an educated eye can analyze what is going on from a video. However, instruction is valuable for a reason, and there are different levels of instruction.  When, for example, I am showing something to someone who is in my inner circle of training partners, I cover every crucial detail as deeply as possible.  I leave no stone unturned.  If I don’t really care about someone, I may still show them a technique, but I am not nearly as focused on their development.

We see this sort of thing at all levels of the sport.  There are practitioners (I’m thinking specifically about the Danaher Death Squad) who will openly admit that they have secrets and systems that are only available to their teammates.  Is there anything wrong with withholding information that you spent thousands of dollars to accumulate from someone who is not a member of your circle rather than giving it freely?

While the instructor in the example may have said something a bit undiplomatic, it’s not something alien to other instructors.  I, for example, was once asked to teach classes at a gym that produces MMA fighters that fight against fighters from my gym.  When I brought it to my instructor he told me that I was not allowed to teach at this gym but was welcome to train and exchange information with whomever I wanted, which is fair.  There is of course a distinction there between teaching and simply interacting. The information my instructor gives me is valuable, so why would I disseminate that information to those who will likely use it against me or my teammates?

For the instructors out there, what do you think of people teaching students from rival teams?  Should information flow freely?  Or should secrets be kept?


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