Is ‘Creonte’ Culture Becoming Extinct?

Is “Creonte” BJJ culture slowly becoming extinct? As the art and sport of BJJ spread throughout the world, the culture of jiu-jitsu and academies are also changing. It appears that slowly but inevitably the idea of the “creonte” or traitor is fading in the BJJ subculture.

Let’s look at a brief lesson on Brazilian jiu-jitsu roots and history. Jiu-jitsu as developed by the Gracie family in Brazil originated and evolved in a vastly different time and culture than what exists in the modern day BJJ landscape in other countries throughout the world.

In the old days, team loyalties were fierce. The different teams posessed closely held techniques to defeat rivals in competition. Fighters fought to defend the honor of their families. Closed door challenge fights between different fight gyms happened. Rivalries were fierce and animosity between top guys like Wallid Ismail and Ryan Gracie went beyond tournament matches.

Fraternizing with the enemy was unthinkable. It was the great Carlson Gracie Sr. who is credited with coining the term “creonte” after an immoral villain in a Brazilian “novela” – soap opera. If you switched teams you were labeled a “creonte” and persona non grata around your old academy. It was no compliment to be labelled a “creonte”!

This philosophy persists in some BJJ academies today, but it is definitely on the decline.

When the first Brazilian instructors arrived in the US, it was unthinkable to cross train with guys from other teams. Today, I see social media photos of guys from different (and rival) schools getting together on the same mats.

There are still instructors that adhere to the “creonte” philosophy today. I know one blue belt who was told in no uncertain terms, “I don’t want you training at my school and another school at the same time. Make your choice.” I’ve also had students taking classes at my BJJ school who politely asked not to be in any photos that would be posted on Facebook for fear of being black balled from their school.

I believe this is changing though. Perhaps the most significant factor is the American business model being applied to BJJ schools. Students now see BJJ classes like any other consumer service they might be paying for. The customer dictates where they will spend their training dollar. It is difficult to conceive of many other businesses that would forbid a customer from patronizing other businesses. However, it is also unfair to equate the more personal relationship between a jiu-jitsu instructor and a student who trains with that instructor from white to black belt to your favorite Italian restaurant. There is a much larger investment of emotion and relationship in a BJJ school. So we must recognize there is (or should be) something fundamentally special about the jiu-jitsu instructor and student relationship than merely dollars.

Organizations like the awesome BJJ Globetrotters have an open attitude where anyone from a BJJ school on the other side of the world can visit a member school and be welcomed. Studio 54 in California has similarly dismissed the idea of staying only within your own team affiliation and has opened its mats to students and instructors regardless of affiliation.

While I have great respect for the jiu-jitsu instructors who taught me the most (I’ve only received belts from my 2 main instructors during my entire BJJ history), and I feel a sense of loyalty to them, I don’t limit where my own students are “allowed” to train.

Which side of the “creonte” debate do you find yourself? “Train with everyone” or “stay loyal to your team?”


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