Are You Loyal To Your Jiu-Jitsu School?

Now, before the Jiu-jitsu Times readers crash the web servers with comments about how they either don’t care about an antiquated idea of school loyalty, hear both sides of the debate.

Of course we all want to be seen as loyal. Literature and movies are filled with traitorous villains who shed their loyalty for a better offer. Why does Brazilian jiu-jitsu have such a problem with loyalty for one’s school?

Master Carlson Gracie coined the term creonte (named after a dishonest character in a Brazilian TV drama) to describe BJJ students who were not loyal to their school.

This tradition comes from the older days of traditional martial arts, where the instructors were often teaching their arts without much in the way of compensation. It was a reciprocal relationship between the master, who shared his knowledge, and the student, who swept the mats and showed loyalty to his school.

Before the age of YouTube, where everyone can see what techniques every other BJJ team is doing, each gym had their own fiercely protected “secret” techniques that they would bring to the intensely contested competitions. Those barriers have dissolved and top guys like Marcelo Garcia show their rolls before competing. There is far less proprietary BJJ knowledge out there in the modern era.

Critics say the notion of loyalty is an outdated and even cult-like mentality.

And they have some good arguments!

The growth of BJJ in the USA and other western countries has lead to a rise in the professionalism of how BJJ schools are run. Clean facilities with strip mall store fronts, pro shops, juice bars, and professional business systems in place have taken jiu-jitsu schools a long way from the garages and empty community halls it started in. And like any service or product that a student is paying for, they want to know what value that they are getting for their dollar.

This has made it possible for instructors to make a living from teaching BJJ and keep the doors of the school open. But it has also shifted that traditional martial arts attitude of loyalty to one’s school. One can hardly imagine having a restaurant getting angry because you also choose to eat at other places; customers have the right to choose where they spend their money.

So, BJJ is caught between an old tradition (that does have some merits) and the newer model looking at martial arts instruction as a consumer service.

The difficult thing to quantify in this debate of how much of a personal relationship that the instructors and students invest in one another. I trained at the same BJJ school for more than ten years and could not imagine it as purely a business relationship. Many instructors invest far more in the students than just teaching three moves and collecting their membership payment.

How do you feel about the BJJ loyalty debate? Is the idea no longer relevant? Is there any validity to calling someone a “creonte”?

Read also: Reasons You Left Your Old Bjj School


  1. Yes there is still something to be said regarding loyalty to ones school and instructor. Wise students will come to realize that if they have a good instructor that they will receive much more during their relationship than they could ever actually pay for. However they are free to leave at any time if they choose since they are the “consumer”. The question is whether they’ll be allowed to return once they go elsewhere and find they are viewed only as a customer instead of a family member or friend. I’ve seen it in my friend’s MMA school. It is the difference in students staying after to make sure the mats are cleaned and them arriving with an attitude complaining that the showers are a mess! Are these the instructors of tomorrow who will pass on what they learn from their teachers and assist them in the academy as they age? My friend teaches Muay Thai and his charges are very respectful and undemanding however the Jiu Jitsu students … I can hear Count Koma spinning in his grave!

  2. Am I to blame that I am active duty military and will be moving every three to four years? I will have many instructors to thank by the time I attain a black belt. But yes you must be loyal. The student as well as the instructor. I clean the mats every time I show up 4 times a week. In return I expect the intructor to see my loyalty and return it in a good friendship and instruction. If its not I’m out. Good thing is I’ve never had to leave a gym….yet. But I will throw out tradition if the next time I have to change academies the one I go to isn’t for me. You feel me? OSS.

  3. Jiu-Jitsu establishes a bond between all in the school. I like that bond. I have friends that train all over. I think it’s good for them as they are the ones that also compete the most, so maybe variety is what’s best for them. I have an unbelievable respect for my Head Coach, and I’m comfortable where I train. I’m here to learn and grow with my family (all of us, husband wife two kids) all train. We have an established feeling. It works for us. I also appreciate my Coach and his teachings so much that personally I don’t need to go anywhere else. I’m fine with that.

  4. As you stated there are benefits to both sides. The one aspect you either intentionally left out or overlooked is what type of relationship your school is about. The school I train at has a very “open” relationship mindset. We have people from other schools come and train with us, we go to other schools to train and we even let other high level competitors and instructors teach at our school when they are visiting (outside of seminars, though we have those also). I guess the real question is how do you define loyalty. I think in my area we think of ourselves less as individual schools and more as a BJJ community. The amazing thing about this approach is you are able to develop that connection/friendship across the board. I have been doing this for roughly 9 months and am amazed to see how big and small the BJJ community is.

  5. I agree with Charles F. The question is what is loyalty to your school? Some people tend to think that being loyal and respectful to someone means to treat that person like an authority figure. Other people simply think that being loyal and respectful to someone means treating them like a person. And when someone is used to being treated like an authority figure, they say things like “If you don’t respect me, I won’t respect you.” But what they really mean is “If you don’t treat me like an authority figure, then I won’t treat you like a person.” And that’s not OK. That is not the type of “loyalty and respect” that we need, or should want, in this sport. And we shouldn’t be labeled a certain way for not putting up with that crap.

    I have two main schools, and I love them both. But I did leave a school once for forbidding things like cross training (or making you ask permission) or sharing what you’ve learned.

  6. It’s a real grey area. If you’re only teaching gi then I have to go somewhere else. If you’re not teaching nogi, wrestling, grappling for MMA, striking; then I have to go somewhere else to fulfill my needs. I’d expect that no one I’m training with takes it the wrong way; but if I’m also looking to study a martial art that you don’t offer, you better not give me that jealousy BS. I’ve dealt with it way too much already.


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