Blind Loyalty: What I Wish I had Known Sooner And Why I Switched Teams

Like many athletes who have found their way to BJJ, I didn’t start there. I saw a sign for “Cardio Kickboxing” classes near my house and thought it sounded like a fun way to shed some weight.

My instructor, Chris, didn’t own the gym, but he was friendly and knowledgable in both muay thai and Brazilian jiu-jitsu (he was a purple belt at the time I think). Before long, my then fiance and I were training several times per week in BJJ and had developed a strong friendship with Chris and his wife, as well as a lot of other people in the gym. We had finally found our “gym family”.

Within 6 months of starting, the gym owner pulled us aside and explained that he and Chris were parting ways, and it wasn’t amicable. This news came 1 week before our wedding, and we were told we needed to make a choice. Being so new to the BJJ world (and in the middle of wedding stress), we didn’t really know fully what our choices were at the time. This gym was less than 5 minutes from home, and we had developed relationships there. We considered ourselves very loyal and told the gym owner we would stay. We honestly didn’t want to risk losing BJJ altogether.

We remained friends with Chris and the slew of friends who left with him. We watched as he opened his own school and hoped for his success. We were envious of their training, and the bond they shared.

Over the next 6 months, the situation at our gym deteriorated quickly. We knew we weren’t getting the training we needed. We were competitors, and this gym offered BJJ only twice each week. We were also not supported in even local tournaments. As a female athlete, I was told regularly that I had proven how tough I was just by showing up. I was often forced to sit out rounds for a lack of partners willing to roll with me. My husband and I talked openly about our desire to change gyms, but we felt stuck. We knew there would be no leaving without burning bridges, and we were loyal to a fault.

The final straw came when our professor announced a new promotion system in which we would pay for stripes and belts, and we would be tested on a set curriculum and a regular schedule to ensure that promotions were fair… to ensure that no one was progressing at a faster rate just because they were better or competed more. The next day, we showed up early for class and sat down with the professor to respectfully tell him of our decision to leave.

The professor’s first question was if we were going to train with Chris. It wasn’t concern for why we felt his school wasn’t meeting our needs or how we could get what we needed there. It was ego-driven rivalry that fueled this professor, and any doubts I had about leaving vanished. I knew we didn’t belong there.

At the end of the day, loyalty does no good if it is blind. While we still consider ourselves loyal, we now look for that same loyalty in return. We look for training partners who are loyal to showing up, we expect our coach to be loyal to helping us reach our goals, and we are loyal to ourselves. We are real about our needs in BJJ and are surrounded by a team that helps us meet those needs.

It’s important to remember that while many preach loyalty above all else, BJJ is a service based industry. If you aren’t satisfied with the service you get in a restaurant, you probably won’t eat there again. If you aren’t satisfied with your training, why would you keep paying and showing up?



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