Loyalty In Jiu-Jitsu

Photo: Renzo Gracie Rockland

Loyalty is a funny thing.

Because of a recent video in which Rickson Gracie talks about student loyalty, there has been a lot of talk, and I have some thoughts to share on the subject.

First off here’s the video:

Master Rickson Gracie on training at different Jiu-Jitsu Acade…

Rickson Gracie on simultaneously training at different Jiu-Jitsu Academies.

Posted by Crosley Gracie Jiu-Jitsu on Monday, February 13, 2017

I’ve been around the mats for a while, longer than some black belts. I’ve seen loyalty, and I’ve seen disloyalty.  I’ve seen uplifting success and crushing failure.  And the reality is that it’s all connected.

I am loyal to my instructor.  I fly his flag into battle every time, and I am proud to be on his team.  But here’s the thing: he earned my loyalty.  When I say he earned my loyalty, I don’t mean that his winning no-gi worlds earned my loyalty.  I don’t mean that his skills on the mat, or his ability to defeat opponents earned my loyalty.  He, as a human being, in how he chooses to treat me earned my loyalty.

What does “loyalty” mean?

One of my favorite black belts in the game is the always vocal Tom DeBlass, and he had this to say on the subject of loyalty:

Loyalty to my Professor Ricardo Almeida and his teacher Master Renzo Gracie is something I feel strongly about. However, I feel at times many don’t understand it. I have been lucky enough to be awarded my blue belt all the way to my second degree black belt under Ricardo Almeida. I have also been lucky enough to spend numerous hours with Master Renzo. My life is what it is today because of them. I love my team and I will proudly fly its flag for as long as they allow me.

I never tell my students they aren’t allowed to train somewhere, I let them make their own decisions. Furthermore, I welcome guests from around the country and world from different teams to visit my Academy at anytime. I love it. I give seminars all over the nation and soon the world. Meeting new people in the Jiu-Jitsu world is something I love and I’m thankful for. We all share something beautiful, Jiu-Jitsu.

However, if you open a school down the road from my teacher’s school I will not visit you. It’s not that I wish bad things upon you, but why would I spend a day so close to my teacher and not choose to learn from him? Nowadays our schedule is so busy it’s hard to share as much time on the mats as we’d like, yet a training session is always a free day and phone call away, regardless of how much time passes.

Our team is blessed with many great teachers and I am lucky to have learned from so many. We have proven our Jiu-Jitsu on the world’s biggest stages competitively. Next ADCC like many others in the past we will have a representative in each weight class, do you understand how amazing that is? I am forever in debt to my team and teachers.
Loyalty doesn’t mean you cannot visit other schools. Loyalty doesn’t mean you cannot be friends with people from other schools. Loyalty simply means you have a home base. If you are part of an amazing team you understand the camaraderie we share. My best friends can be found right on the mats along side me.

The reality is that Tom’s students are very lucky, as are any students at an academy that is part of a network of gyms within easy driving distance of each other, and as are students of any gym that offers classes more than once a day.  Many students of the game do not have that available to them.

I cross train sometimes, because it offers me a chance to see some different “looks” on the mat.  Sometimes I’ll even visit a gym less than five miles from where I train if I’m looking for a training session and no one at my gym is training. However, if my professor was preparing for an upcoming super fight with Joe Smith down the road, I would refrain from stopping in at Smith’s academy, at least leading up to my professor’s match with him.

That said, I can think of more than once that I’ve competed against someone and then trained with them at an open mat within a month of our match.  In some cases the match was a heated battle.  What happens in competition stays in competition.

A lot of instructors feel entitled to loyalty, but they have done very little to earn it.  A lot of instructors forget who is paying who.  In his video, Rickson asked why he should waste his knowledge on a student whom he deems disloyal.  One possible answer is that the student’s money is as green as anyone else’s, and different people show their loyalty differently.  I may collect information from many sources, buy only one instructor’s patch graces the backs of my competition gis, and I will only allow one instructor to promote me as he sees fit.

Be loyal to those who are loyal to you, but remember that ultimately you are a customer.  You are paying someone else money in exchange for their knowledge.  If you are unhappy with the knowledge they choose to deliver or the way they choose to deliver it, you should not feel obliged to waste your money.  Obviously, keep lines of communication open, but at the end of the day, you should be your own top priority. Otherwise, how are you going to improve?

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Emil Fischer is an active black belt competitor under Pablo Angel Castro III training at Strong Style Mixed Martial Arts and Training Center near Cleveland Ohio (www.strongstyle.com) and teaching at Ararat Martial Arts and FItness Center. For more information, other articles, and competition videos check out his athlete pages at www.facebook.com/emilfischerbjj www.twitter.com/Emil_Fischer and https://instagram.com/emilfischerbjj/. Emil is sponsored by Meerkatsu (www.Meerkatsu.com, discount code EmilKatsu), Eddy's On Coventry, North Coast Cryo (www.Northcoast-Cryo.com) NottaRookie, YM (www.cbdyoume.com discount code COOKIES), Defense Soap (www.defensesoap.com discount code COOKIES) Impact Mouthguards (www.impactmouthguards.com discount code EMILIMPACT), and North South Jiu Jitsu Underwear


  1. Here in Brazil loyalty is different. The teachers here do not live on jiu jitsu, so they do not want their money. They want to teach their own philosophy of life, it’s not just about teaching BJJ. It is not the teacher who gains the student’s loyalty, it is the student who gains the teacher’s loyalty. This comes with time.
    Loyalty requires reciprocity.
    You can change academy but remain loyal.
    When we think of jiu jitsu just as a business relationship, we lose the essence of martial art.

      • Thats not what Gustavo said, he said the teachers have jobs outside of BJJ and can pick and choose, they arent beholden to the student just because he can pay.

          • Over here there are too many teachers and we’re paying something between 25 to 50 dollars a month to train. And If you decide to teach and live you’re going to have a big team because the rent will consume something like 250 dollars at least per month plus taxes and other operational costs… As a brazilian I think he refers to this situation. The jiu jitsu instructor teaches because he has passion. Not because he wants to make money because it’s almost impossible 🙂

      • Why? Sometimes you just have to.

        I switched academies twice: Once because I was moving away, and my old team didn’t have any sister gyms in my new location.

        The second time, it was because my gym’s schedule was getting too irregular for me, and even as a blue belt I was one of the most experienced people there. I wasn’t going to learn much by staying.

        So why would I be dropped back to white in that case? How would you handle that with tournaments anyway?

  2. That’s why I love my academy loyalty is built. They don’t want a thousand ungrateful, disloyal, paychecks. They’d rather have 10 sold people that will be as loyal as your family. They also dont like disloyal people from other academies. A brown belt from another school wanted to come to our academy because he was told he was three years from black belt. Our professor told him he doesn’t like taking other academies students but that if he wanted to join he had to go back to blue. That person eventually found an academy that promoted him to black in 9 months

  3. Another bit of drivel from Emil the Turd. Not at all shocked to hear you boil everything down to ‘blah blah money talks.’ Typical jooshit.

    Somewhat encouraging, though, to see that basically every poster (apart from E the T) seems to understand that the art of JiuJitsu is more than just a business. Sharing your passion and understanding of something like this is a far cry from selling someone a sandwich.

      • You realize that Seattle is about 530′ above sea level, right? That puts it roughly 300′ LOWER than Independence, dipshit. ‘up in Seattle’ ‘air too thin’

        You know where the air is too thin? In a oven.

  4. I was talking about this with my master yesterday. In my particular situation I trained 7 years on 3 different schools until I became a blue belt. And I don’t feel like a Creonte because of it. I feel I have good background because I was prepared not by one single idea of jiu-jitsu. I had time to feel and understand who had the correcet mindset to teach jiu jitsu to me and then engage. Now I live in a different city and I’m training under a new different instructor and he’s improving things I haven’t learned from those other instructors and If one day I become a famous jiu jitsu practitioner I’ll say thanks for all of them like in College you’re graduated by many teachers in the process. That’s the way life goes on I learn good things for all of them and other stuff I don’t like I prefer not to take it home. IMHO loyalty is an important part of Jiu-Jitsu but train in just one school isn’t necessarely loyalty because in the end of the day the real flag we really carry is our name.

    BTW on the documentary “Gracies and the birth of vale tudo” Renzo himself explains about train with Rolls Gracie instead of train with Carson Gracie just because when he asked to train with both Rolls agreed and Carson didn’t.

  5. Totally agree with you Emil. Thank you for having the courage to say it out loud.. starting to think I was the only one thinking like that.


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