What is your least favorite part of BJJ?
Training injuries are probably #1?
Right behind injuries that keep us away from class would have to be BJJ politics. If you live in a city with multiple clubs, you probably know what I mean.
How does it happen?
One team trash talks another team and now the two teams are on bad terms. Relations between them get even worse if the trash talk is public or on social media.
Following a disagreement at something that happened at a tournament perhaps a disputed referee’s call or a display of unsportsmanlike behavior, one team now boycotts the tournament of the other team.
One team member leaves their original school and joins a rival. Criticisms and negative words metastasize into bad feelings between the two schools.
One senior student leaves his own academy to start up their own place and some bad feelings arise.
If you have been involved in jiu-jitsu long enough, you probably have your own story.
The sad thing is that what binds our subculture of BJJ addicts and small community together gets forgotten.
We forget that we all love jiu-jitsu and that we need each other.
The rival school is what inspires us to get to the gym when it is too hot or too cold to train. The prospect of contesting our skills against another team pushes us past our previous limits to be our very best. “We had better drill our guard passes because those guys over at Rival BJJ love to play guard.”
We can never reach our own potential without preparing for our opponents. We need them and they need us.
When instructors feud and boycott the other’s event, you know who it hurts? The students. The hard training student is deprived of a chance to test their skills in a tournament because of BJJ politics.
In any human endeavor, we have politics. I’m sure their are flower arranging clubs that have bitter rivals. It seems to be the nature of humans in groups, doesn’t it?
What can we do to avoid BJJ politics?
The best and easiest advice is to simply refuse to take part. Have a rule not to say negative things about other teams. Remember there is a good chance that whatever we say can and may be repeated to ears that it was not meant for. Don’t say things while joking around that you would not be willing to say if the other person were sitting across from you. More than one feud has grown from a casual conversation like that.
Being respectful to others goes a long way in preserving the good feelings between BJJ schools.
I recall one BJJ school owner who seemed to have an especially fragile ego and was known to openly criticizing other schools. He himself had very modest accomplishments, yet seemed disparaging of other’s efforts. His own students cringed at his words.
Observing his actions I was reminded of that old metaphor that there were two ways to have the tallest building in town.
A) Tear down all of the other buildings.
B) Concentrate on building up your own building!
Perhaps we would all be better off if our focus was on our own efforts towards improvement and not speaking negatively about others?
Do you have bad BJJ politics in your city?