“Traditional” Mindsets Vs. Having Fun

Photo by: Bjj Pix

I was chatting with one of my teammates, Andrey Boechko owner of Furacao Kimonos, about how much fun we have with our circle of friends/teammates. As a group, we constantly do fun activities outside of jiu jitsu, joke around and have a great time. I think part of what makes our team so special. The informality in itself has built some real bonds.

I’ve honestly come to take our team’s awesome environment for granted so much so that I forget how much some people suck. There is an interesting dichotomy in BJJ: informality vs. formality; a long, proud and stuffy tradition, versus a freewheeling collaborative process in which we can learn together.

There’s something to be said for the old school mentality of bowing to your “sensei” and learning “respect” and “discipline” through the martial arts. However, I think that in jiu jitsu, we learn respect and discipline in a different way: we learn it through rolling. We learn it through tactile experience, rather than artificial behavior.

There are some in the BJJ community who still cling to strange concepts of formality. There are those who take themselves way too seriously, and many don’t even realize it.

I’m looking at anyone who insists on attaching a formal title before their name like “Professor” or “Instructor” or “Master.” It’s totally cool to put that down on paper or if someone comes from a Traditional background to allow them to call you by whatever title they choose, but I’ve seen grown men who insist that other grown men refer to them as “Professor.”

I’ve also seen people who take their belt way too seriously. I’m talking about guys who think that because they’re a purple belt, they inherently know more than any blue belt on the planet. I’ve seen people with higher ranks get genuinely upset at lower belts for submitting them. I’ve also seen them get hurt when they try to avoid tapping to a well placed submission, and then they turn around and blame the lower rank for being “too rough.” These sorts of people are real, and they can cause deeply ingrained problems in the BJJ community.

Then there’s the oft discussed problem of misogyny. Historically, women were not respected martial artists. In BJJ, given the nature of the art, women can achieve as much as their male counterparts in the realm of technical proficiency and real talent. However, there are people out there who can’t grasp the idea that female practitioners are entitled to the same respect males.

Traditions can be great or they can really detract from the overall growth of the art. Respect can be something that is earned through sweating and bleeding together, and humility learned from regular life lessons on the mat. Perhaps the most prominent double edged sword in BJJ is its inconsistent informality. It both attracts and endears its practitioners while at the same time leaving them uncertain of themselves.

How do you feel about traditional mindsets? Do you think that BJJ transcends those mindsets? Do you think it SHOULD transcend them?


  1. Well said….but I dont see where respecting your Master and his title has to do with that dichotomy!
    You can both create a balanced enviroment, filled with respect, fun, and humility and still respect your master for what he is and what he achieved. We need to value them as much as we can, for they are the ones we chose to pass onto us bjj and everything that comes with it.
    I think we need the respect that the “titles” summons, and thinking that we live in a time when belts are becoming exchange coins and other stuff than the real evaluation of the students level, on and off the mats, we need to recognise real masters.


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