Hi, everyone! Hopefully the title was just confusing enough to bring you here, so if you made it this far keep reading! What we wanted to talk about today was our goal of creating a community of black belts, which we will define later in this post as it means much more to us than just the color of the belt around your waist. I joke with the students that “anyone can be a black belt with $20 and an amazon account” because having a belt that you earned and no one can ever take from you is the real pursuit. When we say we don’t care where you train, we truly mean that it does not bother us where a student decides to train or if they pick another academy over ours. It is nothing personal and we want our students or potential members to make decisions that are best for them and their goals. For example, we are not the cheapest academy by any means because we aim to provide a very high standard of training and learning as well as take care of our staff so if this is doesn’t align with what the student is looking for, we are more than happy to point them in the direction of another academy in the area that might be a better fit. At the end of the day, we view more people taking up the journey of becoming a black belt as a good thing, if they are developing the necessary character to keep them from abusing the power that BJJ or Jiu Jitsu is sure to bring them.
When we say we care where you train, not everyone understands the path that is in front of them, especially at the start of your journey, this is why have a sensei or professor is parmount for reaching your goals. We have a saying that “the reason you start, is not the reason you continue”, this relates to newcomers not understanding where their path will take them. An example of this would be when a student comes to us because they did their research and found that BJJ is a great form of self-defense against a larger, stronger person. What they don’t always understand is that Jiu Jitsu will be even more beneficial to your life if you use it to develop your principles of living which we teach with the Six Blades (Family, Respect, Discipline, Honor, Loyalty, Attitude). The reason we believe this is for the simple fact that Jiu Jitsu should enrich every aspect of your life. The physical portion, while important for safety, fitness, developing confidence and being fun, is just a fraction of what the art can truly do for you. By learning and applying the Six Blades along with the lessons in class, you can open doors that you didn’t really think had anything to do with BJJ. For example, maybe you’re a working electrician who wants to learn self-defense and you happened to see someone in the UFC take someone down and armbar them. So you do some research which lands you at an academy to get started on your path to black belt. Through the course of your journey and the process of self-development, you achieve your self-defense goals but also make a ton of friends and relationships along the way, including someone who you may decide to hire based on the values they display inside the academy. Or perhaps they hire you, or you start a business together. The possibilities are truly endless but what matters is that you came to a place where your goal was to achieve only the skill on the mats of a black belt which also resulted in control over your health, your ego, and your discipline which you were then able to channel into a life of wealth, benefiting you and ultimately the community.
While this sounds good, it is unfortunately not the way all academies are operated and this has to do with the exclusivity of BJJ from martial arts as a whole. When most parents bring their kids to a dojo (a word used to reference a training hall for physical, spiritual, emotional development) they are usually looking to empower them with discipline, respect, confidence and toughness. They are there because they want their children to have good lives by learning things that will benefit them outside of the dojo and they are willing to make an investment in their kids’ future. Whether or not karate is better than Jiu Jitsu is besides the fact and if the same reason kids partake in martial arts is to benefit their lives, why should an adult’s approach be any different? Part of the reason is that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was popularized by Mixed Martial Arts or cage fighting and with it came a sort of fight club culture. This led to people opening academies based on whether they could beat other martial arts rather than understanding the concept of mutual prosperity and how martial arts and the practice of bushido (the way of the warrior; a samurai code) could improve society.
This brings us to what you may already be wondering, “how do I know that the school I am choosing is the right one?”. A good place to start is to clearly identify your goals and see which academy offers what you are looking for. Below we’ve listed some bullet points to help direct you towards what best suits you.
- Is this for your kids to grow and learn skills that will help them outside of martial arts? Sit down and watch a class before booking a free week trial which most places offer. Do they just teach techniques? Is it disorganized? Do the kids appear bored or happy? Do the kids there display the qualities you would like to instill in your children? Sometimes just stopping by and watching a class can save you from the process of a week trial by telling you most of what you want to know.
- If your goal is to learn self-defense. Look for an academy with some structure that caters to beginners, if you are sparring within your first week (with exceptions) that might be a reason to look elsewhere. On the other side of the coin, if you learn techniques and never spar, how do you know they work against bigger, stronger people who are resisting and fighting back.
- Are you interested in getting in shape but don’t like going to the gym? Look for an academy that has a lot of families who participate and prioritizes cleanliness and hygiene. This academy will care about you and your health along with understanding the importance of community like many successful gyms or health clubs do.
- If you are a woman, what is the school’s female presence like? If you’re the only one, that may say some things about how they run their program. A school with a good program will have girls who demonstrate the attributes you are looking for (fitness, self-defense, camaraderie, while having fun.
- Is your goal to be a competitor? Chances are while you may want to experience competition at some point, understand that the lifestyle of a competitor is very hard and breaks most people. If you’ve seen the IBJJF World Championships, perhaps you want to seek out academies who have demonstrated success at that stage. Not just themselves but amongst their students, this shows that they know what it takes to win at the highest level and are able to replicate it with their program.
These are just a few examples, and every case is completely individual, which is why we try to sit down with potential students during their enrollment appointment and really understand what it is they are looking for so we can personalize a plan that will help them get the most out of our school, or to direct them to another place that may have what they’re looking for. As teachers and academy owners, we know that we are not the place for everyone and there are plenty of schools that can help you reach your goals. If you trust your sensei and can see that the program is what you are looking for, all that is left is to have fun and enjoy the process while approaching each day with the same humility and enthusiasm you start with. We hope this helps you start your journey and you will eventually join the club of black belts who are contributing to society and their community.