Having just visited Taipei for their tournament a few weeks back, I got to hang out with Warren from Taiwan BJJ and talk about the scene there. The community and school they've built for themselves is a true labor of love for jiu-jitsu. I had a great time there and hope to visit soon for some training. Thanks -Luke
from: Warren Wang
1. What did it take for the scene to grow to the point that it is now?
I think the main things are stability and consistency. Meaning, having consistent instructors and training sessions, and having more or less a club house for the members to hang out at.
Taiwan BJJ went through different stages before it became what it is now. In 2003, a small club consisted of me and Vaughn Anderson started in Taichung. A couple months later I was asked to teach a group of guys in Taipei on the weekends. I remembered the first couple classes were taught on ceramic tiles. A couple months later, the classes got to be 20-30 guys, so we needed more help. That's when we invited Andy Wang to come to Taiwan and the Taipei BJJ academy was set up between him and a handful of guys. I think Andy might of been one of the first black belts to visit Asia (outside of japan and Australia). Again with consistent instructions and dedication the club grew, at one time, i remember him saying there were 70 guys on the roster. Andy encouraged us to train and compete, so for those two years that he was with us we competed and did well in the tournaments around SEA. Things have been crazy since he left 4 years ago. That's when everything fell apart. The classes were continued at community centers and later at a karate dojo. Without consistent instructions and a place for the guys to call their "second home", the main group of guys stayed but then we weren't able to retain any new members. It wasn't until about 2 years ago, when some guys got enough money together to start a new school and with everyone's help and unselfish inputs to the club, Taiwan BJJ continues to grow. So despite all the ups and downs during these periods, friendship, club stability and consistency of instructors whether it'd be guest instructors or just a blue/purple belt leading class are the keys to a school.
As for the growth of BJJ scene in Taiwan, it's been pretty tough. There are 2 other legit BJJ schools on the island, I'm sure they went through just as much headaches as I have. It's been tough to get local guys to be involved. More interests are placed on the traditional martial arts like TKD, Karate, and Judo. We've tried to spread BJJ to the Judo community, however, they've been reluctant up until now. (because now we have an 8th degree judo-ka at the school and he has been very active in bringing BJJ to the local community)
It took a lot of support from everyone involved. From the guys that first walk into a school, guys that's been around for a while, and guys from the rest of SEA grappling community, everyone is always so willing to put the time, effort, and money into sharing and expanding BJJ. Each school continue to do what they think is right, we don't all have to be on the same boat with the same goals or ideals, but regardless of all troubles and the politics, more and more people will start to train, and that is what we all want.
2. What were some of the challenges and hardships?
I think the toughest part is worrying about the stability and consistency of instructors. Unlike many other schools now is SEA, we have not had a resident black belt instructor since Andy left. We've had several guest instructors stay for periods of 2 months but other then that, I am always trying to find a way for the guys to have consistent instructions. Of course, balancing the bills for the club and the guest instructors is also quite difficult. Getting local acceptance has been quite difficult as well, because most BJJ clubs in Taiwan consists mainly of non-locals and the classes are all conducted in English, which can be quite difficult of local guys to accept or feel comfortable in the beginning. Lastly, is all the bullshit and petty politics that we have to deal with sometimes. We train because we love BJJ and the great friendships that's been formed from it, but to get threats by previous visiting black belt is a different story.
3. How can we continue to grow and expand the community of BJJ?
Through more interaction and mutual respect, I am confident the SEA grappling community will grow. With guys like yourself unselfishly giving so much of your time, effort, and energy SEA BJJ will no doubt expand. Regardless of how and what everyone does, the fact that people are doing something, good or bad, right or wrong, will inevitably put SEA BJJ on the map. Hence the influx of black-belts to Asia now. With more recognition globally and everyone's efforts, interests in BJJ will for sure catch on.