I've used the terms 'affiliate' and 'non-affiliate' in previous posts and in describing the new academy in Bangkok. I should more appropriately describe what I am working to be as 'independent' with an 'open-door policy'. All this in an attempt to avoid politics and even that word can be taken differently depending on what situation you and your school may be in. My aim is to create an environment where people can develop and improve their jiu-jitsu, share with like-minded people and support the community that we are a part of. This is separate from the loyalties/responsibilities that I have to those that have invested themselves in me. I believe I can still have a deep respect for the source of my teachings and its lineage while being open to learning from others outside of my immediate training family.

We can play the 'what if game' but that just takes time away from training. I will do what I think is best without compromising my principles when that time comes.


Anonymous said...

Once you have a resident black belt, it's a lot less likely to be "open door." BJJ black belts are like elk - they each have their own territory, and the more space they stake out, the more secure they feel.

Generally the degrees of openness are as follows:

1. Academy doesn't have a black belt. Hence instructors of all ranks and affiliations are welcome to drop in and teach on a temporary basis.

2. Academy gets its first resident black belt. He starts to rein in visiting instructors on grounds there is no longer a need, but is open to seminars from all affiliations. Academy owner has "private" sessions with former visiting buddies and his close circle of friends. Resident instructor wonders if he is appreciated enough.

3. Seminars offered by other instructors from his own affiliation are best, because the styles are compatible. In actuality, there's that "elk" concept at work. Elk from your own herd, although competitors, are preferred over incoming elk, like Canadian elk.

4. Who needs seminars now that you have a resident black belt (students often agree with this, if the training is good, it saves them money)? One exception: old buddy of new instructor is in town, help him raise a little spending money.

That's on the "incoming" side," instructors coming to your academy.

Now how about on the "outgoing side," you visiting other instructors? The progression tends to go like this:

A. Hurt feelings on a very personal level - the home academy instructor has made a big commitment to you and your students, and doesn't understand why you need to train with other instructors;
B. Fiscal concern - why are you paying for privates from the other instructors;
C. Old feuds with the individual or his affiliations.

In short, BJJ life from the student's perspective is a lot like dating and married life. If you can negotiate the shoals of dating and married life successfully, you will do well in BJJ life too. Basically, you are "dating" right now and that means some potential candidates will vie for your attention and commitment, some will be stand-offish or play hard to get.

Then you get serious about one, they hang out a lot.

Before you know it they have moved in.

Then they complain about where the money is going.

Going out with another woman is out of the question. While there are "no-tell motels" in Thailand, I don't think there are any "no tell" academies. You might be able to train with old buddies, but you'd better not "take lessons" from them.

On the other hand when you go on long business trips, you can often "sneak around" and drop into other academies and even seminars. Usually it's ok to pay the drop in fee, but popping for a pricey private lesson could raise eyebrows back home.

You think I'm making this up. I'm not. Even in my short career in BJJ I've "seen too much" to ever take it too seriously again, or not seriously enough.

LUKE said...

Dear Anonymous,

I'd like to first thank you for taking the time to share from your experiences about what you see as future obstacles for myself and the new academy here in Bangkok. I can say from my own experience that the scenarios you've illustrated have played themselves out in a number of camps both big and small. From my own experience in the US and here in Asia, I know there is potential for the very same to happen. I believe you have the best intentions in mind when sharing/reminding me(us) of what may be.

I am not saying that we are immune to such things but we are making serious efforts to do things differently and with positive intentions. I think the first part is being conscious of what can happen which is what you've helped do in replying to my posts and we just have to work from here.

I will say that I believe myself to be very fortunate to work with, train with and have friends here in Bangkok that are working towards the same goals for the future of BJJ in Thailand.


Anonymous said...

Sometimes the students don't realize what you go through, behind the scenes, to provide them with a place to play this wonderful sport.

Anonymous said...

The gene pool is too small in SE Asia for schools to split up and go their own ways, for instructors to say students can't visit other academies for open mat sessions etc.

Let's face it, as important as a good instructor can be, having good training partners is also very important. A purple belt won't make good progress without other purple belts to roll with. And how many of those are there, even in bigger size US academies?

Same thing with blue belts. You need bunches and bunches of them, because when push comes to shove you need enough in your weight category to work out with, and hopefully in your weight category the skill levels cover the bell curve, so you have both easy matches, challenging matches, and survival matches.

I think the way academies are closed down is dumb. If the goal is to have each student make the fastest progress - which I think IS the best goal - each student needs to have the broadest range of training opportunities. I ran into one small female at one academy (not the one where I study) who wanted to train with other small females - a scarce commodity - but when I suggested she drop in to our academy since we also had a small female she said no, no, no. She didn't want to appear disloyal. There was no suggestion that she change academies, only that she try to hook up with other training partners.

I suppose part of it is reputation and part of it is "keeping secrets." I have been told not to train at other schools because they don't want the other schools to see what we are up to, in terms of techniques. But, if I choose to disregard this advice, I'd better go out there and smash them, otherwise they will lose respect for us.

Ugh. Kind of immature, huh? What ever happened starting gradually and working up the intensity? What ever happened to "fun"?

Of course even within an academy I have heard off-the-wall comments, like, "you've got to smash the new white belts or they won't respect you." Of course it's not likely that the white belts are going to learn a lot when they are squashed under you in side control or mount and tapping to this or that. And then blue belts wonder why white belts are aggro spazzes?

Another "rule" is don't tell people how to counter your best moves. That way you can count coup on them by submitting them over and over with the same move. I think it is better to give them some tips and if they can capitalize on them, then YOU have to move on to something different, or improve your game.

Good training partners are hard to find. Dull knives don't cut well. I'm all for an open door, train with as many people as you can, be willing to get tapped and tooled but keep coming back like that Daruma doll, attitude. But sometimes I get a little weary and cynical when I see how shortsighted and cynical people can be. Instructors won't take seminars from superstars like Marcelo, because they are afraid it will diminish their credibility. Superstars show flashy, often impractical stuff at seminars, so their competitors don't get savvy to their bread and butter moves. Etc.

Unless the teaching method/attitude in BJJ opens up, it's at risk for high drop out rates, frustration among students, and becoming like high school wrestling, which is always high school wrestling - there for a few brief seasons when you are young and crazy, then gone from adult life. BJJ should be for life, BJJ should be open.

Anonymous said...

Amen, to that, Luke!

We're pretty much on the same boat right now. And like you we're very optimistic in making BJJ grow by having an 'open' environment that will foster proper skills training and strengthen the community.

More power to you!

Ali Sulit
VPF Jiu-Jitsu, Philippines