Rivalries have always existed between martial arts gyms, dojos, or academies. As a life-long martial artist who has studied many different styles I’ve seen this throughout the years. When I was younger and not in charge of my own Academy, I really never gave it a second thought. It was an ‘Us vs. Them’ thing and it was cool. We were better, we could kick their asses, and so on and so on. I was told by Helio Soneca that in early years of Brazilian jiu-jitsu each gym was almost like a gang. Students didn’t cross train. They didn’t even hang out when off the mats. Tournaments were few and far between and school pride turned them into a temporary warzone.
Now that I am a little older and run my own Academy I question the logic of all this. Is it really ideal to remain so insular, so closed off from other BJJ schools? Certainly loyalty and an esprit de corps is important. One should represent one’s Academy with pride and not just bounce around rootlessly as so many do. However, why not open up your school to others. Invite them in, visit their schools, and create a sense of community with a synergy that benefits everyone.
When working out with people from other gyms the first thing that you’ll notice is that each gym has a unique style. All have their pet techniques, drills, and training methods. Rather than ignoring the other schools or denigrating them with unfounded trash talk, why not just have an open door policy. It will only make everyone better. Sure you can charge a mat fee – I mean you have to keep the lights on – but why ban others from training with you. There is no need to hide away and pretend that the other schools don’t exist or are only coming to steal your secret techniques. In fact, if your instructor insists there are secret techniques then you actually belong to a cult, not a martial arts Academy.
At Valhalla I actively encourage cross training, visiting instructors, and anyone who wants to come in. My only wish is that I had more travel time to train with other people. I am delighted when they come share their knowledge and roll with us.
One of our strongest policies is to stay above trash talk and represent our Academy with honor on and off the mat. We strive to be tough competitors but great sportsmen regardless of the outcome. I believe that this is becoming a stronger trend in the BJJ community and I hope it continues.
Brian Jones, PhD