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Beyond Technique - Ideas on What Makes a Gym Great
An exploration of some of the factors of a great gym culture.
Beyond technique, what makes a gym great? It is safe to say the first reason most of us train is for the violence. Something in our past or DNA or both recognizes the need to be physically prepared for a violent encounter. There are many additional benefits to Jiu Jitsu. Practitioners develop confidence, humility, respect and discipline and a myriad of other valuable traits. Jiu Jitsu also provides therapy, catharsis, family and tribe. Some of these components we have discussed in previous articles. Some we will discuss in future articles.
But these components aside, what makes a gym great? I would argue one key item is their treatment of guest. There is a sister school to the school that I train at located an hour south. I am not sure the reason why, work schedule or family obligations, but it seemed like a good idea to drop in for a class one night. I knew the owner and was kind of expecting a quick hello as I walked in. Diametrically, I was greeted like his long lost favorite uncle. He was excited to see me. I was introduced to a bunch of people. He wanted me to roll with different people. It honestly felt like I was a celebrity Jiu Jitsu practitioner coming into the gym and not an old training partner from a sister school.
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Another key component, in my opinion, is their approach to technique. I was out of town training at another gym. After a roll, the blue belt next to me asked the purple belt that he just finished rolling with to explain a move he had used. The purple belt’s response was, “It took me 8 years to learn that move, why would I share it with you?” In no means am I saying that anyone is under an obligation to hold a free private lesson after a roll. However, we should all seek the betterment of our training partners and a culture of learning should be promoted. On a more fundamental level, there is no need to be a dick if you can’t help someone out.
Lastly, everyone’s health and welfare should be of paramount concern. Certainly, you are training in a combat sport and injuries are inevitable. However, I have visited some gyms were the novices were treated like human punching bags. Certainly, you seek submission with everyone you roll with. However, if you catch someone in an inside heel hook and they are unaware of the technique you show maturity and concern for your training partner and let the submission go instead of causing injury.
Perhaps the underlying theme for these tenets is a genuine regard for everyone who walks through the door. Guests are treated well. A culture of learning is promoted within the gym. People are treated with respect. A maturity is demonstrated with the health of our training partners.