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Ideas on Politics and Loyalty in Jiu Jitsu

Ideas on Politics and Loyalty in Jiu Jitsu


Exploring the good and the bad…

People often times talk about loyalty in the context of politics in Jiu Jitsu. Often times they monetize a value into a market tool. One example of this is indicting the loyalty of someone who changes schools. As if to say, that since someone gave you the first stripe on your white belt, you are less than an honorable person if you change academies.

Diametric to that poor example, Tom Deblass has the best quote on loyalty that I have ever seen. Here it is, “I never tell my students they aren’t allowed to train somewhere, I let them make their own decisions. Furthermore, I welcome guests from around the country and world from different teams to visit my Academy at any time. I love it. I give seminars all over the nation and soon the world. Meeting new people in the Jiu-Jitsu world is something I love and I’m thankful for. We all share something beautiful, Jiu-Jitsu. However, if you open a school down the road from my teacher’s school I will not visit you. It’s not that I wish bad things upon you, but why would I spend a day so close to my teacher and not choose to learn from him? Now days our schedule is so busy it’s hard to share as much time on the mats as we’d like, yet a training session is always a free day and phone call away, regardless of how much time passes. Our team is blessed with many great teachers and I am lucky to have learned from so many. We have proven our Jiu-Jitsu on the world’s biggest stages competitively. Next ADCC like many others in the past we will have a representative in each weight class, do you understand how amazing that is? I am forever in debt to my team and teachers. Loyalty doesn’t mean you cannot visit other schools. Loyalty doesn’t mean you cannot be friends with people from other schools. Loyalty simply means you have a home base. If you are part of an amazing team you understand the comradery we share. My best friends can be found right on the mats alongside me.”

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But politics and loyalty is not only an indirect attack on students by instructors. It can also be a weapon yielded by a student. One example of this is in belt promotions. It is embarrassing to say, belt promotions can occasionally bring out the worst in us. I saw something on reddit recently where someone was complaining that he had not been promoted because of gym politics. Let me state something that should be obvious, bad mouthing your academy on social media is definitely not the way to get promoted. However, beyond that, the accusation of politics seems to be a way so that you don’t have to address the real issues. Belts are great in Jiu Jitsu but it is always bad form to ask for a promotion and everyone’s focus should be on getting better.

Both the instructors and students examples in this article use loyalty and politics as a way to subtly indict someone’s actions without taking ownership. They transfer the blame to someone in a dishonorable way instead of examining how they can improve. In stark contrast, Tom Deblass provides us the perfect example of what loyalty should be. It is a shame politics enters the academy. Often times, Jiu Jitsu makes us better people off the mat. However, other times it simply reveals our true character.

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