Understanding BJJ Affiliations
The average student walking into their first BJJ academy probably chose this academy because of a number of common reasons. Perhaps this was the closest academy to their home or work. Maybe it's the only academy in their town. They might even have a friend who trains there and recommended the academy. Whatever the specific reason, it's safe to assume that this first time student probably has little understanding of BJJ affiliations and why they will potentially play an important role in the student's life in the future.
The many varied Brazilian Jiu Jitsu affiliations today have their roots in the very early clubs and schools where the art was first practiced in Brazil. As students of the original teachers eventually left to open sister academies or left to start their own organizations for political reasons, the roots of the largest and most powerful affiliations began to grow. As students, it's important that we have teachers who gauge our development and progression in the art, and once some decides to branch off and start a school of their own, in a similar way, being part of an affiliation can be an incredible help in continuing not only one's martial arts growth, but also their business and community growth.
Finding the best affiliation for one's personal development can take some time and it is always ideal if the first choice turns out to be the best affiliation for us. But over time, for a variety of reasons, we often have to make changes that could lead us to different affiliations. Let's look at a few of the many positive benefits of being a part of a strong affiliation and why being a part of an affiliation that has goals that align with our own can be a huge push in our own development.
Setting an Example
A strong and reputable affiliation will give your academy an example to follow that could range anywhere from a model to ideas from in some cases, to a more formal and standardized environment complete with required curriculum, or uniform requirements. Being a part of a larger team carries with it a sense of respect and responsibility in how your academy's members are perceive at competitions or other events.
Affiliations can vary in their overall philosophic, approach to BJJ in general. Some affiliations are more self defense oriented like any of the Gracie Academy affiliate schools which have a very uniform curriculum, whereas some affiliations are more competition focused with less standardized curriculum. Once you have joined a school or team, it's important to explore and understand the role of the affiliation at your academy to ensure that your personal BJJ goals are in line with both the academies and the overall affiliation.
Aligning oneself with the goals and mission statement of the larger affiliation will work to help guide the processes and actions within the academy. This can go a long way towards making sure the students have a great experience at your academy.
Access to Knowledge
Being a part of a more widespread affiliation potentially gives you more access to knowledge. Rather than being one isolated school amongst thousands, you will be connected to a number of schools and therefore, have access to teachers, coaches, and competitors from the other schools in your affiliation.
Whether in the form of seminars with key instructors or leaders of the affiliation or perhaps by taking road trips every now and again to visit and train with your affiliate family, the amount of knowledge you can gain in a relatively short time that you can take back and work on back at your home school is amazing.
Just as your own academy become a community for everyone that attends, being a part of an affiliation puts you into an even larger community of people who are all unified by the same goals and can help each other by sharing ideas, techniques, and practices that will potentially eliminate a lot of trial and error that would normally happen as an academy and business develops and grows.
Being Part of Something Bigger
There is also a psychological benefit of being a part of something bigger. Human beings are constantly looking for connection and community. We are by nature, gregarious beings and love being part of a group or a team. Being a part of a larger jiu jitsu team that philosophically 'has ones back' whenever you need it, can be very comforting and keep people on the right path.
Knowing that you have a much bigger team, led by its representative instructors and coaches can go a long way in your development, giving you role models to look to and learn from as you work your way through the various challenges that BJJ will bring your way.
Your direct instructor and local teammates will have the greatest impact on your BJJ life and development, but this effect may also be shaped by a much larger affiliation. It's helpful to know and to align yourself with the goals and expectations of the affiliation if they match and work well with your personal goals. It never hurts to have a team to roll for and finding the one the best fits with your personal goals and philosophy can truly enrich your journey and help guide you over the obstacles that life may throw in your way, making it to black belt.
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