A lot of what I write ends up being a comparison between BJJ and judo – the same art represented in two different worlds. Judo has its politics. BJJ its own. Leah made a great post about the politics of BJJ. We have three associations in Madison alone – LCCT, MCMBJJ, and Alliance. I’m sure there are others I’m not aware of within the city and I know there are others that are just a short drive away. I’ve never been discriminated against by any of them. No one has ever gotten mad about me showing up to a seminar or a class and just paying my fees and learning. I have heard the stories though. I’ve been told about times that a black belt from one association tries to go and bring a couple of students to a seminar that another association is putting on and they’re told to leave.
In judo, the allegiance is to the art. I’ve never seen anyone in the judo community get upset if someone switches gyms. It’s kind of the opposite – people are more happy to see that you’re sticking with judo as opposed to bailing on the art. In fact, the whole judo community in America has this tradition of every March being “visit another dojo month” where you’re invited to see how your neighbors train and to foster healthy relationships with the gyms in your area (or farther). It’s advocated by the USJA, but we have relationships with USJI and USJF gyms who are more than happy to participate too. I have yet to pay a mat fee from going to another judo school during March. People are just a lot more pleased to get to change things up and have someone with a different skill set visiting them occasionally. When I think about judo as a community it really is modeled best as an international family. The thing about it is, despite the large number of people who cross-train, there is a stigma about cross-training. That is one thing I’ve been called on. My gym is great about it because even Anders has a BJJ blue belt. Elsewhere I’ve definitely gotten the “your judo would be way better if you would have just done judo instead of wasting time in BJJ” speech.
When I think about BJJ, I really just start picturing old school Japan. There are all of these different jujitsu-ryu throughout the land and a lot of them are guys who started schools with their own name. I mean, if you imagine all of these schools in a small area, you know you’re going to end up with the “my school can kick your school’s ass” mentality and a lot of heated competition over the acquisition of new students. I can’t imagine it was too different from what we have today where it seems like almost every black belt who’s gotten a medal at an international level event has their own association. I’ve also gotten to see some first hand instances of people from white to black literally jumping ships by driving across town to go to a different school or change association to have themselves affiliated with some name. Being a MCMBJJ school doesn’t make you Marcello Monteiro. Being a white belt at an Alliance school doesn’t mean you’re going to become Marcelo Garcia.
I have these naive notions that the whole of the international grappling community should just be open and welcoming. This kooky idea that not only should I be able to go to any judo school in the world, but that I should be able to show up to any BJJ academy and without judgement train for a day, a week, a month, forever. As long as I’m grappling it shouldn’t matter who is teaching me or what it’s called. These notions are naive because I don’t know all of the politics. I don’t know all of the rivalries. I don’t really care to. I’m much happier in a blissful ignorance where training itself supersedes all politics and people put aside their differences for the sake of improving as grapplers.
The more you play, the more you’ll find that we’re all just kids, but some people take the game way too seriously.