If you’ve trained in Brazilian jiu-jitsu for a while – and particularly if your coach is a traditionalist -you’ve probably heard the term “creonte” thrown around.
In the BJJ world, it’s often used to refer to someone who leaves their academy to train at a new one, even if only to visit a friend at another gym. While some people use the term as a joke, others take it very, very seriously and use it to cast shame upon and instill fear into their students.
Admittedly, I don’t have a coach’s perspective on this concept. I’ve only been training for about four years, and my blue belt is only impressive to white belts or no-belts. Perhaps I don’t have the expertise needed to fully understand why a paying student shouldn’t be able to occasionally learn from other instructors and meet new people who share their passion.
Or perhaps today’s idea of a “creonte” is as ridiculous as I think it is.
To me, an instructor who refuses to let his students visit other gyms is afraid, even if he tries to disguise that fear as a desire for respect. He’s afraid that his students are going to prefer that gym over his gym, and that they’ll ultimately take their talent (and their money) elsewhere.
He might also take it as a personal jab that his students don’t feel like they can get all the jiu-jitsu they need out of him and him alone. He views his teachings as a delicious, hearty meal and doesn’t understand that his students can enjoy what he cooked and still want to squeeze in a little dessert. Rather than hearing, “I want a little bit extra, a little bit of something different,” he hears, “What you’ve done for me is not nearly enough, and I need to search elsewhere to get my fill.”
Those fears are reasonable . . . and even admirable. They show that the coach has the desire to give his students everything they need to help them achieve their goals in jiu-jitsu.
The problem comes in when rather than figuring out how he can create a better experience for his students, the coach prohibits them from finding out if someone else is running a better BJJ program. Instead of questioning his own methods, he forbids his students from training at other gyms, effectively trapping them in more ways than one.
Oftentimes, a coach will insist that his reasoning for prohibiting cross-training at other gyms revolves around the concept of respect. According to him, training anywhere other than their gym is like openly cheating in a relationship. If we were still in the older days of jiu-jitsu when there weren’t as many people in the sport, I guess I could see their perspective. Back then, the internet didn’t exist, and the idea of there being secret techniques that could be passed on to other gyms and used against the people who created them was a legitimate concern.
But we’re in 2016 now. The internet and overall willingness to share techniques has made the idea of “secret” moves laughable. Jiu-jitsu academies are everywhere, and the people who train are often connected through social media long before they actually meet in person.
And damn it, we want to train together!
The biggest issue I have with the concept of creonteism is that students are shoveling out significant amounts of money to train – anywhere between $100 and $200 for a standard dojo membership. Sure, there are rules to follow, just as there are in any club or gym you’d belong to, but nobody should have to feel imprisoned in their own gym when they’re paying to be there. It’s like buying a new pair of jeans and being told you can only buy jeans from that particular store for as long as you wear jeans. If a coach wants to pay me to train at his gym, well, that’s another story.
More importantly, though, a good professor will want his students to learn, regardless of how they achieve that education. I mentioned my lack of experience as a jiu-jitsu instructor, but I do have experience as an English teacher. My goal was to ensure that my students were able to speak English properly, and I didn’t just allow them to attend other classes and seek out other resources; I encouraged it. Their education was my priority, and even though I did my best to be a good teacher, I knew that they still might have gaps they needed to fill in and that another learning method might help them grasp the language even faster.
Jiu-jitsu is like a language all its own, and it’s equally as complicated. What would happen if you learned, say, Portuguese from just one teacher and only practiced speaking with other students who had learned solely from the same teacher that you had? You might get a pretty good grasp on the language, but you’d probably never be fluent until you picked up different vocabulary words and expressions from people who had a different experience with the language than you. The same is true when you learn jiu-jitsu, and a professor who forbids you from occasionally venturing out to new gyms is doing nothing but putting roadblocks in your journey.
That’s not to say that you should be visiting four other gyms every week. Many academies focus on a similar set of techniques during the week, so by missing class, you’re missing valuable information. It’s not fair to your teammates or your coach when you’re absent for two days because you’ve been training elsewhere and then take up their time trying to get caught up on the week’s techniques.
Occasionally taking a class from another instructor, though, can help you learn new things and enable you to make new friends in the jiu-jitsu community. If you don’t want to miss class, you can even just show up to another gym’s open mat to roll with people you don’t normally train with.
If your instructor is super preachy with the creonte thing, you can stick around if you want to, but my advice would be to find another professor who puts your jiu-jitsu journey ahead of his own pride. A good coach will use his fear of losing students to help motivate himself to be better at what he does, and a bad one will use it as a reason to keep his students trapped. You might belong to a gym, but your jiu-jitsu journey is yours and yours alone. A coach who tries to claim it for himself is not one you want to be dragging along for the ride.