What Effect Has Social Media Had On Jiu-Jitsu’s Culture?

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Facebook/John Danaher. Photo by Richard Presley

Chances are, if you’re reading this blog post you found it as a result of a social media post, either by the Jiu-Jitsu Times on one of its social media accounts or as a shared post.  Social media has become a major factor in the culture of jiu-jitsu and that has a lot of potentially positive and negative effects on the sport/art.

Let’s take a look at the good and the bad of social media as it pertains to jiu-jitsu:

The Good

Access.

Back before I started writing and was a lowly unknown white belt, I discovered that many of jiu-jitsu’s stars were easily accessible via social media.  Because it’s non-threatening and you can simply block people you don’t like, you can set up a profile with relatively low risk.  I remember early on needing advice and being thrilled to discover that Andre Galvao would respond to private messages sent to him.  The truth is that the vast majority of my interviews for the Jiu-Jitsu Times are conducted right over Facebook chat; it’s easy, non-threatening, and immediate.

Information can be transferred quickly and freely among people. 

Instructors who want to share their knowledge with the world can use social media to disseminate that information.  Some of my favorite instructors upload videos to YouTube and then share them on their social media accounts for everyone to see.  This is super useful.  I remember a time when the only instructional videos available were on VHS cassettes, and were extremely limited.  Yes, there was some useful information, but these were sales tools for seminars and so the instructors on them had good reason to not share the best details.  Nowadays, if you know who the best instructors are you can find amazing material on the internet.

Community building. 

Social media lets us keep in touch with jiujiteiros all around the world, it allows us to find gyms to cross train, and it allows us to see what’s available to us.  Knowing what the jiu-jitsu community in other places is up to helps shape the communities locally.  Jiu-jitsu is a community, and social media helps that community be more connected.

The Bad

Internet tough guys. 

It used to be that if you wanted to talk trash about people, you had to do it in public, either to their face or at least out loud.  Nowadays people can hide behind their computer screens and be disrespectful to people they will never encounter.  As a writer, I’ve been both on the giving and receiving end of this.  The truth is it’s inevitable for someone who puts themselves out there to have critics; social media gives those critics a non-refereed forum on which they can spout their opinions with little consequence.

Frauds, liars, criminals. 

With clever marketing, bad people can make money and prey on people using social media.  I see this happen on gi trading Facebook pages. This would not happen the same way if money and goods were being exchanged in person.  I’ve also seen clever web marketing hide predatory scum among us.  The truth is, this is unavoidable and not necessarily a symptom of social media, but rather social media is not exempt from it.  I’ve also seen people who pretend to have certain skills but in fact are nowhere near as good as they want you to think they are.  I see people bring home default medals and pretend that they won them.  Social media provides a platform for these people, and while it’s generally harmless, it can lead to some pretty bad stuff.

The Good/Bad:

Internet trash talk. 

Let’s be honest: trash talk in jiu jitsu is kind of silly because of the nature of grappling… but it can be super entertaining, and social media has made for some of the most entertaining trash talk ever.  I mean, seriously, have you seen some of the memes?

What do you think?  Is social media good or bad for the culture of jiu-jitsu?

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Emil Fischer is an active brown belt competitor under Pablo Angel Castro III training at Strong Style Mixed Martial Arts and Training Center near Cleveland Ohio (www.strongstyle.com) and teaching at Ground Up BJJ (http://mpcle.com/class/ground-up-bjj/.) For more information, other articles, and competition videos check out his athlete pages at www.facebook.com/emilfischerbjj www.twitter.com/Emil_Fischer and https://instagram.com/emilfischerbjj/. Emil is sponsored by Meerkatsu (www.Meerkatsu.com, discount code EmilKatsu), Eddy's On Coventry, Cleveland Cryo (www.clevelandcryo.net discount code EmilCryo,) NottaRookie, The Terphouse (www.TheTerphouse.com, used discount code COOKIES), Trap And Roll Soap Company (www.trapandrollsoap.com discount code COOKIES) Impact Mouthguards (www.impactmouthguards.com discount code EMILIMPACT), North South Jiu Jitsu Underwear, as well as a brand ambassador for Ludwig Van (www.ludwigvantheman.com discount code FAMILY) and Vanguard Kimono.
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