Loyalty is a funny thing.
Because of a recent video in which Rickson Gracie talks about student loyalty, there has been a lot of talk, and I have some thoughts to share on the subject.
First off here’s the video:
Rickson Gracie on simultaneously training at different Jiu-Jitsu Academies.
Posted by Crosley Gracie Jiu-Jitsu on Monday, February 13, 2017
I’ve been around the mats for a while, longer than some black belts. I’ve seen loyalty, and I’ve seen disloyalty. I’ve seen uplifting success and crushing failure. And the reality is that it’s all connected.
I am loyal to my instructor. I fly his flag into battle every time, and I am proud to be on his team. But here’s the thing: he earned my loyalty. When I say he earned my loyalty, I don’t mean that his winning no-gi worlds earned my loyalty. I don’t mean that his skills on the mat, or his ability to defeat opponents earned my loyalty. He, as a human being, in how he chooses to treat me earned my loyalty.
What does “loyalty” mean?
One of my favorite black belts in the game is the always vocal Tom DeBlass, and he had this to say on the subject of loyalty:
Loyalty to my Professor Ricardo Almeida and his teacher Master Renzo Gracie is something I feel strongly about. However, I feel at times many don’t understand it. I have been lucky enough to be awarded my blue belt all the way to my second degree black belt under Ricardo Almeida. I have also been lucky enough to spend numerous hours with Master Renzo. My life is what it is today because of them. I love my team and I will proudly fly its flag for as long as they allow me.
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 anytime. 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? Nowadays 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 camaraderie we share. My best friends can be found right on the mats along side me.
The reality is that Tom’s students are very lucky, as are any students at an academy that is part of a network of gyms within easy driving distance of each other, and as are students of any gym that offers classes more than once a day. Many students of the game do not have that available to them.
I cross train sometimes, because it offers me a chance to see some different “looks” on the mat. Sometimes I’ll even visit a gym less than five miles from where I train if I’m looking for a training session and no one at my gym is training. However, if my professor was preparing for an upcoming super fight with Joe Smith down the road, I would refrain from stopping in at Smith’s academy, at least leading up to my professor’s match with him.
That said, I can think of more than once that I’ve competed against someone and then trained with them at an open mat within a month of our match. In some cases the match was a heated battle. What happens in competition stays in competition.
A lot of instructors feel entitled to loyalty, but they have done very little to earn it. A lot of instructors forget who is paying who. In his video, Rickson asked why he should waste his knowledge on a student whom he deems disloyal. One possible answer is that the student’s money is as green as anyone else’s, and different people show their loyalty differently. I may collect information from many sources, buy only one instructor’s patch graces the backs of my competition gis, and I will only allow one instructor to promote me as he sees fit.
Be loyal to those who are loyal to you, but remember that ultimately you are a customer. You are paying someone else money in exchange for their knowledge. If you are unhappy with the knowledge they choose to deliver or the way they choose to deliver it, you should not feel obliged to waste your money. Obviously, keep lines of communication open, but at the end of the day, you should be your own top priority. Otherwise, how are you going to improve?