We work hard to maintain a culture of training. Too often beginners mistake what we do for a “fight club”. What we aren’t doing is carelessly trying to best one another with any means possible. This is a loaded statement, and in part because without a modicum of competitiveness it’s very hard to proceed. So we are somewhat competitive with one another, but it is a sham. It’s less a contest than it is a means of setting up a space for working technique. We provide one another positions and pressure so that we can try to respond through accessing our training. It might look like a fight to a new student. It might even look dangerous. And it could be if we were actually fighting. 

Recently a newer student was seen applying hard ankle locks. I cannot stress enough how dangerous these can be, especially in the hands of a beginner. Leg locks unfortunately are unlikely to work well unless they are applied accurately and with alacrity. The problem then is one of making sure you don’t injure your partner. We want to keep training, that’s the whole point of the school. Applying leg locks takes many hours of careful work and back and forth feedback about where it’s tight and how far you can go before you’re doing knee or ankle damage. I don’t like white belts using them (especially dropping from a top position for them). Sadly, they are often one of the easiest things to learn poorly, as they only require a simple loop of the arm around the leg (or with the same motion the neck for a guillotine neck crank) and then lots of harsh uncontrolled pressure. In the old days before there were many quality schools around most of the interested folks were cranking the crap out of each other’s legs and necks in garages all over the place. They even sometimes got pretty good at applying these wicked holds and usually blamed the victims for their own injuries (they should have tapped!) when they were carelessly used. My point in all this is not to denigrate the holds as much as I mean to reinvest in understanding our training culture. If you can’t be trusted to operate within the bounds of skill-building and learning and instead insist on doing whatever it takes to top your training partner (not opponent, this isn’t a tournament) you’re not only wasting your time, you’re insulting your partners. If you’re a white belt trying with all your might to tap a brown belt with a cheap garage technique, you’re basically saying: I don’t need to learn what you spent years learning. I have a secret weapon and I’m better than you. This kind of attitude, while understood or not, is one that wins few friends, and provides little in the way of helpful constructive feedback from better people. 

We could unleash a gorilla in the room. The gorilla could beat the hell out of everyone with power and native gorilla moves. Just because said gorilla wins does not mean the gorilla is good at jiu-jitsu. We have also the added understanding of actually paying for lessons that the gorilla does not understand. If you’re coming in our door and laying down your cash and also refusing to develop the techniques we are working and instead doing your best to “win” class I’m asking you to perform some self-evaluation. Think about why you’re here. Think about what it is you want from the study. My assumption is that you’d like to have jiu-jitsu skills. You’d like to be able to effectively perform at a level that matches other skillful jiu-jitsu practitioners. You’ve seen such on the internet or you’ve seen them practicing in class. I’m about to tell you how best to do this.

Leave what you came with at the door. Leave your ego, your strength, your speed, your other martial arts experience and anything else you want to use towin, and concentrate on working the techniques we are teaching and practicing. 

Put another way: imagine you’re that gorilla already. Imagine you can actually already win against everyone with native techniques that are part of being a gorilla. You are still there to learn jiu-jitsu! So put the gorilla back in the cage and train with us! Jiu-jitsu is the finest self-defense and athletic kinaesthetic awareness training there is, but to do it, we have to trust you and you have to understand that you’re not in a fight every time we train!

Thank you! 

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