Family, Jiu-Jitsu, work, friends, and keeping them all in the air.

Loyalty: At what cost?

Each and every person’s jiu-jitsu journey is a very individualized one. Everybody gets into the art for different reasons, everybody learns differently, everybody develops their own game.

Everybody follows their own path.

It’s only natural, then, that the place where you choose to train aligns with your personal goals. You want to be in an environment that fosters the growth of your own journey, right?

Then why do so many of you train at places that you’re unhappy with? Why do so many people come to me with a laundry list of things they don’t like about their clubs? Things like:

  • My instructor doesn’t like me
  • My instructor won’t roll with me
  • My instructor doesn’t remember my name
  • My instructor gets mad at me if I train anywhere else
  • I don’t like my teammates
  • My teammates don’t like me
  • My academy’s warmups are too intense
  • My academy’s warmups are not intense enough
  • My academy is never cleaned / not cleaned often enough / smells weird / looks weird / is dark / is too cold / is too hot (NB: I’ve yet to hear “my academy is too clean”, so just a heads up to gym owners out there)

Please note, and I really need to stress this – I have talked to people all over the world who have these sorts of concerns. Don’t try to read too much into this, especially for people who are local to me. It’s not a gym politics thing, so let’s just get that right out of the way. This is not specific to my local scene.

My question remains then. IF you have options (and I realize that a lot of people out there don’t have the luxury of multiple places to train in town), then why stay where you are? It just seems a bit crazy to me to think that if I’m not happy with somebody I’m paying money every month to, that I wouldn’t just take my money and spend it somewhere else that gives me the experience (or closer to the experience) that I’m looking for.

What makes people stay at a place that isn’t the right fit for them?

Which way to go?

Which way to go?

Lack of options

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about this. If there’s only one game in town, then you’re kind of stuck. At this point your options are limited to “making the best of a bad situation”.

Don’t want to leave great training partners

I get this. I switched clubs about 9 months into my jiu-jitsu journey. It wasn’t that I hated where I was. I switched because I found somewhere that was a better fit for me. The hardest thing about making the decision to switch clubs was leaving the great group of training partners that I had – people I called friends, people whose jiu-jitsu I admired. I left a club that had a lot of high level jiu-jitsu practitioners for one with a lot of newer and less-experienced ones. Ultimately I weighed the pros and cons, and decided that it was more important to my personal journey to train at the place that was the best for me.

Afraid of perception (the “creonte factor”)

This one just frustrates me, to be honest, but it’s a reality. There are some people from my old academy who refuse to talk to me or outwardly dislike me because I left. Because I was a “traitor” or a “creonte”.

It’s an incredibly lame concept, propagated by insecure people who are scared that you’re training somewhere better than them. The reality is that there’s no “best” or even “better” place to train. There’s only the place that’s best for you.

A word about how to switch schools

Here’s a life and a jiu-jitsu lesson. Don’t burn bridges.

When I left my academy, I first spoke to the instructor. I explained to him that it was in no way personal, that I greatly appreciated everything that he had done for me, but that I had found somewhere which more closely fit my needs. I then spoke to as many of my training partners as I could contact and told them the same. Don’t leave people thinking that you have an axe to grind. All it does is harbour hostility and resentment.

How to pick a school that’s a good fit

There are numerous times where people have come to me and asked “where should I train?”. Sometimes they’re brand new practitioners, and sometimes they are experienced grapplers looking for a change or moving into town. My answer is always the same. Try everywhere. Of course I want them to join the academy where I train, but the most important thing is to find the right place for them.


It’s tough. Leaving somewhere where you’ve built bonds with people is tough. It just comes down to what is more important to you. Weigh your options and act accordingly, but don’t allow yourself to be unhappy where you train. This art should be a labour of love, not a “job”.


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