Moving to a new BJJ gym is an incredibly daunting process and there are many BJJ practitioners around the world who put off doing so for months or even years. Some of that stems from the simple fear of the unknown, but a large part is related to the idea that students owe something to the person who teaches them how to grapple. The mentality of owing ‘loyalty’ to your coaches is something that came to BJJ from it’s roots in traditional Japanese martial arts but is largely absent from Western martial arts. It comes from the fact that different schools often had completely different approaches to martial arts and were generally seen as being at odds with one another.
There was frequent clashes and some schools absolutely hated each other, as their instructors had rivalries that dated back decades. While there are obviously still rivalries between academies and specific competitors today, there is far less at stake than there used to be. Losing in the past meant a huge damage to the reputation and success of your school, and there was the ever-present risk that a scheduled match could descend into life-threatening violence outside the realms of competition. This also meant that moving to a new gym was nothing like it is in BJJ today, and it was often practically impossible.
In the modern era of combat sports, things are completely different. Competitions are sanctioned and frequent so any rivalry between academies is far more friendly and any bad blood between competitors usually runs its course eventually. As a result, there really shouldn’t be any animosity between different affiliations and an instructor forbidding his or her students from cross-training at another gym is a pretty big red flag. Great coaches will not only encourage their students to train at other gyms in order to get a wider experience of BJJ, but they’ll also welcome other academy’s students on their mats too.
As a result, the attitude that someone moving to a new BJJ gym is somehow a personal insult to the coach should have died a long time ago. Any coaches who still adhere to the older principles are stuck in a time that no longer exists, and they really don’t have any reason to behave that way. If your coach does react badly to you training somewhere else then it’s just a clear sign that you made the right decision to begin with. Additionally, a paying customer should never feel shame for simply moving to a new provider that suits them better than the one they’re already with.
There are many reasons to move to a new BJJ gym. It doesn’t even necessarily need to be because it’s in a better location, has better facilities, or better training partners. Sometimes different gyms simply suit certain people better than others, and there’s nothing wrong with finding out that an alternative instructor works better for you. Although BJJ academies work as a team, this is still an individual sport. You always need to look out for yourself above all else and if moving gyms is something that is going to help your progress or even just help you enjoy your time on the mats, you should never feel afraid to make that leap.
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