5 Lessons and 11 Years of Jiu-Jitsu Writing Later

I started writing about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in 11 years ago. Lockflow.com was looking for writers, and they turned me loose creating whatever kind of content my heart desired. We did fight coverage. We did technical analysis. We did podcasts. We ran a faux betting league where every forum user got a stash of “Lockflow Bucks” to wager on upcoming fights.

And then I started doing books and instructionals with fighters. I got to work directly with Marcelo Garcia, Neil Melanson, and BJ Penn (though unfortunately the completed version of his first book on the open guard never went to print). It’s been a weird, winding journey, and here are some of the biggest lessons I learned about the sport and the business along the way:

1. Jiu-jitsu can be the key to new adventures. Because of my work and participation in the sport, I’ve gotten to go to interesting places and meet great people. Yes, a lot of that has meant traveling around the country and getting into some minor mischief, but I’ve also gotten to make great friends. That might mean sharing a drink down the street at a local bar, but I get to do that with people I never would have met without jiu-jitsu.

2. There really is no money in jiu-jitsu. For everyone out there looking to start a BJJ-driven career—owning a gym, slinging t-shirts, writing BJJ articles—you really have to make it about passion instead of the money. The pie is small, and making a living at the art is extremely difficult. We are also pretty far from supporting “professional” grapplers in the way that more mainstream sports support their professional counterparts, so keep that in mind.

3. Never meet your heroes. Many of the fighters and grapplers I idolized turned out to be less than impressive in terms of personal character than their personas and marketing made them out to be. Just because someone takes your money at a seminar and smiles for a picture does not mean they are a good person. I’ve had popular fighters threaten me, hang up on me, insult me, and one even said that I was not manly enough and should have been taken care of by natural selection years ago. Your heroes are people, for better and for worse.

4. The best competitors in the world are often awful instructors. I’ve been on many instructional sets where the star talent wasn’t sure what to show or could not really explain how he or she executed a technique. I make this point in the hopes that we can shine a bigger spotlight on great coaches because they are the largely unknown forces driving the sport to grow.

5. Jiu-jitsu fame is not as durable as you might think. We often look at gold medals and world championships as a way to cement our legacies as figures in the sport, so many competitors aspire to reach those heights. After more than a decade in the art, I can safely say how fleeting that legacy can be. The legends of the sport when I first started are largely unknown to the latest generation of jiu-jiteiros, and the interest in digging into the history of competitors-gone-by is almost nonexistent. If you want to be remembered for what you did in jiu-jitsu, help people.

I’m not sure what the next decade of my jiu-jitsu career holds, but I’m using these insights to guide the way. I’m less worried about getting rich. I’m less worried about being well-known. I’m putting more of a focus on my own development and on finding and training with as many unsung technical aficionados as I possibly can.

Marshal Carper

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