Growing Your Gym’s Community Outside of Class
The sport of Brazilian jiu-jitsu is one that has a pretty high barrier of entry. Walking through the door was one of the most stressful things I can remember. There’s so much that is scary, unknown, and challenging to beginners that, once we are deep in the community, we forget what that was like. However, once you are deep in the community, it is such a welcoming and friendly place. It is precisely this camaraderie which makes the sport so compelling and drives us to improve.
The problem is that we sometimes only see our training partners in a one-dimensional light. We see everyone in the gym through the lens of the gym. I found that recently through a non-jiu-jitsu activity, we have all been able to grow as a community. Perhaps even more importantly, becoming closer has made us all better jiujiteiros. We have recently started doing yoga classes.
Yoga and jiu-jitsu have a long and deep relationship. There is an entire program aptly titled “Yoga for BJJ” from Sebastian Brosche that has spread to near-ubiquity. But, I’m not here to talk about that. In the broader sense, it’s the communal activity itself that has helped me become a better training partner, because I have become a better friend.
I know how touchy-feely that sounds (but, name me something more touchy-feely than jiu-jitsu, literally). We are supposed to be tough, calculated warriors. Doing yoga and making friends is not the modus operandi. The thing is, it might be! Growing the gym’s community and culture makes every single one of us better.
It’s important to say that yoga is just our activity. It doesn’t have to be yoga. It could be socially-distant bowling, or Fortnite, or anything. Who knows?
The thing I’ve noticed from doing yoga with my partners, and even guys I don’t get to train with, is the new bond we have. It’s great because we are all white belts at something again. This really levels the communal playing field. When you are closer-friends with a training partner you roll better and looser in almost every scenario. Outside of the physical benefits, this is a huge leap forward in your jiu-jitsu journey.
Guys who are brown belts or black belts in jiu-jitsu are now much more relatable. A certain division has been erased for the better after we took up yoga classes. It goes back to that feeling of being new in the gym. It’s no one’s fault, but you are scared to talk to the upper belts. I even felt like this about blue belts when I just started! When they are more like friends instead of omnipotent grappling superheroes, questions and answers flow without impediment.
At the end of the day, that’s what jiu-jitsu really thrives off of; community and knowledge. Whenever you can make strides to better yourself in either, you will see results. For our gym, it has been yoga classes once a week. Whatever it is for your gym, I highly recommend you do it. If there isn’t something like this, make one! You will see improvements in nearly every aspect of your training.
By building your gym’s culture and group’s camaraderie, you will see your training partners in a new light. Also you will be opening doors for someone who might be more reticent than you. It’s a win-win. While ours is a big yoga class, what’s important is the community you are part of. Go out there and try to find a way to become closer to your training partners because you both will benefit from it.