How to Eliminate Politics: Focus on Doing Good
As much as we try to ignore it, tribalism is alive and well in jiu-jitsu. Though it might be fading, there are still many instructors who demand an uncomfortable level of loyalty from students and go to great lengths to discourage or prevent their students from training with people not in their association.
There was a pretty high-profile case of this recently where one black belt announced he was no longer honoring the black belt of one of his students. We might not know exactly what happened there, but I do know this: I frequently encounter jiu-jiteiros who are outright barred from training at other schools or with other grapplers or who are quietly shunned as an unspoken punishment if they consort with the enemy.
For my students, they are welcome to train where ever they please, and I have no problem with them visiting the mats of an open and positive gym that values integrity and respect.
For the sport to continue to grow, even in places where business competition might be high or where rivalries persist, I believe that we need to find more reasons to come together so that we can overwhelm the reasons that keep us apart. In that spirit, I want to encourage all of my readers here to consider hosting and supporting charity grappling events. My thinking is that taking profit off the table—meaning a competitor won't be making money off of your students—can help us to break down barriers in our community.
Here are some ways you can invite your local jiu-jitsu community to join you in doing good:
Host a roll-a-thon. These are basically open mats set to endurance mode. The mat fee goes to the charity of choice (Tap Cancer Out events of this style are popular) and many grapplers recruit sponsors to chip in. The more a sponsor contributes, the longer they stay on the mat in the name of a good cause.
Host a charity seminar. If you are lucky enough to have an instructor in your network who is willing to participate, you can swap out a seminar fee for a charitable donation. Imagine instead of collecting cash you pile up food and clothing for a local homeless shelter or perhaps collect toys and blankets for dogs in need. For example, Nelson Puentes is helping us run one of these in Pittsburgh in April.
Host or attend a charity tournament. Running one of these is much more work than a roll-a-thon or a seminar, but the experience can be pretty spectacular. Charity tournaments, especially when they are run well, frame the competitive aspects of the event in a way that has grapplers rolling hard but not forgetting the cause they are supporting. If you can't host one, consider volunteering at one or encouraging your teammates to go.
- Buy gear that supports a cause. To be clear here, we sell a lot of products that support charities (like earthquake victims in Mexico, cancer research and services, and youth programs in Philadelphia), but this isn't meant to be an ad for Inverted Gear stuff. You could make your next run of gym t-shirts part of a charity fundraising company or you can support other brands who also donate proceeds to charity.
The jiu-jitsu world may be rife with drama and have its share of bad eggs, but the sport also has an amazing potential to be a force for good. We just need good people to wield that force more often.
If you want to do a charity event at your gym but aren't sure where to start, feel free to reach out to us!