Over my years in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I’ve come up with a theory of four archetypes for like-minded jiu-jiteiros that I call The Competitor, The Scholar, The Hobbyist, and The Traditionalist. Let me describe these archetypes, and you can see if you recognize yourself in any of them:
The Competitor wants be challenged and test themselves against others. Most obviously, competitors are eager to hit up tournaments in hopes of taking home gold. That said, not everyone with the “competitor’s spirit” goes to tournaments, but they may just approach their training with a heightened intensity. Competitors are likely to put in the extra work to stay in shape and eat right so they can achieve peak performance. They can be selfish and single-minded in the pursuit of their goals and may have a hard time taking it down a notch. Competitors keep everyone “honest” by punishing poor technique and cardio, which is good, if humbling, and they are often a source of pride for the school as they bring home trophies.
The Scholar loves to study the art and science of BJJ and seeks to understand and break down techniques to their essence. Scholars like to share and show off how much they know and often aspire to become instructors. They tend to collect instructionals faster than they can watch them and learn more techniques than they could ever really need. Scholars are also the over-analyzers, over-thinkers, and over-explainers -- the jiu-jitsu nerds. The scholar shines when they can provide technical answers to tricky problems others are struggling to solve.
The Hobbyist enjoys the jiu-jitsu lifestyle but they don’t stress out over it. They can get swept up in the thrill of training with competitors and the headiness of learning from scholars, but they may not go to those extremes if left to their own devices. People sometimes resent being called hobbyists, but it’s not an insult: the majority of students fall into the hobbyist category. BJJ as a hobby can be a very meaningful, passionate, and challenging pursuit, even if you are not trying to become a world champion or open your own school. The hobbyists make for good all-around training partners and they are what holds the jiu-jitsu community together.
The Traditionalist is attracted to the traditions, rituals, and structure of martial arts. They are likely to emphasize simplicity and view techniques through the lens of self defense; they are uninterested in the flashy new sports techniques that the competitor and scholar would find attractive. They sometimes seem closed-minded and stuffy, and they can resist change even when it’s for the better. The traditionalist keeps others from getting too swept up in hot new trends that won’t matter in six months. They honor the depth of the fundamentals which they showcase with clean, simple, and effective techniques.
The purpose of these archetypes is not to pigeon hole anyone, but to make it easier to see what kind of environment and experiences each person would benefit most from.
None of these archetypes are any better than the others. They are just different approaches, and they help balance each other out.
A hobbyist can feel thrown to the sharks training with a bunch of competitors, but they can also remind competitors to take it easy sometimes and find more enjoyment in what they’re doing.
Scholars and hobbyists can get lost in nerding out if competitors and traditionalists don’t snap them out of it.
Scholars can help keep competitors abreast of the latest trends and expose traditionalists to technical advances they might otherwise ignore.
Hobbyists provide everyone with the eager training partners we all need. They can adapt to the hard training that competitors need even if competition is not their primary goal.
Traditionalists encourage everyone to keep it simple and not buy into gimmicks when the classics still work just fine.
Most schools enjoy a mix of all of these archetypes, but sometimes a particular school will be an especially good fit for one type, often because the instructor falls further into that archetype. Knowing which you most associate with can help you find the right training environment or understand why you felt out of place at schools that favored a different demographic.
Which camp do you fall into? Do you see yourself as a blend of two or more mindsets? That’s what I’d expect, since we’re all multifaceted people and can train for multiple reasons. We all know a competitor-scholar or a traditionalist-hobbyist, or maybe you are one.
Would you add another grappling archetype to this list? I’d be happy to hear it! Leave a comment below or on whatever social media you ran across this article.