Loyalty in Jiu Jitsu

Written by Professor Anthony Panos

Loyalty, a word that gets thrown around a lot when it comes to martial arts.

Before the modern era, a student would spend a lifetime studying under one master, blindly following with no question. Loyalties were tied to one teacher, one school, and to break from that school was a mortal sin.

In today’s world, moving between schools and instructors is fairly common place. We move, we change plans, we look at our instructors differently over time and we question the art we study. Does this mean that there is no loyalty? Or has the definition changed?

Jiu Jitsu is a strange beast when it comes to loyalty. There are students that spend their entire BJJ career under one professor, and there are students that receive each stripe on each belt from a different school. Does that mean there is no loyalty, or too much blind loyalty? The fact of the matter is this, if you are striving to be a world class competitor, then cross-training is a must in order for you to reach your goals.
Does this mean you forgo loyalty in the name of glory? Absolutely not, most champions have a school that they call home, one they are loyal to. Cross-training is what makes BJJ competitors great, having a home school that they are loyal to makes them champions.

As instructors we walk a fine line of knowing when to encourage, when to push and when to let go of a student. We also must look at our own limitations and understand that our desire to teach is outweighed by their desire to learn. We create loyalty not from ego, but the absence of it. Good instructors understand the needs of their students and allow, with blessings, to achieve those goals. To expect blind loyalty and obedience from a student is a major flaw.

As practitioners we must understand that seeking knowledge does not mean we ignore loyalties for selfish needs. We must see that a good teacher is willing to sacrifice to have their students succeed. A poor instructor will weigh you down with ego and ambitions that may not reflect your goals. Following an instructor blindly stunts your growth as a student.

Loyalty works in both directions between student and instructor, and knowing this is what makes students stronger, the instructors better, and makes the school a home.

In the end of it all, loyalty is what you put into it. Whether you are a student, a competitor, or an instructor, the passion and drive you give to those around you creates the loyalty that binds you to your school, your students, your teammates and your family on the mats.