Sunday, January 13, 2013


This is a very difficult topic for me to blog on especially from an American Jiu-Jitsu instructor perspective.  In America team loyalty is important BUT students leave their instructors for various reasons all the time.  Are they wrong?  Not necessarily. 

I have thought long and hard about this issue before giving my thoughts because I'm torn…but here goes.

 A “Creonte” is a Brazilian term that derived its meaning from a Brazilian soap opera where one of the main characters would constantly switch allegiances with the other characters. This term carried over to BJJ to mean that a “high level” student leaves a school he or she is training at to go train with a rival team, in essence becoming a  “traitor”.  

Before the popularity of the internet training academies would literally have secret moves that they used against rival schools. In many cases the instructor took a poor kid off the street and trained them for free as a future champion, only to see that student go into the hands of the “Enemy.”   To lose a top level student to another academy was a disastrous proposition. I would personally say that this is a moral character defect on the part of the student and I would hope that Karma would pay him back one day.

In America things seem to be a bit different in the sense that most students pay a fee to train at a specific academy.  This is mostly a business transaction here in America and thus as customers they are free to go and train at whatever school they desire.   

Many do so because they live closer to the other school, or want to pay a cheaper fee or they don't like the other students, they might be getting hurt too much, the instructor could be a dishonest person or they don’t do tournament training or they DO do tournament training or heaven forbid, the school might just be better than the one they were at.  Does that make them a traitor?  If you’re the instructor I’m sure it would be “Yes”, in my mind, again, not necessarily.   

This is especially true if the student is a LOWER level student who might have just found his first school by accident. He knew nothing about BJJ and he decided that the schools logo was cool and that’s why he decided to train there.   Does he have a right to go somewhere else if he wants?  You bet.

What I don’t accept is a medium to high level student who has been training for years, proclaiming to love his school, the people, the instructor and the training who for one reason or another decides to leave to better himself  through another instructor’s promises of quick belt promotions, teaching opportunities or promises of free tuition.  I refer to this kind of student as “a piece of crap”, in other words a Creonte.   It’s happened to me before including taking some of my students with him! What are you to do?

 If you are an instructor who has experienced this as I have you need to turn the focus back on you and ask yourself (as I did) some fundamental questions, Am I really giving the VERY best classes I can? Am I up on the latest techniques of Jiu-Jitsu? Do I really want my students better than me?  Am I doing my best to make my students succeed?  Am I fair in my promotions? Am I NOT playing favorites with some students at the expense of others?   

If you can answer all of these questions in the affirmative then the fault probably lies in the student and not you.  It still hurts though.

Take a good hard look at your students.  If they are people with low morals, long criminal records and bad attitudes then what are you expecting from these types of people?  Loyalty? Really?  If they are good,honest people, are you giving them opportunities to shine, to teach, help the school and consequently themselves? It’s only right.

If you’re a student you need to show loyalty to your instructor!  Look very hard at your motives before deciding to leave your current instructor. Talk to your instructor first! In many cases, the grass is not always greener on the other side.  If you do leave an excellent instructor because of selfish and disloyal motives (in your heart you know) then be prepared to wear the moniker of “Creonte.” You deserve it. 

I heard a saying that goes like this “If your best friend borrows 20 bucks, promises to pay you back and then skips town…Wasn’t that a cheap price to get rid of a bad friend?”   Better to not have given that disloyal student a black belt from your linage because he will be your black belt for life.  I promise you that you will be better off with that student gone.  I know I was.

P.S. If you are a student who trains at two different BJJ academies without the knowledge of both instructors then you are a "Creonte." Pick a school and be loyal.

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  1. Very interesting I know people who have trained with Pedro all the way back to 1996. Lots of them would go to Rickson's,Relson's,Machados,or other instructors to train. Also several of his students have become wonderful instructors of there own. Who have also received there black belts from other Instructors... Pedro would also invite students from other instructors to class to train, and instructors to give us seminars. The same as someone who might learn from Keith Owen, Eddie Bravo, and Pedro. Or your son... As long as everybody knows its OK... I think you can learn something from everyone.... (I am always surprised from some of the things I learn in a simple roll with a blue belt or white belt)....

  2. I think we forget that the BJJ teacher to student relationship is a commercial relationship. I am a purple belt and have trained full time in two schools over my 5 years of training. I have also taken many classes at various gyms. I feel that any business that offers an exceptional product at a reasonable price then it will foster loyalty naturally. I think schools that are insecure with the product they provide are usually the ones that trumpet the "Creonte" call. I pay a lot of money to train BJJ and I shouldn't feel that my Professor has a right to dictate where I train.

  3. Interesting. I would have never thought to consider my relationship with my instructor as "commercial". I suppose BJJ means something different to everyone. Great article. Personally, I think the largest single factor is the knowledge of the instructor. Training elsewhere secretly is disloyal, disrespectful, and dishonest. Three tenets of the Bushido code. There seems to be an ever emerging separation between the old school and the new.

  4. Greanted, I pay money to my BJJ instructor, but, how much time and energy has he invested into his education? He SHOULD be compensated. So in that respect it is a commercial transaction. But, does he stop at teaching class and then never interacting with the students again? No, he goes WAY beyond that. He invests his time and energy into each one of his students, giving all of them his undivided attention at various times. Taking time out of his personal life to stay late and answer questions, or to travel over night with one or two guys who want to compete on a much bigger stage. He doesnt have to invest him self into the students. His only legal obligation is to provide a space to work and an hours worth of instruction at a time. But, because he goes way above and beyond that, it makes sense that it hurts when a student leaves. The money transaction is a nessecary evil. He has to keep the lights on and make a living for himself. The team relationship part of it is what should make people be loyal. We dont just have a team, we have a family. And when someone leaves your family, it hurts. I recently had a team mate leave for another school / team, and I will be honest, it hurt. I was preoccupied with it for days, trying to figure out what had happened. Thats me as a team mate. I can only picture that same scenario from an instructors point of view. Anyway, dont mean to rant. Thank you for this article. It was a good read!

  5. From the wikipedia entry on Musha Shugyo:

    "Musha shugyō (武者修行?) is a samurai warrior's quest or pilgrimage. The concept is similar to Knight Errantry in feudal Europe. A warrior, called a shugyōsha, would wander the land practicing and honing his skills without the protection of his family or school. Possible activities include training with other schools, dueling, performing bodyguard or mercenary work, and searching for a daimyo to serve.

    Musha shugyō, or "training in warriorship", was inspired by Zen monks, who would engage in similar ascetic wanderings (which they called angya, "travelling on foot") before attaining enlightenment. Kamiizumi Ise-no-Kami Nobutsuna, who founded the Shinkage-ryū school of swordsmanship in the mid-sixteenth century, was a shugyōsha."

    Slavish devotion to masters sounds cult-like. If your students leave, they might just need to explore. What is the purpose of loyalty? To continue the style's lineage? Unless this person in question is the heir of the style, an instructor should give his blessing to a parting student and wish them well.