Thursday, February 9, 2012

Choose Your Jiu-Jitsu Family Wisely

I was browsing my blogroll when I stumbled upon an article by Dan Fagella at Science of Skill, a jiu-jitsu blog that aims to examine jiu-jitsu through a scientific lens.  In November, Dan interviewed Dr. Jeff Nishii, who holds both a PhD in psychology and a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  Dr. Nishii recently launched a blog on jiu-jitsu psychology, and Dan's interview provides a general overview of how psychology can help us to better understand jiu-jitsu.  The entire article is pretty interesting, but the paragraph on psychodynamic theory as it relates to gym culture caught my eye:
In psychodynamic theory there is a lot of emphasis places on the family and relationships therein. The BJJ academy, in a sense, can potentially become a family-like experience, with the different regular interactions, rules of the academy, and dynamics between people. This new“family” environment can influence people in a way that is positive, negative, or curative (having to deal with a particular issue). For this reason, the “dojo” can have a massive potential to impact people’s lives.

It is not uncommon for grapplers to describe their training partners as family.  The intensity and discipline of jiu-jitsu lends itself to fostering strong bonds, and those of us who have trained consistently at one gym for a few years have likely discussed the positive impact that training has had on our lives.  What caught my eye about Dan's analysis was that he suggested that the "family" environment could be positive or negative.  If you train in a negative environment, jiu-jitsu training could hurt you more than just physically.

Last year, I wrote an article on gym culture for, and I described my frustration with trying to find a gym environment in Las Vegas that I liked.  What I didn't mention was that this search made me hate jiu-jitsu for a few months, and not having a positive training environment in that time affected me adversely emotionally and physically.  If you are looking for a new gym or reevaluating your current gym membership, consider the quality of the environment as a whole.  Do you enjoy being there?  Are the instructors and other students nice to you?  Are they working together or against each other?

You can drop into almost any jiu-jitsu family you want.  Choose wisely.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! It IS so important to use the free weeks and 30 days passes that so many gyms offer to get a feel for where you are going.

    Yeah, the instructor may be a multi-world champ, but can he teach? Are the other students good to learn with or is everyone more concerned with being the top dog in their gym.

    Gym environments vary a lot from place to place