What makes a BJJ gym “better” isn’t only a win in tournaments metric. The best gyms build a culture that people want to be a part of. The best gyms grow all students regardless of their athletic prowess. The best gyms engrain successful habits both on and off the mat. The best gyms produce good people.
I remember when I took Tae Kwon Do as a kid, walking into the dojo and being wowed by the huge trophies that lined the school. From my young perspective, that school must have been the best on the planet! Then I moved and the next school I went to also had huge trophies. I thought I must have just been really lucky to be involved in such great schools. As it turns out, I was just involved in average TKD schools and practices.
You see the same things at Jiu Jitsu schools now. Grappling Industry huge medals, victory swords, and medals their students earned lining the walls. You see the acolytes of the instructor or owner all over the website and dojo. There is good reason for this, it gives perspective new students the feel that the school is the best, and who doesn’t want to train at the best.
The fact of the matter is judging a BJJ gym as the best solely based on its winning percentage at IBJJF events or medals on the wall is short sighted. That would be like judging McDonalds as the best restaurant because it has the highest net income.
Please understand that medals on the wall are important IF that is important to you. Additionally, as a sporadic competitor myself, I understand the importance of celebrating the hard work and dedication most put into competing. I believe those that compete should absolutely be proud of their accomplishments. Those accolades are just a piece of the pie.
What I am suggesting with this blog is when a certain gym labels themselves as the best because they took first in the team competition at NAGA 2017, it is just egotistical gloat. The idea of the best anything is subjective. What is the best car? Who has the best home? What donuts are the best? We can not even agree that Gordan Ryan is the best no-gi grappler when objective statistics create a pretty strong narrative.
The popularity of the term “The GOAT” is a great example. Who is the GOAT basketball player? What does that question even mean? For a game, a season, or a career? Individual stats, team accomplishments, or growth of the sport as a whole? Do we have all the information available, such as could the GOAT have played oversees?
We as humans tend to create a dichotomy of good and bad. Additionally, we want to be associated with the best of something. Our culture as a society trains us to always want new or better. The fact of the matter is the second we call something “the best” we have applied a subjective judgment. Something absolutely could be the best in an individuals eyes. With that said, that individual is one of many people in the world.
Why is this important? If you are looking at a dojo or looking to switch look at more things than medals. Ask yourself what is important to your training. Are you looking to be a world champion or are you a hobbyist? Is it important to share the mats with people you like? What feeling do you get as you walk into the dojo?
If you still insist that you go to the best bjj gym I challenge you to put that thought to the test. Instead of telling people that you go to the best BJJ gym, try and listen to what other schools are doing. Instead of arguing with somebody about who has more important accolades, try and listen to what excites them. Instead of trying to be right, try to understand. Remember, your priorities in a gym are important. Appreciate that different people have different priorities that are just as important. Listen more, love more, and take that wisdom back to the dojo to create your best! ~Joshua