Where have I been?
It has been quite a while since I posted in the Black Knight Jiu Jitsu page on Facebook or posted a blog on our site and some of you may be wondering, “What happened?”
When I started this Academy back in 2016, I did it out of necessity as our old BJJ gym was struggling and coach decided to close its doors. I didn’t want to see the art die in this town so with just a few weeks’ notice I transformed my small shop space where I taught music into a BJJ gym. I was just a 45 year old blue belt at the time and I decided to dedicate my time and life to training and teaching Jiu Jitsu.
Now, being a small country town, it is quite hard to get people interested in a grappling sport. The usual sports such as Cricket, Rugby League, Hockey, etc were the main sports played here and after crunching the numbers on gym marketing and studying the country’s latest census I soon worked out the average number of members to be around ten to fifteen students. This wasn’t enough to make a living, so I started teaching two days a week in another nearby town (75km away) of similar size.
Things started off fairly well and I had (who I thought was) a good mate joining in training. We soon started training in his garage when we were stuck for a venue. I would sometimes come over early and give him free privates, gave him all my mats (42) that I took over from my gym, Bought him an expensive bottle of whiskey for Christmas as a thank you…
Before I go on, let me explain something. At the time this was happening I had been promoted to purple belt by my black belt coach, who oversees not only my own training and progress, but also progress and promotions at my gym. Because I was only a purple belt, I taught by a strict white to blue belt curriculum and my students would only be promoted to blue belt if they could competently complete all techniques and understood all the principles in said curriculum and these promotions would be done at a seminar with my coach present, where he would assess the students as well. I wanted to make sure anyone who promoted had earned that belt and could hold their own against practitioners of the same level from anywhere.
A year or so later, another coach came along (to a class in this other town) from down south. He initially offered to help me grow my gym and started training with my students in that other town. This friend of mine would let him coach them in his garage, where we trained, and some of my students would train with him once a week. I don’t care if people cross train at other gyms or with other coaches as I believe it can benefit your training, but as explained to ALL my students, you must pick a “home”. A gym that will take care of your gradings and who you would compete under at competitions. All of my members, including this friend, told me they were on hundred percent with Black Knight Jiu Jitsu and wanted to earn their belts and compete through my gym.
I had been teaching in that town for almost three years by now and at our latest seminar with my coach, I wanted to give out some promotions. I tested all members who I thought might know the curriculum by now and so desperately wanted to give my friend his blue belt! Unfortunately, he fell well short and could only complete thirty out of the forty techniques required. I did award a couple of blue belts on the day to members who could complete the curriculum and proved themselves during rolling, but he wasn’t one of them. I was also awarded my brown belt on that day by my coach.
A couple of days after the seminar I received a call from the friend saying that the other coach he trains with had just given him a blue belt! I told him he was meant to be grading and representing my gym but he didn’t want to disrespect the other coach by handing it back and said he would keep the belt. Then another member contacted me the following day saying this same ‘friend’ had asked him to join a new BJJ school they were starting over there. I messaged the other ‘coach’ and told him what I thought and how disrespectful he was. I also told this friend the same thing and I promptly ended my teaching in that town.
This had a huge effect not only on my gym memberships and income/livelihood, which were halved, but also my mental state. This ‘friend’ I had known for over thirty years. I was deeply hurt by how things happened, and sadly the incident really turned me off BJJ.
I must add, I started teaching in this other town before the dreaded Covid hit us. The incident happened after we re-opened. It was a real struggle just getting old members back, let alone finding new ones to join a grappling sport during a time when people were trying to social distance.
A few months following that incident, my wife and I bought a house. We were living in the back of my gym prior to this and only had the one rent to pay. Although I didn’t have enough members to pay full rent, I was ok with it because the gym was our house as well. Once we bought our new home, I couldn’t afford to keep the gym running, so we closed the doors. This was in April this year.
Fast forward to now, November, and I have been doing absolutely nothing for the past six months. I lost all motivation and felt like a loser who couldn’t keep his gym afloat. I see my friends running successful gyms in their towns and although I am happy for their success, it makes me even more depressed to think I couldn’t do the same. I know, it’s a small town and there was a reason my original coach left a failing gym here only to make a successful gym where he is now, but it really put me off and as a result I now feel crap. I only have myself to blame, but I’m fatter, weaker and my health has degraded so much since I stopped training. Worst of all, I feel like I have let down my coach!
So, it’s about time I do something about it. I have decided I won’t officially open another commercial style gym, but I will rebuild and train/coach again from my garage with more emphasis on my own progress rather than trying to please people or make money running a gym.
Now I have that off my chest, there will be more to come…. Let’s do this!
PS: I take comfort knowing ALL of my students earn their rank.I know this is not the case at a lot of gyms, including the one I stopped coaching at in this other town.