As you may recall from previous blog posts, interviews, and the like, I’ve stated that I believe a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu academy (or any martial arts studio for that matter) should be a sanctuary free from all forms of drama and negativity we encounter daily in the outside world. When we put on our uniforms we should become one in the same, regardless of race, sexual orientation, political views, or the like. It’s important to remember our ability to have an opinion doesn’t make us unique, the ability to learn from one another and maintain a relationship despite our differences does.  

While this may sound like a wonderful ideal to strive for it’s important to note that achieving this on all levels isn’t possible, however that doesn’t make it a goal you shouldn’t work toward within your own facility. This task requires strong academy leadership, meaning an owner and head instructor who’s willing to immediately address negative situations that arise, and put an end to any behaviors which aren’t in alignment with the values of the academy as a whole. You have to become comfortable with having uncomfortable conversations when necessary, listen to all sides of a given issue, and take the appropriate action to rectify the situation before it has time to negatively impact the training atmosphere for your team. 

A large part of this involves making sure the right type of individuals are training at your academy, even if this means turning down an enrollment, or letting a student go if they’ve been addressed and are unable to uphold the principles by which your establishment operates. As you become more experienced in interacting with prospective students you’ll develop a sort of sixth sense in being able to determine whether someone is a good fit or not. 

We always require a prospective student to attend a free introductory class at our academy prior to enrollment. While this serves as a means of allowing the client to determine if our facility is a good fit for their needs, it’s also just as much an opportunity for us to ascertain if they’re a proper fit for the academy as a whole. As the old saying goes “it only takes a drop of poison to contaminate an entire well”. Unfortunately many owners neglect the filtering process in order to cultivate numerous signups in hopes of boosting profits, not realizing the very real potential of it coming around to bite them in the long term by polluting the atmosphere and breaking things down from within.

Every academy is unique and will have its own leadership structure which may differ in its approach to this topic, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s important to remember that while you may feel you’re providing a positive atmosphere in this regard it may turn people away, and that’s ok. I believe that’s part of the natural filtering process which serves to maintain the environment you’ve worked hard to cultivate. I believe my academy puts forth a very welcoming, positive, and family friendly atmosphere. Truth of the matter is, that’s a turn off for some individuals and not at all what they’re looking for. 

When someone tries a class and doesn’t return due to not enjoying the atmosphere I don’t take it personally, I’d much rather have fewer students which fit the qualities and principles of the provided environment, than sacrifice those standards to increase enrollment. 

I’ve always been a firm believer in the expression “quality over quantity” and I think it’s important for all academy owners and leaders determine what that means to them, in regard to the atmosphere they’re working to provide. 

In closing, I want you to take inventory of the atmosphere of your own academy. If you’re the owner or leader, is the atmosphere you provide in alignment with the principles you’d like your affiliation to be known for? If you’re a student, are you training somewhere that makes you feel supported and accepted for who you are? I believe these are important questions to ask and evaluate to make sure you’re providing the best training experience possible as an academy leader, as well as ensuring the best journey possible for yourself as a student of the art.