Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Student

Improving in BJJ like anything else is beyond just a question of your instructor or training facility. It is also a question of the dedication of the student and what the student is made of.

This is a treatise on what that student is:

In the poorest sections of Brazil, kids play soccer and become some of the best players in the world. 

On little Spanish speaking islands, little boys with makeshift baseball fields, no technology, no dedicated coaches, no athletic performance institute, no one to record their baseball swing and make minor improvements, have a disproportionate amount of players in the major leagues. 

Russian kids train in small tennis courts, not elite clubs like in the US. They can barely afford lessons, their training regiment is unusual and seem disorganized. Yet they play and play with conviction, without break, without boredom, and repeat the same swing over and over.

Inner city kids in the US who don't have the same privilege, private coaching, or paid trainers who work strictly on their vertical jump, somehow even with underpaid coaches who were terrible basketball players or sometimes never even played basketball somehow keep winning titles. There's even a story about Vince Lombardi who is a god amongst football coaches, who has never played one game of basketball, somehow took a high school team to the city title...

You look at boxing, mostly a sport of the poor. Most of the coaches early on are in all honesty, terrible coaches. Hardly pay attention, train several fighters at a time, they themselves were never a good boxer, and got hit so much they hardly make any sense when they speak. They can barely demonstrate a technique properly themselves. Yet somehow champions come out of these janky gyms.

What these coaches can't account for, all the things their gyms lack, all the special attention they don't get or high tech equipment they don't have, it still doesn't account for this: 

All these places have a huge number of very very hungry kids. Sometimes more so than their privileged counterparts. Hungry kids who really love something and somehow make it work with whatever they've got.

Countless BJJ heroes started out in no names schools no one ever heard of. They didn't care, or know that that should matter.

If a school had a "bad" teacher but everyone there loved the sport and loved training and trained twice a day, they will produce stars and beat the high priced school with the nicest and most technical instructor with rich kids who train three times a week. A lot of good guys hardly train with their instructors. How often do you really get to roll with your instructor? A lot of the good players came up training with each other and also training during off hours when no instructors were around, watched tapes together, brain stormed, helped each other, fueled each other's fire, and motivated one another.

So who takes the credit there?

Sometimes people get good in spite of the teaching. Look at guys like Greg Jackson. But when he started out, who was he? Some guy who was not a good wrestler, never fought MMA, not a good kickboxer, didn't have a rank in BJJ. Yet he formed a team with great guys, brought the right guys in, treated them well, and now he is the Greg Jackson we know. Everyone of his fighters say he is a great motivator or thinker, but no one talks about him teaching them any actual technique...

Then you got guys like Ted Williams, Walt Bayless, and Gokor Chivichyan. All non-BJJ guys who have no strong BJJ affiliation system, not a ton of good black belts coming through the door, who had early successes at BJJ tournaments and then transferred that to MMA.

I have a friend who helps teach at a school with a lot of poor kids. Tells me the instruction is bad, the teachers are no names. That it's just a bad school. That it's just very inexpensive and large so a lot of people can go (Wow martial arts designed for the mass as far as price and space, what a terrible school). And he knows better because he's trained at a very expensive small school with a famous teacher. Yet maybe he has the wrong definition of bad. Or he is using the wrong criteria. Because the kids there don't know its bad only my friend does, and yet they keep winning these little kids tournaments whereas that small school...well doesn't. It sort of reminds me of the joke about the blind guy who is dating a model but is somehow convinced she is ugly. Yeah this school has already a good amateur MMA team, tough guys, wins things, but he tells me, "Sam you don't understand. They got this guy teaching that, that guy teaching that, and you know they suck."

Well seems like all these kids didn't know they were supposed to fail. And I hope they never figure that out. Kind of the the story of any kid coming out of the inner city. 

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