Monday, February 20, 2012

Can BJJ Become A Cult?

Most often, we think of a cult as some offshoot religious group. It doesn't have to be. Other groups and communities can have cult like attributes. There are several work out and fitness groups that seem very cultish, from Crossfit to yoga.

Often times these groups themselves recognize it and will joke about it and wear it as a badge of honor, such as the Crossfit guys. I would have to say though, BJJ guys are more fanatical about their sport than the Crossfit guys and would put them to shame, but I never hear the word cult uttered from any of them. Maybe the cult is that strong?

This is more of a reflection on what I've seen and experienced and also done tongue and cheek but there are many similarities.
  1. Religious. Though cult isn't thrown around, the word religious is. Often to describe how often someone trains or competes.
  2. Sacred space. A place where all cults need to go to meet, have their own rituals, and ceremonies. This would be the academy.
  3. Their own sacred clothing. Gi or no gi. Belts as well.
  4. Own language. TMA, MMA, S&C, Gas, Rolling, Spaz, BRO, Oss, I can keep going on and on.
  5. The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its system, belief, leader (alive or dead) as the truth.
  6. Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged.
  7. Chanting. As heard in every IBJJF tournament.
  8. The leadership explains, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel.
  9. The group is elitist and claiming an exhausted status for itself, its leaders, and members. You complain to your teammates about how your other friends or loved ones just don't get it? Do not understand how special you are a human being are for doing this art?
  10. Which leads to this next thing. A you vs. me mentality.
  11. The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members' participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered abnormal or dangerous. Competing. Training while injured. Not working. Not going to school. Living off parents. Eating expensive acai all the time. Etc.
  12. The group induces feelings of shame and/or guilt iin order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion. Why can't you train more bro? Don't be a pussy. Come on compete!
  13. Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities. I watch so many videos and drill so much bro, you don't even know.
  14. Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
  15. The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be.
  16. Status and rank. Promotions.
  17. Proof of commitment in the group, usually through ritual. Belt ceremony, whipping or being tossed.
  18. Ultimately you have improved greatly through the group and would not have done so otherwise without it.
  19. Just STFU and train bro!
  20. You pay to be in the group.
This is all in humor of course so relax. I think BJJ is a great art and sport and I truly love it. But I think you need a balance and sometimes people take it too seriously and let it under-develop every other area of their life. If a baby didn't want to explore or play you would worry because it wasn't trying to develop. So you would take it to the doctor to see if they were mentally retarded. Your job as an adult is STILL to develop as a human being, in all the areas that human beings can develop in. If you don't you may need to question if you are also mentally retarded.


  1. Very interesting, insightful and thought provoking post. Thanks!

  2. Weird this article came up when I google'd "BJJ cult". A lot of gyms I trained at have a very cult-ish behavior like you described above. BJJ also MMA is very good at destroying and building confidence making participants spend obscene amounts on supplements, clothing, private lessons, seminars, instructionals, etc etc...all these supposedly shortcuts to greatness. In other sports I did when I was younger like basketball people were more willing to accept the level they were at and build from there, where as in MMA/BJJ there is always something advertised to raise your game rapidly. At first when I started BJJ/MMA I use to be like this following orders, going to seminars blah blah blah after a while I felt they were mostly a waste of time and oversubscribed with too many students to be of real value. So I stopped going and I'm still getting better and beating my other class mates to the point only the coach can give me a run for my money now. So in conclusion BJJ has become a cash squeezing cult don't get me wrong there are legends and schools I deeply respect but the majority are cashing in on the popularity at the detriment to your bank account justifying it with the "we're a family rhetoric". Good article definitely made me think

  3. yes its as cultish as crossfit is cultish, except even more so.



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