I am excited to post the first installment in what I hope will be another regular series here at The Jiu Jitsu Journey. The title of the series is "Professor's Point of View." The goal will be to interview professors of jiu jitsu both here and abroad to glean some of their insights and learn from their collective wisdom and experience. I have a template written up for the interviews--which will be conducted via email. Some of the interviews will be in English and some will be in Portuguese. In the latter instances, I will post the translations followed by the originals (for those who are interested in that sort of thing).
For the first edition, I thought I would interview the head of my own jiu jitsu clan--Scott Devine. Scott became a 3rd degree black belt under Grand Master Relson Gracie. Indeed, he has the distinction of being the very first person to go from white belt to black belt under Relson. Scott has 25+ years of Jiu Jitsu experience and currently serves as the Head Instructor of the Devine Jiu Jitsu Academy in Brunswick, GA. Scott has extensive experience as a uniformed law enforcement office and as a training instructor. He is also a multiple time Pan American Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gold medalist and one of the most well respected instructors in the United States. Scott is married and lives with his eight children and six dogs in Brunswick, GA. It is an honor and privilege to train here in the low country at his newest affiliate school--Devine Jiu Jitsu Charleston. So, when I thought about doing this new series of interviews, he was a natural choice to be the first person interviewed.
That said, here is what he had to say:
When and where did you first become involved in jiu jitsu (and how old were you at the time)? What got you interested in jiu jitsu? Who was your first instructor?
From what I remember, I started training in 1988. I was 21 at the time and attending the University of Hawaii. I had gone home to Florida for the summer and while I was away, my best friend was beaten up in a bar fight so badly that he spent some time in the hospital. When I returned, I was staying with him and began to join him at various martial arts classes that he had begun taking. I wasn't really interested in them, but through reading some of the old Black Belt magazines I became interested in Gracie Jiu-jitsu. It sounded like it would be more my style, but unfortunately they were in Brazil and California. The next week, while walking through the campus center, I noticed a table advertising Gracie Jiu-jitsu. Relson Gracie was at the table and had a little tv showing the Gracie in Action tapes. I took a flyer and joined the next class. I have been training ever since.
What do you think are the main ways jiu-jitsu has benefited your life?
Jiu-jitsu has opened my life to innumerable things. I have met some outstanding people and had the opportunity to do some amazing things. I have made life long friends and been given tremendous opportunities to train some very special folks.
I think becoming a coach is a natural progression in one's training. You can't help but share what you know with your partner. While you are training, you are in competition, but that quickly turns to camaraderie when you ask a question about something or are in turn asked. You naturally want to progress yourself, but you also want your partners to progress with you. Eventually, this turns into a larger and larger group, and suddenly you begin teaching.
The largest hurdles have been meeting people who don't live up to expectations. There are so many amazing people in the jiu-jitsu community, it is humbling. But, unfortunately, there are also some people who aren't amazing. And sometimes these people are in a position of authority. Knowing these people exist, and watching the way they act, sometimes makes you want to walk away. Fortunately, the amazing people outweigh them, and make you want to stay.
What advice do you give to students who are just starting out?
It's a marathon, not a sprint. Train hard, train safe and be patient. Breathe, everything will come in time, for everyone. No one starts out on the mats in first place.
My favorite memory is when I finally was able to compete with that guy who had given me a hard time on the mat for years. I trained and practiced, and finally was able to hold my own. It was then that I knew I was learning and growing. And I wanted to learn and grow more.
All of my memories teaching are great ones. Sharing jiu-jitsu with a new student is always a joy. Seeing their face when they learn a new move is like watching my kids open presents at Christmas.
Knowing that your are responsible for what you are teaching and to whom. There are certain people that are not ready for the knowledge that you are able to share. They may be too young, or too hostile. Knowing when to teach them, and what to teach them is challenging sometimes.
I don't try to pressure anyone. Life is life. Sometimes things work out and sometimes they don't. If you love training, you will stay or you will return, if possible. If you don't love to train, I would rather you spend your time elsewhere. I try to provide a safe and nourishing environment for my students to flourish and grow. They must bring the enthusiasm.
I think the community needs to be more open minded when it comes to competition. The tournaments need to be run more professionally, and at an affordable price. Judo and wrestling have been doing this for years. Jiu-jitsu needs to follow suit. Having professionally run tournaments would be one step towards drawing more interest, especially from the larger grappling community as a whole.
Remember there are other things in life than training, but then again, training is life.