In a series of posts last year here at The Grumpy Grappler, I released some findings from an online BJJ survey I ran that explored a wide range of issues and which included data from 700+ practitioners from around the world. See here, here, here, here, and here to get started! You can even find the complete data set here--which is free to use for your research purposes (whether you are a practitioner, gym owner, sports doctor, or kimono manufacturer)! There are lots of interesting issues to explore and lots of data to sift through for interested parties.
For now, I want to focus on some findings I take to be noteworthy when it comes to (a) why people start training, on the other hand, and (b) how gyms tend to be organized (in terms of curricula), on the other hand. More specifically, if you peruse the hundreds of write-in responses below (see attached document) concerning why respondents started training jiu jitsu in the first place, you’ll quickly see that a common and unsurprising theme is that a bulk of people come to jiu jitsu looking to either learn self-defense or to get in shape (or some combination of the two).
Like me, many of the participants in this study were first exposed to the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) via The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). It was seeing Royce Gracie’s early success with BJJ that planted the seeds of my own interest in the then mysterious art. As someone who already had a background in another grappling-centric martial art (namely, American folk style wrestling), jiu jitsu was a natural fit for me. And my own jiu jitsu journey continues to this day.
But for present purposes, I don’t want to focus on my own experiences with the martial art. Instead, I want to focus on the disconnect between people’s stated motivation for getting into jiu jitsu and how gyms are often run and operated. Consider, for instance, the responses to the following question from the survey:
Q13 - Does your academy focus on self-defense?
Total 100% 661
In short, nearly 40% of gyms do not focus on self-defense training—a surprising number given people’s aforementioned statements concerning why they started training jiu jitsu. If learning self-defense and getting in shape are two key motivations, then perhaps it would make more sense for gym owners to build these two elements into their curriculum more overtly when possible.
Instead, uninspired warm ups and a focus on the sportive elements of BJJ can often be the norm at gyms around the country. Indeed, the take down has even become a lost art in many gyms where participants always (or almost always) begin from the knees while "live training"—which is a deleterious if understandable practice that removes much of the realism from many of the techniques of BJJ.
Click on the following attachment to see the complete responses to the question about why people started training jiu jitsu. Just for kicks, I included the responses to two follow up questions as well that focus on people's likes and dislikes when it comes to jiu jitsu! The entire document is 70+ pages long, so there is plenty to see for those who have the time.
That's it for now. I hope this is useful to at least some readers of the blog--especially those who want to see more self-defense training offered in gyms!
p.s. This state of affairs is partly what motivated me to start a non-profit called Learn to Resist that aims to provide self-defense training to members of the local community. You can find more details about this side project here. The over-arching goal is to make jiu jitsu-inspired self-defense training available to presently under-served communities—e.g., women, at-risk youth, and veterans.