A strong local jiu jitsu scene is crucial to the development of athletes within that scene.
Developing jiu jitsu athletes need to face adversity, they need opportunities to experience styles disparate from their own. Local politics can stunt potential opportunities, and there are many different kinds of barriers that we can run into, but here are 5 ways that you can help build a stronger local jiu jitsu scene.
- Arrange open mats. Cross training is such a valuable tool because we all know our training partners’ and teammates’ tricks, but at the end of the day other local schools may have wildly different styles. The more you are able to build up a strong local jiu jitsu open mat culture, the better the community will be able to foster up and coming competitors. This can also translate to having a wider network within the local community. This can be helpful when someone wants to add classes to their schedule at times that their home gym doesn’t offer. It can also be helpful when attending larger tournaments; it’s always nice to have familiar people there.
- Put together tournaments. Some of the best tournaments I’ve been to were 20 dollar in house tournaments at local schools. These are often good spirited events, and what they may lack in fancy medals, they often easily make up for in plentiful matches and great times. These can also be a great way to raise money to help send competitors to remote tournaments or other such shenanigans. Local scenes need local tournaments for competitors to test the waters. Arranging these tournaments can be easy if the right people are involved, but make sure that the rule set is clear and that everyone involved is up to the challenge.
- Organize cross-team events/seminars. Very often we see other local gyms as being “alien” because they belong to a different tribe than we do. The truth is that we are all part of the same tribe, JIU JITSU. Organizing a seminar or even a UFC watch party with open invitation to other gyms can be a great way to build bridges on the local scale. Opportunities to meet and interact with local people who you don’t otherwise see is a great chance to learn about whom else is out there and possibly make friends. Often people will find that someone from another team shares an interest with them which can yield great friendships. Jiu-jitsu is a social sport, be sociable!
- Attend more tournaments. One thing that has hurt my local scene is the lack of attendance at tournaments that come to town. This lack of attendance at these local tournaments has made these circuits disinterested in returning which means that we have to drive 2+ hours to compete. Don’t let this happen in your local scene. Encourage everyone at your gym and at other gyms to attend these tournaments so that people can have a chance to experience competition. It can be tricky, sometimes, but the better job local practitioners do of spreading the word the more likely divisions are to fill up and give people a chance to compete more often.
- Set up a super fight event. Very often local coaches have no interest in competing. They would rather wait for the bigger tournaments to come around and go to those. A super fight event can be simple enough to set up and can be very rewarding. This will help competitors and spectators see what their local scene has built and develop pride in it. It allows people to start getting an idea of what a bigger stage may feel like. And most importantly it allows jiu-jitsu on the local level to gain exposure.
Jiu-jitsu is a grassroots art. It gained popularity by word of mouth and by the human component of it making sure it could grow. Building your local jiu jitsu scene increases every individual within that local community’s potential for growth. It means that gym owners can devote more time and energy to their gyms, and it means that competitors can develop more effectively.
There are other things you can do to build your local scene, be creative with it! The most important thing to keep in mind is that the more it grows the better.
Emil Fischer is a Jiu-jitsu brown belt competitor training under Pablo Angel Castro III at Strong Style MMA in Cleveland Ohio. An avid writer and competitor, Emil has amassed an extensive competition record. Most notably, Emil is a 2 time gold medalist at the IBJJF No Gi Pans, and has a submission victory record of 5-1 at Fight To Win Pro which includes purple belt no-gi light heavyweight championship
Emil’s sponsors are Impact Mouthguards, Cleveland Cryo, The Terphouse, Meerkatsu, Eddys on Coventry and Nottarookie. He is a Ludwig Van and Vanguard Kimono brand ambassador.