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BJJGround Forum >> Black Belts and Morality


8/4/14 4:46 PM
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brendan raedy
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checkuroil - Learning to choke people doesn't teach you how to care about others. Phone Post 3.0

Agreed, but I don't think anyone ever argued that. More the relationships you develop along the way, and the work ethic and humility gained from thousands of hours on the mat.

8/4/14 4:54 PM
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dokomoy
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Even if we somehow came to a universal agreement on what constituted good morality your going to have a hard time figuring out if a particular person fits that definition of morality if you just train with them a couple times a week. I mean, you can tell some people are jackasses within 5 minutes of meeting them, but from what I can tell most people thought Matt Maldanado(spelling?) was a good guy until he went and raped a women. Basing promotion on something you're never going to have a great understanding of(a persons character) doesn't make a ton of sense to me.
8/4/14 5:02 PM
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TheBearStare
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i train judo and bjj. there are things i like and dislike about both when it comes to "morality."

im a firm believer after all these years that training has made me a better person. better person is a relative term of course and is different for everyone.

its sort of a double edged sword. what i both like and hate about bjj is how laid back it is. the fact its very casual and people do more training then talking. what i hate though is you definitely see pieces of shit come out of that environment, the thugs and tough guys. on a large scale there is no accountability to try and filter through who is learning the art.

with judo again its a double edged sword. they preach alot at the place i go to. lots of talking and yapping about values. they make a huge deal out of bowing and "not cutting corners" as we run around the mat for warmups. i appreciate the fact they do some of this but so much of it is absurd and goes too far. one poster said it beautifully that they "out Japanese the Japanese." with a critical eye its apparent that so much of it is to try and foster a false sense and appearance of respect, order and structure. i believe you cant force those things and they have to come out genuinely. its annoying in class seeing everyone in class trying to be some sort of junior sensei and boss others around out of a bizarre notion of "respect." those aspects bother me alot and actually take away alot from practice time(minutes wasted yapping about the angle of your feet when bowing and other examples.) however i really respect and appreciate the sense of community, volunteering and giving back that is also present in judo. seeing these high ranking black belts who have been practicing judo for decades teaching a piss ant community class ALL VOLUNTEERING their time, i respect so much. you dont see that shit in bjj.


ive been training for over a decade and i have to say i originally hated bowing and this and that but i have naturally developed an appreciation for those aspects of training. there is a time and place for them. i think the best and most realistic practice for bjj is, like in any setting, to lead by example if its important to you. you can only fake it for so long. genuine character shines through and people respond differently to it. i think the best bet is to try and provide a training atmosphere for positive development to occur and grow but dont force it. being mindful of who you teach, lead by example, not allowing dickish behavior, etc. again genuine change and positive growth cant be forced and has to be cultivated naturally
8/4/14 5:03 PM
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shen
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Edited: 08/04/14 5:44 PM
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I agree with brendan that the term "morality" is problematic. However, the vast majority of instructors DO have some sort of moral expectation for their students, minimal as they may be. 

Say a familiar looking guy comes in, looking to enroll

Teacher: Hey you look very familiar... Do I know you?

Prospective student:Oh yeah, I'm the "Pillow Case Murderer" --you know, the guy who killed his whole family as they slept? Yeah, I just got out on a technicality, as you may have heard, and I'm looking to train jits --OSSSSS!

Now, MOST [non lloyd Irvin] instructors would say: "Uh, no I don't think so."

So there usually is SOME sort of baseline of human morality that even BJJ instructors generally adhere to, even if they may not think they do.

But also, you don't have to DISCUSS morality / ethics / character to teach them. The best way to teach is by example. Instructors are teaching their students just by the way they carry themselves and treat others. That teaches students how to behave, far more than some blowhard preaching to his students. Of course, if your student is fully grown (as TPK mentioned) you will probably be much less of an influence on their character, but if your student is younger, a martial arts teacher -or a coach or any similar such figure-- can have a profound effect on your life. I had a couple martial arts instructors as a teen who certainly had a big influence on me.

What sort of scares me is the complete abnegation of ANY sort of responsibility on the part of martial arts instructors that they have a responsibility that goes beyond merely teaching the mechanics of how to hurt someone. That mindset I can't abide.

8/4/14 5:25 PM
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checkuroil
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brendan raedy -
checkuroil - Learning to choke people doesn't teach you how to care about others. Phone Post 3.0

Agreed, but I don't think anyone ever argued that. More the relationships you develop along the way, and the work ethic and humility gained from thousands of hours on the mat.

By this standard, bjj is not unique in teach in it. All ventures that include these ingredients could claim they teach morality. Phone Post 3.0
8/4/14 5:33 PM
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Denis Kelly
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Someone earlier in the thread made the distinction that BJJ is combat sport not a martial art. I would say that whether you see what you do as a combat sport or a traditional martial art, if you are an instructor you will be influential on the people you train. Whether you realise it or not people will pick up some type of behaviours & attitudes from you either conciously or subconciously. If the instructor has negative qualities (overly egotistical, disrespectful of other gyms, tolerant of innappropriate behaviour) this will rub off on the students & they will emulate the same qualities. If you are in a position of influence I think its important that you understand what kind of influence you are going to be.

8/4/14 5:38 PM
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os3y3ris
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I don't think that the OP is speaking of teaching morality directly, but of the general prestige placed on black belts by others. It's assumed that they're ethical, honorable and all around swell people, a reputation deserved by many, but not by all.
8/4/14 5:45 PM
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shen
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Edited: 08/04/14 5:49 PM
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Denis Kelly - 

Someone earlier in the thread made the distinction that BJJ is combat sport not a martial art. I would say that whether you see what you do as a combat sport or a traditional martial art, if you are an instructor you will be influential on the people you train. Whether you realise it or not people will pick up some type of behaviours & attitudes from you either conciously or subconciously. If the instructor has negative qualities (overly egotistical, disrespectful of other gyms, tolerant of innappropriate behaviour) this will rub off on the students & they will emulate the same qualities. If you are in a position of influence I think its important that you understand what kind of influence you are going to be.

 

Well said!

Yeah, whether or not you're the kind of coach who teaches students how to cheat and tells them to intentionally pop somone's arm if they get a chance in a tournament, MATTERS. --Because those students grow up in the art thinking THAT'S what BJJ is.

 

8/4/14 6:00 PM
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Mighty Cthulhu
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Ridgeback - 

If people think most Samurai or even most of the founders of the "do" arts of the 20th century were not generally sons of bitches they are delusional.  

Most medieval knights were just thugs and rapists too.  Don't look to men of violence for moral guidance.  


This. If it's a morality contest, I would 100x take your average CPA over any martial arts practitioner.

Back in the day, the knights and samurai were just raping, killing, and kidnapping all over the place, and the 'chivalric code' was an idealistic attempt to curb some of the more severe excesses. When people LARP their way back to this scenario, it's because something has gone awry.

People who are getting in fights all the time (always the other guy's fault, btw) tend not to be the most morally enlightened folk. How often does a CPA get in fights? Not often, because he legitimately doesn't want to.

Apologies to Herbert Kornfeld, however, who I believe was merely an Accounts Receivable Supervisor, not a CPA.
8/4/14 6:01 PM
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Mighty Cthulhu
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Btw, I am also always amazed when people cite Helio and Rickson as examples of great black belt character. Really? Really? This is what you consider outstanding moral character? Who are your benchmarks, Llimp Irvin and Hermes Franca?
8/4/14 6:18 PM
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Jessy Ringquist
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shen -

I agree with brendan that the term "morality" is problematic. However, the vast majority of instructors DO have some sort of moral expectation for their students, minimal as they may be. 

Say a familiar looking guy comes in, looking to enroll

Teacher: Hey you look very familiar... Do I know you?

Prospective student:Oh yeah, I'm the "Pillow Case Murderer" --you know, the guy who killed his whole family as they slept? Yeah, I just got out on a technicality, as you may have heard, and I'm looking to train jits --OSSSSS!

Now, MOST [non lloyd Irvin] instructors would say: "Uh, no I don't think so."

So there usually is SOME sort of baseline of human morality that even BJJ instructors generally adhere to, even if they may not think they do.

But also, you don't have to DISCUSS morality / ethics / character to teach them. The best way to teach is by example. Instructors are teaching their students just by the way they carry themselves and treat others. That teaches students how to behave, far more than some blowhard preaching to his students. Of course, if your student is fully grown (as TPK mentioned) you will probably be much less of an influence on their character, but if your student is younger, a martial arts teacher -or a coach or any similar such figure-- can have a profound effect on your life. I had a couple martial arts instructors as a teen who certainly had a big influence on me.

What sort of scares me is the complete abnegation of ANY sort of responsibility on the part of martial arts instructors that they have a responsibility that goes beyond merely teaching the mechanics of how to hurt someone. That mindset I can't abide.

Along these lines, (great post btw) a personal experience for me...

I always tended to worry about what everyone else in the bjj community did especially in regard to skill and promotion. I won't lie, I still struggle with it at times but training under my instructor vs. Training where I began is an eye opening experience.

Where i began training You never saw so many guys behave and gossip like an old clutch of hens. You had multiple cliques vying for dominance socially and on the mat. It was high school all over again. It began directly from the instructors and owners and was carried into the student ranks.

Where I train now is nothing like it. My instructor Daniel Beleza exudes confidence, never talks shit about anyone, doesn't feed into others talking shit. As a result you have the students following suit. Especially myself.

I realize, watching how he acts and interacts with everyone that it really only matters how I act, what my skill is, and talk is just talk and the mat doesn't lie. I now try to do my best to follow his example. Some days it is easier than others but I have definitely seen how a good instructor who acts in a way that people admire, vs. An instructor or instructors who are insecure and constantly try to undermine others with words and actions can determine how their students act, both on the mat and off. Phone Post 3.0
8/4/14 7:24 PM
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TheBearStare
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agree with shen
8/4/14 11:20 PM
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brendan raedy
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checkuroil - 
brendan raedy -
checkuroil - Learning to choke people doesn't teach you how to care about others. Phone Post 3.0

Agreed, but I don't think anyone ever argued that. More the relationships you develop along the way, and the work ethic and humility gained from thousands of hours on the mat.

By this standard, bjj is not unique in teach in it. All ventures that include these ingredients could claim they teach morality. Phone Post 3.0

Well, I kind of agree with that. I am sure lots of people have improved themselves and bettered their lives by running, swimming, playing football or basketball, so on and so forth. It's all about finding the one that is right for you.

8/4/14 11:24 PM
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brendan raedy
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shen - 

I agree with brendan that the term "morality" is problematic. However, the vast majority of instructors DO have some sort of moral expectation for their students, minimal as they may be. 

Say a familiar looking guy comes in, looking to enroll

Teacher: Hey you look very familiar... Do I know you?

Prospective student:Oh yeah, I'm the "Pillow Case Murderer" --you know, the guy who killed his whole family as they slept? Yeah, I just got out on a technicality, as you may have heard, and I'm looking to train jits --OSSSSS!

Now, MOST [non lloyd Irvin] instructors would say: "Uh, no I don't think so."

So there usually is SOME sort of baseline of human morality that even BJJ instructors generally adhere to, even if they may not think they do.

But also, you don't have to DISCUSS morality / ethics / character to teach them. The best way to teach is by example. Instructors are teaching their students just by the way they carry themselves and treat others. That teaches students how to behave, far more than some blowhard preaching to his students. Of course, if your student is fully grown (as TPK mentioned) you will probably be much less of an influence on their character, but if your student is younger, a martial arts teacher -or a coach or any similar such figure-- can have a profound effect on your life. I had a couple martial arts instructors as a teen who certainly had a big influence on me.

What sort of scares me is the complete abnegation of ANY sort of responsibility on the part of martial arts instructors that they have a responsibility that goes beyond merely teaching the mechanics of how to hurt someone. That mindset I can't abide.


I agree. I think it's about setting the best example you can. Also providing guidance when asked, but as an instructor, having the humility to admit your own limitations and refer your students to the best source of guidance possible. I have met some folks in jiu jitsu who really think they know better than everyone because they have a sweet berimbolo, but have never done anything else in life. The people who grandstand about these things are usually only trying to convince themselves. 

8/6/14 6:07 AM
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JasonGV
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Denis Kelly - 

Someone earlier in the thread made the distinction that BJJ is combat sport not a martial art. I would say that whether you see what you do as a combat sport or a traditional martial art, if you are an instructor you will be influential on the people you train. Whether you realise it or not people will pick up some type of behaviours & attitudes from you either conciously or subconciously. If the instructor has negative qualities (overly egotistical, disrespectful of other gyms, tolerant of innappropriate behaviour) this will rub off on the students & they will emulate the same qualities. If you are in a position of influence I think its important that you understand what kind of influence you are going to be.


I made the distinction; I would hope/suggest that BJJ would follow a code of sportsmanship rather than morality.

I would also hope that would ensure students will keep a realistic and measured perspective of their instructors.

It is the expectation of morality in martial arts that allows scum like Lloyd Irvin and his ilk to operate.
8/6/14 1:46 PM
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The People's Knee
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Edited: 08/06/14 2:16 PM
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I posted this elsewhere, but I might as well post it here also:

We all know that there are plenty of black belts who are thieves, thugs, and liars. I bet if you asked the people who promoted them, you would get 1000 different variations of: "He's a good guy," "I've never seen him do any of that stuff," "Not my business what he does outside of the gym," etc. Thus, if you limit your promotion standards to only what happens within the walls of the academy / on the mat, then you might be intentionally ignoring some fairly egregious behavior that happens "off the mat". Some people are pretty good at compartmentalizing their behavior. Some are not so good at it and it bleeds into the academy. Should you promote a guy who everyone knows is a huge asshole off the mat, always fights in the clubs, beats up his girlfriend / wife, but never misses a warm-up and mops the mats after class? Of course, most of us probably do not want to be overly involved in our students' lives outside the mat but how much should you ignore? 

I'm not sure there is a bright line to be drawn between behavior outside of the academy vs behavior inside of the academy. I recognize and acknowledge the difficulties and consequences that entails, however.

Ultimately, you cannot control other people's behavior and you cannot control the standards other instructors use to promote their students. You can only control your own decisions about who to promote.
 
Gang culture already infests BJJ and, as clearly can be seen in the behavior of too many black (and other upper belts), gangs promote others who are good gang members, but not necessarily good people.
8/6/14 2:16 PM
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The People's Knee
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Edited: 08/06/14 2:16 PM
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 No sooner do I post / speak....

Do you really want to be the guy who promotes this individual and then defend your actions by stating: "he's a very dedicated fighter who treats everyone at the gym with respect and even stays late to mop the mats after practice"?


http://www.enterprisenews.com/art.../20140806/NEWS/140808087
8/6/14 2:44 PM
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brendan raedy
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The People's Knee - 
 No sooner do I post / speak....

Do you really want to be the guy who promotes this individual and then defend your actions by stating: "he's a very dedicated fighter who treats everyone at the gym with respect and even stays late to mop the mats after practice"?


http://www.enterprisenews.com/art.../20140806/NEWS/140808087

How many businesses promote or employ individuals to ultimately uncover past misdeeds or new misbehavior to occur? 9/10 times crazy things happen coworkers and neighbors all say "we could have never guessed this would have happened."

I think it is all about due diligence. Could this have been forseeen and/or prevented?

Do you take on troubled students and to help them grow into better people, or do you have a certain threshold of people to exclude?

I really agree with wanting everyone in BJJ to be good people, but it seems EXTREMELY difficult to make that happen without opening Pandora's Box.

I do believe that most people who serious character flaws will drop off or quit beore they reach the intermediate ranks. At the same time, that makes the ones that do last even scarier. 

8/6/14 3:17 PM
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The People's Knee
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Edited: 08/06/14 3:19 PM
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I agree. I'm not suggesting anyone could have forseen what that guy did. It's an extreme example, but it's aimed at what an instructor of his would do after learning of his behavior:  Continue to associate with the guy because he behaves fine within the academy walls or take a more expansive view?

8/6/14 3:34 PM
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Akston
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brendan raedy -

The thing about "morality" is we don't exactly have a universal definition.

Things that are acceptable in Brazilian culture might not be acceptable in American culture, and vice versa.

Even within those cultures, you have subcultures that can diverge significantly on many issues.

I am not a cultural relativist, but if we are going to attach a code of conduct to BJJ, who gets to decide what it is? And how do we enforce it?

Let he who is without the first stone turns into tu quoque pretty quickly.

Obviously we have some clear boundaries like illegal conduct, but beyond that, it becomes a slippery slope. 

Marcelo Garcia is my vote, he gets to write the bjj ten commandments Phone Post 3.0
8/6/14 3:34 PM
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Akston
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brendan raedy -
Akston - Money has eliminated the philosophical/moral facet of the martial arts.

Now we sell belts Phone Post 3.0

Money may have exacerbated the issue but I don't think it was exactly a utopia before.

True Phone Post 3.0
8/6/14 3:37 PM
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brendan raedy
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The People's Knee - 

I agree. I'm not suggesting anyone could have forseen what that guy did. It's an extreme example, but it's aimed at what an instructor of his would do after learning of his behavior:  Continue to associate with the guy because he behaves fine within the academy walls or take a more expansive view?


Well again, I think finding out a student had his pitbull attack his wife after he beat her himself is a bit of an exterme example...

...take out the pitbull and say I have suspicions that a student beats his wife. I would talk to the student, see what he says. If I don't like what the student has to say, and even if I do, just to be safe, I would probably contact the authorities.

If confirmed, I would "politely" request that he no longer train at my academy. Also, I would warn my colleagues at nearby schools to make sure he doesn't find another place to train.

 

 

8/6/14 6:06 PM
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AllAmericana
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TLDR : I think knowledge of fighting comes with a certain responsibility to use that knowledge appropriately. I think that responsible instruction includes developing the proper attitudes in students about when to use the martial knowledge (ie: not fighting for disrespect).

Interesting thread, ttt. I like reading everyone’s opinions on the subject.

I think BJJ instructors regardless of whether they consider BJJ a martial art or combat sport, should teach the art with a sense of responsibility, because they are instructing their students in the methods of physically damaging or even killing another human being. Serious bidnezz.

I think that feeling tough, and knowing how to fight (or thinking you do), can easily lead to negative behavior and mindsets. BJJ is often talked about as an ego diminishing activity. That is true for many people because they have to tap so much and you realize how vulnerable you are. But sometimes I think I see that after reaching a certain level of grappling proficiency, a person’s ego is actually increased, and they become quite a duche in one way or another. I feel this phenomena is actually a more common problem the better a person gets in jiujitsu, because they get humbled in training less frequently. So this I think is kinda the big fish little pond thing. Could be a purple in smaller clubs in the middle of nowhere, or the black belt instructor, or the top competitors from a school, whatever. They start getting respect from training partners and it goes to their head. The ego creates all sorts of problems, and w/o getting into a philosophical debate, IMO ego is generally not healthy to cultivate.

So now you have a person with knowledge of how to break arms and choke people, but what knowledge do they have of when it is appropriate to use those techniques. Self defense or in defense of others? Certainly appropriate.

But what about situations of disrespect. Is it appropriate to hurt someone for disrespectful things said to you? Through observation it seems people who know how to fight, will escalate a verbal conflict to the point they are forced to act physically. What if instead a person practiced “no ego” and just let a person you know you could beat up insult you, even embarrass you? If at the end of the day, you get insulted, but no fight occured, isn’t that better? What if you get stabbed while fighting. What if he falls and hits his head and he dies? Hope the injury, court fees, ect. was justified by the “respect” you taught the guy.

Sounds so duchey, but during an injury hiatus from BJJ I read “The Book of Five Rings” by Musashi, and also in the edition I had it included a book called “The Book of Family Traditions on the Art of War” by Yagyu Munenori. Bro I’m a modern day samurai bro. Well not quite…. But there are valuable takeaways from both books. Both authors say that while it’s proper to dedicate yourself to training, it’s also a sickness of the mind to be mentally focused on hurting others.

So the mental teaching I’d like to see in BJJ gyms would be more along the lines of: This is powerful knowledge. With power comes responsibility. Use this power with responsibility or you will not train at my school. Don’t be an asshole and get into fights over disrespect. Don’t hurt people with this knowledge unless absolutely necessary.

Link to the book if anyone wants to get a copy. Good read IMO.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/1590302486/ref=mw_dp_mdsc?dsc=1 Phone Post 3.0
8/6/14 6:51 PM
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shen
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Edited: 08/07/14 1:02 AM
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Great posts!!

I really think it gets down to the fact that we need ONE person to sort of head the system --that's what's missing from BJJ compared to the great arts of the past. BJJ's so called "leaders", including the Gracies are often either bullies at heart or primarily focused on making money and are simply not up to it. Frankly, they lack the moral fortitude. We need a "top down" approach; so editcs can be handed down with AUTHORITY and will be followed by all practitioners.

Far more than a simple "grappler" we need someone who DEEPLY understands the connection between BJJ & "Budo" both in proper historical contex and in how it relates to daily life. As mentioned, Marcelo Garcia IS a great guy, but... do you really think he's ever sat down and actually read A Book of Five Rings, The Life-Giving Sword, Hagakure, etc...? Well, I know somone who has read those and many, many more...

... I hope no one would think I'm out of line by modestly suggesting that from a spiritual and moral standpoint, I stand before you humbled to realized that --objectively-- I happen to be that person. Not by choice nor decision mind you, but at the will of somone greater than us all who apparently feels I would be of great service in such a roll.

With great humility,

-shen

(BTW, I do not use "GM" in front of my name anymore, because I don't think it's important... but I still could if I wanted to).

 

 

 

 

8/6/14 7:11 PM
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Tap21
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rayonyx7 - 
Meatgrinder - 

I still haven't really settled that in my mind.. I do think there needs to be some kind of moral component within the bjj world itself. 

I don't think that topic even needed to be approached in the thread on Justin Tabor. There are components outside the moral scope that have nothing to do with your personal ability to compete on the mat. Understanding of the philosophy of bjj. General depth of understanding of position and moves outside of your game. The type of understanding that can break down and give constructive feedback on unfamiliar scenarios.... etc.  

Justin posting a vid of him dropping for a heel hook  in sub only format as some kind of proof of BB level bjj just so completely missed the point.


What is the moral component? The pure waters of the Gracie brothers? The Barra/IBJJF? I'm curious as to your thoughts on this because reading your other posts on various threads, you seem to think these things out in depth and I find it interesting.

I got into bjj because it was not the normal hocus pocus indestructible kung fu / karate paradigm, where the master was a mythical beast tinged with bs fake buddhist drivel. Bjj was about being on the mat and rolling; testing and trying to see the efficacy of the art. None of this Osu, bowing crap. That's what made/makes bjj a better art, the constant 'sparring' , testing and refining. The lack of rigid formalities and instructor worship (which has changed for the worst).The emphasis on points and sport are slow changing the art, one can argue whether it's good or bad, but the constant rolling is still there and the evolution of bjj is constant and moving.

This.

Jiu-jitsu has gone from a lack of rigid formalities and instructor worship with a focus on actual grappling to Osu/bowing/photos of dead guys on walls.

Now people are citing the black belt as a morality indicator?

Meanwhile, we go back just a couple of generations to the founders of BJJ and we have these stories:

Carlos: "Carlos convinced his best friend and longtime business associate Oscar Santa Maria that he (Carlos) channelled a Peruvian spirit who gave him advice, and that spirit told Carlos to have a baby with his friend's wife. He convinced his friend to allow it and impregnated her." (http://cdn.forums.sherdog.com/forums/f12/rickson-gracie-faq-1062118/index10.html)

Helio: "Hélio Gracie had been married to Margarida for fifty years. During their marriage, Gracie became the father of three sons (Rickson, Rorion, and Relson) with Isabel 'Belinha' Soares and four sons (Royler, Rolker, Royce, Robin), two daughters (Rerika and Ricci) with Vera." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H%C3%A9lio_Gracie)


George/Helio/Carlos: "Apparently Carlos didn't believe enough in his own jiu-jitsu skills to challenge Rufino to a rematch in the ring. Instead he gathered three of his brothers, and some supporters, borrowed a car, and waited for Rufino outside of the Tijuca Tenis Clube (where Rufino taught and where until recently the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship was held). They then ambushed him. Bystanders tried to intervene but Carlos kept them back while George and Helio (according to police and eye-witness reports) beat Rufino with a steel 'box.'" (http://www.global-training-report.com/reyla_rev_chp11.htm)





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