Thursday, February 6, 2014

The myth of the jiu jitsu hobbyist.

Lets start with some definitions:
a person who pursues a particular hobby.

noun: hobby; plural noun: hobbies
an activity done regularly in one's leisure time for pleasure.
You are a jiu jitsu hobbyist.
Yes, you
You drill 10,000 reps before breakfast?
Are you training 6 days a week? Twice a day? Plus strength and conditioning?
You're still a hobbyist.
Some sociopath puts you and a bunch of other self important yucks up in a small house in Maryland?
World Champion?
Multiple time World Champion?

There is no market for what we do. No one cares. NO ONE.
Even the top of the top of the top. Even if you win ADCC, Metamoris, and the Copa (all in the same year) you barely break the poverty line. At most they qualify as "semi-professional."  Now jiu jitsu does pay their bills, but it's their schools, seminars and associations, not their competition results that put food on the tables and a roof over their heads.
The full time job of the top performers is teacher of jiu jitsu. Competition is done in the gaps. It is excellent for marketing materials, but its not a job. If the job is teaching, and you want to be like the top performers. Then work on your teaching as well. The trope of the world champion who can't teach a lick is so common as to be cliche. Work on your teaching, because the medal might get you in the door, but you won't be asked back if you can't teach. If that happens, enjoy living in your car.
 You are not a professional competitor even at the championship level. Anyone who argues against this should be inspected for ulterior motives. The schools and associations have a lot of money to be made by being the fertile soil within which champions flourish. They may want you to drop anything and everything in pursuit of that medal. For them the medal means money and your college education means nothing. You need to look at yourself and see what is possible and what is important. Is this a short term sacrifice or is this immolation of your future.
I am not arguing that you shouldn't sacrifice. I'm not saying you shouldn't compete. I am not saying that you shouldn't spend hours honing your craft. I am not saying you shouldn't make priorities and make hard choices for your goals. However, lets not pretend that you're a professional athlete. As important as your goals may be to you, you're still paying to participate in a sport. Think long and hard about how long the sacrifices you're making will stay with you. How much of your life that cost is going to cost you. Do not pretend that you are somehow more important to jiu jitsu than "all these hobbyists." You are a hobbyist, and these folks who you're scoffing at? IF you  win, will be the folks paying your bills, teaching your classes when you travel, and generally make what you intend to do possible. They don't owe you, you will owe them. So pay it forward. Don't take advantage, and most of all be gracious.
For all of us who have jobs and kids and commitments, we should (and probably will) help you. Work with you when you need extra time, offer to pick up a meal, draw on experiences and if need be let you surf our couch. We need to look out for people willing to exploit players with championship aspirations. Goals like these are for the young. It is easier going if you have support. We are a niche sport, and a tight community but one that is growing quickly. The last thing we need to do is be fractionalized. Our community is at a crossroads. There is just enough money for us to be available for fleecing and not enough oversight. These artificial distinctions between the "committed" and the "hobbyist" only serve those who would exploit people's zeal to be a part of the 'elite.' It's not healthy. We need to get these scumbags out of our sport. We need to keep an eye out for each other.


Update: some folks at Reddit pointed out that if you did win all the major events in a single year you'd make $88k which is a significant amount of dough (I was going off of old information, and should have researched further before making that statement). My point stands. There are 10-12 individuals with a legitimate shot at winning those events in a given year. Setting one's sites there is unrealistic and beyond the abilities of nearly everyone who fancies themselves above the so called hobbyists. Focus on your own training, learn to teach, and be an asset to the community. If you can win some medals while you're at it, that's great. Which is the real point of the blog post (diatribe if you will). I'm keeping the original so that the comments from reddit don't lack context. 

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