Ozymandias.-Percy Bysshe Shelley
I met a Traveler from an antique land,
Who said, "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is OZYMANDIAS, King of Kings."
Look on my works ye Mighty, and despair!
No thing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that Colossal Wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Right now jiu jitsu is fairly popular (as martial arts go). We are at a crossroads, and as such need to remember: there is no rule of law, no decree, no divine gospel that says that jiu jitsu needs remain popular and viable.
Judo and Sambo are on the rise in MMA. MMA itself is overwhelmingly popular, traditional jiu jitsu could easily be swallowed by the desert. Lost to the sands of time. We are it's stewards, protectors and propagators. The legacy of Rolls, and Helio, of Carlson and Carlos is in our hands. If we sell that legacy short or cheaply. If we do not change our attitudes as to whom is welcome then in a few generations we may go the way of Karate. Split into factions. Point stylists, Kenpoists, Store fronts in strip malls, or windowless basements. Everyone arguing as to who has the "real Karate." Aspects lost to history, and only pockets of the original martial intent.
Things could be even worse yet. Those who are interested in sport could leave for Judo or Sambo. Those interested in self-defense folded in to some "reality based martial art" or just off to train at an MMA school. There would be some purists; soul-rollers sweating in gis on mats laid down in a rec room or garage, but the sport would be dead, and the lineages dilute. Belts would have virtually no meaning. Jiu jitsu would be just another fringe martial art. Gone the way of it's Japanese cousin.
We are at a tipping point. This can be the high water mark before the tides begin to recede, or we can become a legitimate (if still peripheral) sport to avoid the former and encourage the latter we need to make some changes:
- We need a legitimate, non-profit, governing body. One with a diverse and representative board of directors. It can not be 4 members of the Gracie clan, 2 Machados, and 2 token "others." It needs to be a mix with a nod to the family, and the history of the martial art, but representing ALL jiu jitsu players in the U.S.. Instructors, family guys, MMA fighters, competitors, women, everyone. These need to be elected positions, and cannot be controlled by any one affiliation.
- With this there needs to be constraints put on Affiliations. There needs to be rules as to what the affiliations can dictate to the instructor/owner, and what they can not. There needs to be a grievance system within the governing body for instructors to file against their affiliation. I have seen some horrible contracts for affiliates where they can strip an instructor of their school and livelihood without recourse. The enforceability of the contract is dubious, but still. There should be some recourse within the sport itself.
- The governing body would sponsor all visas into the U.S. for instructors. Sponsorship by the affiliations gives them too much sway over people's lives. Yes this is a massive pain in the ass for the governing body, but I don't see it working any other way.. feel free to comment with better ideas.
- Sexual harassment hotline. If a fairly new white belt gets harassed (or worse yet assaulted) by an instructor, s/he should have an impartial number to call. She shouldn't have to call a company representative for the affiliation. Too much money at stake. I'm not saying anyone would play "Three card monty" with inappropriate instructors or worse ignore allegations, but I am saying that some people in this world would.. if there is money to be made it is always better to remove that incentive.
- Fix the rules. Not just dictated from the top, but really work on shifting the rules and how they are made. Put together committees in a transparent open forum. Create a mission statement for what competition jiu jitsu should be. Use smaller tournaments as trials for the rules sets, publish findings. Survey, get feedback. Set official dates for rules changes well in advance. The current model where the IBJJF just announces changes in rules less than a month from worlds is laughable.
- Stop forcing competitors to compete under "registered associations." If I have a black belt, under a legitimate second degree black belt, I should be able to compete. If I'm from Joe's jitsu, then I should be able to put down "other" and my points don't count towards the team totals. There is no reason for this rule, it needs to go.
- Do away with the belt registration fees. This stinks of McDojo-ism. We should take our cues any other legitimate sport. You register, you pay a yearly fee. That's that. Spread the costs across everyone and it becomes a fairly nominal fee. Then the governing body can take on some of the insurance costs which gives the instructors incentive to make membership requisite for training. It becomes very easy.
- Stop trying to look like Judo. The refs in jackets, the square mats. Blue or White gis only. Stop. This the U.S. people are used to refs in striped shirts. Stop making these poor refs crawl around, or shift sweaty competitors in a hot gym in a jacket. Let people wear whatever they want as far as gi color. I am a plain white gi guy. Seriously. I have 1 blue gi, because mine tore years ago and my instructor only had blue left. I like that classic look, but let the players play. If you're paying players and issuing uniforms then you can dictate. Till then as long as the gi doesn't give an unfair advantage, let the kids play.
- This one is for instructors in general. Stop with the belt inflation. I have seen adults wearing orange belts, belts with horizontal stripes? STOP! if you want to bump the number of stripes to 10, be my guest, but stop with the TKD belts. It completely screws up everyone's understanding of where they are. If you add orange and green belts, and I don't. Our students have no idea what means what. Is my 2 stripe white belt your orange belt? What about one of my blue belts and one of your green belts? It's ridiculous. At least if you use 10 stripes and I use the traditional 4 the white belts still know they're white belts, and the blue belts know they're approximately the same.. and so on.
- This is for everyone. Be a representative. Black, white, blue, purple or brown belt, represent jiu jitsu. Don't pull immature pranks and throw the video up on YouTube. When you write an opinion piece, write like you are trying to educate the person in question. Go easy on the ad hominems and insults. It doesn't help your case. The easiest way to kill our martial art/sport is to be a staggering jackass and make sure everyone knows you're a part of it. On line, in person, in competition, represent jiu jitsu well. If you're in, don't be a jackass, and if you're a jackass go do something else.