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Keenan Cornelius & His Comment on Gym Loyalty

I’m sure most, if not all of you have seen the video clip that Flograppling put online with Keenan Cornelius discussion loyalty to certain bjj academies, how the idea of being a creonte isn’t really a thing, that this is America and that if you are uncomfortable at a gym you have every right to leave.

I think there is a good deal of validity to his statement, to be sure, but there’s just something that keeps me from wholly agreeing with his statement. I think you absolutely have a right to leave an academy if you feel uncomfortable in an academy due to an unhealthy culture. I saw a clip of this interview on social media, but turns out it’s a whole 20 minute interview where he also talks about the dangers of hero worshipping your instructor or higher ranked individuals, which I also agree with. Blind loyalty does not serve anyone in the community- it puts both the student and instructor in a position where abuse can easily happen, as we’ve seen time and time again, unfortunately.

Granted, I know I’m picking at semantics here but I think my issue really stems from the comment that someone can leave an academy if “they don’t let you do things” is an oversimplification and gives me pause. I understand the intent of what was being said: if there are restrictions- say, visiting another gym- for what appear to be reasons more driven by ego than anything else, then maybe it’s time to consider another academy. To just say though “leave if you don’t like what they are telling you to do” I think some people can take the wrong way to mean “anything you hear that you don’t like means you can just leave and go to a new academy”. It sounds very impersonal and transactional- I pay you for goods and services and you oblige by providing me said goods and services, and if I don’t like how said services are provided, I will go somewhere else. The nature of a martial art though is be put in situations that force you outside of your comfort zone- for your benefit, of course- but the nature of being outside of your comfort zone is that you are uncomfortable, which people tend to not enjoy… And on the instructor side of things, when you put in the time and emotional investment to help someone along in their jiu jitsu journey, you can’t help but to feel some kind of way when they decide to go somewhere else, or don’t want to continue to do jiu jitsu anymore: of course you still wish them the best and respect their decision, but it’s also totally normal to still be a little bummed by that decision.

Instead I would argue that going to a gym is more of a partnership- the student enters the academy fully understanding they- regardless of whether they are a novice or expert- are going to be asked to try things that will push them out of their comfort zone, because that is where growth and change happen. The instructor understand they will do their best to impart their knowledge, experience and guidance with the student to help them improve their skill in jiu jitsu. The student, in addition to doing their best to try and at the very least attempt to do the things asked of them, will abide by the etiquette of the academy, and pay their membership fees to help keep the lights on. After being with an academy for long enough, a sense of belonging and camaraderie naturally develops- hell, how many people show loyalty to a barber, a coffee shop, a certain grocery store because that’s the place they prefer to go? It’s just an inevitable part of human nature: we look for places to belong, something that we can call ours. And to Keenan’s point, sometimes those relationships just simply don’t work out, and there comes a time when a student has to evaluate if they want to continue in that relationship with that particular instructor and academy. And much like personal relationships, it’s ok to feel sad about that relationship ending, but there should be mutual respect between both parties as they go on with their lives.

Those are just my thoughts on the matter- I think there were some good points made, but I think there should be some acknowledgement made that yes academies are businesses, but there are (appropriate) relationships that are built and fostered in those four walls and on those mats.

Have a great day everyone!

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