37 year-old, no-stripe white belt with zero martial arts background here. I’m just over two months in to BJJ and loving all aspects of it so far. That said, I’m beginning to have doubts about the gym I’m currently at and I’d greatly appreciate the opinions of those more experienced than me.
Sport or self-defense? My instructor seems knowledgeable about both topics, but he seems to jump from one to the other during class. Usually the self defense aspect is tossed on at the end. For example, we are shown how to do a double-under back control escape, and then at the end he’ll say “if it was self defense make sure to dig your shoulder into his face”, but we don’t drill that way. Is this normal or should the emphasis be on one or the other?
Belt significance. I’m a helluva lot bigger and stronger than anyone in the class, which obviously matters, but I kinda feel like I should be getting dominated by senior blue belts and higher. I’m getting a lot of 5 minute draws right now. I tapped a stout purple belt last night with an armbar. Only the black belt instructor makes me feel like I’m drowning with no hope of swimming, and the only other person I’m tapping to regularly is a senior blue belt. Belt promotions seem to be done subjectively, but they definitely aren’t just handed out. I’m told two years to blue belt for most people. There are no exams that I am aware of. Is this a sign of a gym being casual or is this pretty typical for the BJJ world?
Casual vs. competitor. Everyone at my current gym definitely trains hard, but nobody competes in MMA and I don’t think anyone has any significant competitive accomplishments. I’m not necessarily looking to compete, but I also want to be as productive as I can with my training time. Is this a sign of a casual BJJ environment?
My options. There’s only two other gyms that are remotely feasible for me. One is a local place that has a kind of “Cobra Kai” reputation. I’m unsure if that is deserved or not, but it does have active MMA fighters training and instructing there. I plan on dropping in for a class to check it out. The other gym is a long drive and would require me to change work hours slightly, but the instructor has a stellar local reputation, competed in pro MMA and his lineage goes from his instructor right to Renzo Gracie.
A student from that school dropped into one of our classes a few weeks ago, asked a question of the instructor and, after giving the answer, my instructor said “jiu jitsu is jiu jitsu”. Is it though?
Like I said, I’m absolutely enjoying everything about what I’m doing right now, but the doubts about the quality of my gym have crept into my head. My instructor has a solid lineage, getting his black belt from an old-school guy named Marcelo Alonso. He can absolutely destroy me, and it is clear there is a LOT I can learn from the guy.
What I’m not sure of is if I could be learning BJJ better somewhere else. Any opinions, insights or shared experiences would be most appreciated.
Thanks for taking the time to read!