Part the Third: BJJ as a team sport - the academy/team as gestalt
I've been planning to write this for quite a long time, but life and the postgraduate studies that now consume much of said life have been in my way.
So without further ado...
BJJ as a team sport
It's a strange concept, in some ways. We spar as an individual and compete mano a mano, yet teamwork from my perspective seems to be one of the greatest components for success in BJJ. Like many young Aussies, I've done a fair bit of travel. On those travels I've stopped into a number of BJJ academies, craving some training like the addict that I am. Honestly, a number of them...just don't feel homelike. The academy I train at, Peter de Been's St Kilda academy ( www.peterdebeen.com ) has a very tight-knit group mentality, which is one of the things that drew me there in the first place, my fellow teammates believing that it is one of the essential ingredients that brings about our competition success. I haven't got that at a number of larger academies, which feel more like...black belt production lines than an actual supportive team.
Granted, I haven't trained at at least one of the places I'd categorise as lacking this team feel for anything resembling a long period of time, but on the other hand I've immediately recognized places with a similar team dynamic to my home academy whilst travelling.
Before I go on, I'd like to apologize for the rambling nature of this article. I got drunk last night, and suspect that I'm still at least partially under the influence due to insomnia.
Why teamwork is beneficial
One of my teammates started up his own school under the auspices of my instructor about a year and a half ago, and has acheived significant competition success with his white belt students, considering the limited amount of time that he has been in operation and the need to build his own student skill pool from scratch. Part of his orientation to each new student includes the admonition that they have joined a team, and just as the team supports them, they are bound to support the team by sharing knowledge, helping the less experienced and so on. In my teammates words, he does not want to train anyone who does not support the team.
For the record, his guys are as close-knit a team that I've ever seen. I would train with them with no hesitations whatsoever, and wholeheartedly recommend them to anyone looking for training in the area. With another instructor from our team in a nearby areas, he's started a number of joint programs, such as white belt tournaments to give novices greater competition experiences and open mats to experience differing styles of rolling to the academy norm.
From my own experience, I began training at my current academy as an overly defensive, fairly crappy white belt. During my first summer there, I spent long periods of time being triangled by one of the blue belts (averaging about five times a session) being swept, and generally getting owned by all and sundry. They took the time to explain to me exactly what I was doing wrong, which resulted in me progressing more in three months than I had during the previous nine. That kind of environment, to which I have contributed in turn, has been responsible for making me into the BJJer I am today, and has made others progress similarly within very short timeframes.
I'd like to hear any opinions as to how teamwork has aided the progress of others. Hopefully I can reply when I've completely sobered up (On a side note, Chimay Grand Reserve is a fucking awesome way to get smashed!)