There has been an argument going around for years now debating whether jiu-jitsu can be considered a team sport or not. We all know that once you start rolling, whether it’s at the academy or at a tournament, you’re on your own. However, you don’t get there on your own. You’re only as good as your training partners, which means you’re only as good as your team. In BJJ, team pride has become something of great importance, and you can see this at every tournament, especially the large ones. Teammates arrive dressed in their team t-shirts and carry banners. Awards are also given out to the top ranking teams. So although on the surface, you can’t call BJJ a team sport, the team factor is definitely prevalent in jiu-jitsu culture.
Getting to know your teammates is unbelievably important to your success, whether you’re a professional or not. It’ll happen naturally most of the time anyway, but it’s good to put in the effort to also hang out with them off the mats. This is great for keeping the right mentality for your training. Positivity is one of the things that is necessary in any academy. If everyone is friendly and respects each other, then everyone can just improve that much more.
Some academies stress this importance on team spirit more than others. There are academies that have a very uninvolved approach with their students - students simply go train and then go home. No one really stays to ‘chit chat’ and there are no events held to develop team chemistry. The teams that do value chemistry go to great lengths to support this. Academies design team shirts, patches and events to keep everyone happy with their training. Events can range from holiday dinners, parties and barbeques all the way to in-house tournaments. As your academy grows in numbers, and in years, strong relationships will start to form and it will start to feel like you’re a family. Birthdays will become team events, as well as other important occasions.
The truth is, BJJ is more than just a sport or a martial art, it has become a lifestyle, and spending time with your team is part of it. Not only do you make life-long friends, but you also share the daily grind of training and improving your technique. It’s your teammates that push you. Take a look at the top jiu-jitsu teams in the world like Alliance, Atos and especially Gracie Barra; all these teams, at their core, have very strong team values and that’s why they are so big today. It is not just the training that has been able to foster great champions from this team, but the fact that all these top athletes felt that they were with family and everyone knew each other so well. In traditional team sports, like basketball and soccer, people take into account team chemistry when judging how good a team is. Chemistry is not only the way the team plays together technically, but also how well they know each other’s games – they can predict what move their teammate is going to make. The same thing works with jiu-jitsu when training in the academy. You can judge the worth of an academy not just by how smart a team trains technically, but also by the mood in the gym and how the teammates interact. This is an aspect in jiu-jitsu that perhaps more academies should work on emphasizing and developing.