Monday, August 15, 2011

Gym hopping

Why do I read Sherdog? It seems to be constantly full of low level white and blue belts giving their opinions on Jiu-Jitsu. It kinda reminds me of a middle-schooler trying to teach his parents about life...

The latest thread I became frustrated with was on the topic of gym hopping. I guess I can understand to some degree where the point of view that despises gym hopping comes from. Usually they are non-competitors who cannot comprehend the constant drive to learn more, faster, better. They are also probably lacking in some way a connection of some sort and need their team to be their family. They want to be a part of a group more than they want to succeed. These people are necessary in the academy and in life, but they will never be at the top.

I have changed gyms twice...and hope to never have to again.

The first gym was the one I happened to walk into when starting BJJ. While at this academy, I treated it like my family. I showed up regularly for a year and a half, I was one of only 4 students that regularly competed. But I hit a point where I didn't feel it was giving me what I needed. I was more committed to them than they were to me. I realized that the instruction wasn't as good as my ignorant self thought the first time I walked through the doors, and I wanted to train with women who were higher ranked than me. Even still, it was an agonizing decision that took me months to arrive at. I still have a few friends from this academy, although most of those have since followed me to my third.

I was very much thrilled to become a part of my second gym. I was so excited at the instant increase in my jiu-jitsu knowledge and skill. But after some time I decided it was no longer the place for me. Although, I had a bunch of friends and enjoyed the training itself, the atmosphere was no longer for me.

My third gym was started by my boyfriend, Ryan Hall. I don't know what I would do if we broke up, because I can't imagine ever training anywhere else. Ryan has so much more Jiu-Jitsu knowledge than almost every person I've ever met. He makes all movement look and seem easy. He can answer literally every single question I've ever had and his answers come from tried and true, proven competition results at the highest levels. He isn't a Marcelo Garcia or Cobrinha, but is working towards getting there one day.

Ryan holds the key to my constant battle between technical movement and aggression. His scientific and principled approach to BJJ is exactly what I need. Every time I roll with him, I get better, simply by feeling his movement. Plus, I love the laid back yet hard working environment he fosters. Ryan doesn't have any desire to be your dad or your boss. He doesn't want to be an authority figure in any way, he just naturally is one. He likes to joke around a lot but our practices are hard; all the students train with aggression and desire to win, yet each one also constantly strives for technical proficiency and ease of movement. The exact combination is so rare in jiu-jitsu academies that to me it is amazing to behold.

Many times I have commented that even the students who get on my nerves, I like. I work at the gym full time now and it really is truly wonderful to be in an environment where you work with around 100 different people each week and yet like them all! A positive environment seems to perpetuate itself in much the same way a negative one does.

I am very excited at the idea of what it will become in the future. I can't imagine ever being anywhere else.

But then, I couldn't imagine every leaving my first two gyms either. So who knows...


  1. Sherdog has its moments. There is plenty of silly stuff on there, but also great posts like this and this.

    The tribal approach of jiu jitsu's 'team' mentality is quite strange, though I can understand the appeal. I didn't put any thought into it when first picking a place to train, but despite not being all that team oriented myself (especially as I don't compete), I have since gone for Roger Gracie or Gracie Barra affiliated places if possible.

    Still, I've moved gyms so many times now (always just due to geography: for the last few years, I've moved house at least once a year, sometimes twice) that I've never built up that intense bond with a particular school. It would be nice if there was less of a team thing in BJJ, as then there would probably be so much more sharing of techniques, strategies, approaches etc. Seems to work for judo.

    I babble more about teams here.

  2. Just came across this blog- nice work! Ryan actually just did an interview where he talks about gym hopping in a different way, but I agree with him:

  3. Lol, Jen, you know better than to get worked up over the dregs of Sherdog! (Quite possibly a troll thread, too, created just to create drama.) Besides, it appears most of the posters had your view anyway; only a few nincompoops seemed to be hard-liners the "no change or else" way.

    Now the "gym hoppers" who annoy me are the ones who train a week here, train a few weeks there, train a month over here, come in for Open Mat there, train over here right before a fight (that's always my gym then), training at all the places in town without ever committing to a single one. Mostly they're just trying not to pay any money... :/

  4. I used to live in Mississippi, and gyms don't last long there, so you have to get what training that you can while you can. As a single woman, I've also left schools due to drama. So, I guess you can call me a gym hopper. However, I consider it smart training. If a gym doesn't "feel" safe or if the instruction becomes lacking, I will change schools. I've also learned to recognize the signs of bad business practices. These people can get pretty nasty. If I ever come across another I'll bail much faster than I did last time.

    IMHO - There is a difference in gym hoppers, some just lack commitment, others look for free training, and still others have higher expectations for their gym and gym owner.

  5. Good work on this blog, I am going to pass it on. I have quite a few women training with me.

  6. I completely agree with you :). To me, the gym is not the walls and the mat, but the people I train with. I love the guys and gals at The Labs and wouldn't want to train anywhere else. If, however, I didn't feel like that, then no patch or team would force me, a grown man, to stay.

  7. It's all about finding a gym with the right atmosphere and the right people. If it's not working for you then it's time to try something new. You need to enjoy your gym to get the most out of BJJ.

    Andy at


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