Jiu-Jitsu is a fast growing martial art/sport. You have Jiu-Jitsu schools in most major cities in almost all continents.
For a BJJ academy to be considered legitimate (under IBJJF), and to advance in rank, the instructor has to be under the guidance of a BJJ black belt or a second degree (at least) BJJ black belt. It takes a second degree black belt to able to promote to black belt.
Nowadays, there are big schools or associations with hundreds of affiliates all over the world. The biggest ones are: Gracie Barra, Alliance, Checkmat, Brasa, Atos, Carlson Gracie etc…(In no particular order).
What are the benefits of affiliating with a big name school or association? Is it worth it? Will it attract more students? What do you get? What are the pros and cons?
- Prestige– In the Jiu-Jitsu world, Gracie Barra, Checkmat, Atos etc are brand names. They may not mean much for non BJJ practitioners but for most BJJ folk they are synonymous with success in competition and business and for quality of instruction. When competing in international competitions the affiliate will be carrying the name of the association, thus being recognized as part of an elite and recognized team.
- Exposure – As a member of a major BJJ association your school will have increased media exposure, ads in magazines which will enhance the reputation and bring attention to the school.
- International network – As a member of an International Association you and your students will be able to train in all other Schools under that same banner.
- Seminars – You and your students will have the benefit of gaining knowledge from various black belts formed under the association.
- Instructional Support – The instructor will have access to instructional training materials and curriculum. Affiliates may also request to have a custom tailored training program based on their current schedule, goals and level of students.
- Association camps, tournaments, instructors only events, belt promotions, etc.
- Cost- Not all associations are run the same way. Some are not so organized and centralized and are laid back when it comes to using the name and image. Some are highly organized and are demanding towards their affiliates. There can be a fixed monthly payment for all schools under the associations or 10% of monthly revenue. Seminars need to be scheduled at least 2 times a year and are not cheap.
- Lack of identity/originality/ control– When you are under an association (again depending on which association) your school may have to carry the name of the association together with the name of the area where you are located. There may be some general rules and guidelines which have to be enforced in all schools so it makes for lack of originality.
- Mandatory or required for students to only wear the Association Gi– Some of the bigger academies produce their own branded Gis and require all students to only wear their Gis. For example, Alliance leader Fabio Gurgel,from his facebook, that from 2015 anounced that all Alliance members will be obligated to wear the Alliance Gi:“Starting January 2015, it will be mandatory for all Official Alliance academies to use the Official Alliance kimono in order to keep up with the new sponsor Keiko Sport and KVRA.” Some other big academies, such as Gracie Barra, require (but not mandatory) for their members to wear the official academy Gi.
Is it worth it? Yes and no. When someone is choosing a BJJ school, they will look for the following:
1. A place they could easily travel to on a daily basis. 2. A legitimate instructor with at least brown or black belt and with a strong, well established lineage. 3. Friendly atmosphere. 4. A place where they can learn how to defend themselves, lose weight and compete.
If they are satisfied with all their needs, then there is no real need to be under an association.
Beginners WILL NOT know if X or Y is a big name school as they will never have heard of those names before.
At the end of the day, unless you are at least a second or third degree black belt, if you run a BJJ school you need to have someone above guiding you. it’s important to choose the right association that meets your needs and goal. Some associations are more focused on self defense, some more on competition. Some are very strict while some are laid back. It should be a long term and mutual benefit partnership built on trust and exchange of knowledge.