Bruno Malfacine changed teams in 2008. It’s worked out well for him, as he’s won the World Championship twice since then.
by Eric (Blue Belt 4 Life) Stafford
These days moving from a Bally’s to a Crunch gym is as easy as 1, 2, 3. But what happens when you want to change your BJJ academy? As a person that has done it before I know it wasn’t an easy decision. There are many different reasons why people may change academies, relocating, family, cost, etc. So, I wanted to get other peoples take on it, I asked instructors, competitors and leisure practitioners. The first person I spoke with was a training buddy of mine Tatiana L., it’s been a solid year and half since we both moved from our previous academy. Tatiana L. is a Blue Belt training at Marcelo Garcia’s in NYC and she states, “I kind of wish I’d been able to train all of my years at the same place. However as a customer you learn what you want/don’t want. What kind of instructor you like. What kind of training partners. Type of facility.” Tatiana and I definitely share the same sentiment when deciding which academy to attend. I asked Ken Primola, a Gracie Jiu Jitsu Black Belt and owner of Flow Jiu Jitsu in Delaware, the same question and his answer surprised me a bit. Ken states, “It’s up to the instructor to decide and let the student know his rules of loyalty.” I had to sit back and stew on his answer for a moment. Ken’s answer made complete sense to me because his view is as a teacher, a mentor in the martial art. I think we forget sometimes that no matter what we want to call BJJ, it is a martial art and that some teachers may feel , well how should I put it, not so good about you leaving their academy. Our teachers watch us develop and progress through our techniques and we as students aren’t the only ones that invest our time. As Nova Uniao Black Belt Marcelino Freitas put it, “you need to first trust in your master and second the feeling of your school because it’s the same as family.”
If you spend a significant amount of time on the mat like I am sure you do, your training partners do become your family. So making a decision to train elsewhere can be hard no matter what the reason. My only advice is to take a step back and think about it, ask the important questions. I literally wrote down what was most important to me when I was doing my search. I am not saying this will work for everyone but it makes your decision a little easier in the end. Valerie Worthington, Black Belt & Blogger, told me, “I don’t think it’s anything anyone goes into BJJ planning to do. But it happens sometimes, for many different reasons.” No matter what you decide and what academy you train just remember, it has to feel like home.
Also check out our 2009 poll on why BJJ folks change schools!