Jiu-jitsu superstar Craig Jones has seen his fair share of politics and conflict between gyms during his long career on the mats. In a recent podcast, Jones spoke openly about the downsides of an “us vs them” tribal mentality that can fester in the jiu-jitsu community.
“There’s this weird tribal **** in this sport that’s really, really weird,” said Jones when discussing the reaction when students leave one gym to train at another. Jones himself has been on the receiving end of backlash when students of his opt to later train at different gyms back in their home cities.
However, Jones rejects the notion that team affiliations and associations should stop friendships or positive training relationships. He coaches and supports athletes regardless of what team name they represent at competitions.
“I don’t care about the team…I don’t care who’s representing. I care that if it’s my friends, I’ll support them, I’ll coach them, I’ll train them when they go back to their home school,” explained Jones.
Jones attributed the pervasive politics and drama in jiu-jitsu to the tribal mentality that differentiates “us” from “them”. He believes it stems from the insulated nature of many gyms around a head instructor and the school’s specific style.
While recognizing he sometimes leans into inflammatory gym drama, Jones advises the community to resist the pitfalls of tribalism. He wants the focus to remain on positive training and friendships that cross team barriers.
“The real tribal **** in it is really, really weird in this sport,” concluded Jones. “It’s a jiu-jitsu thing.”