Monday, 15 September 2008

Club dynamics

To my facebook readers, visit the website! facebook doesnt put up the videos I add or put up any of the edits I do!. Thanks for the love though.

In this post Im going to talk about how my club works but with abit of an indepth look at what that really means. This info has come from my own participation in the club, talking to people, going to other clubs, talking to instructers/ high rankers, forums on the internet. I have analysed this info and will be desciminating it as an environmental psychologist (which I hold a Masters in, [Bsc in psychology]). Environmental Psychology . A good deal of my expertise is in theories like behaviour setting theory, that deal with contexts such as a BJJ club.

Ill keep the science to the minimum!

Right first a summary of my club:

  • Andy Roberts (RGA brown belt) is the instructer/ owner

  • Ollie Geddes is the visiting instructer (at the moment, but I think we will see quite abit more of him [RGA purple belt - top competitior])

  • Club has been open approximately 11 months

  • We have approximately 40 regular students

  • Training is twice a week, each lesson = 1.5 hours. (this will become full time at the new club)

  • Currently train in a school hall, moving to our permenent address very shortly

  • We have a decent web presence (members on forums, club website, facebook group, comp videos, this blog )

  • We are all white belts, some with a good level of experience in other martial arts

The 2 main factors that jump out at me is that we are all white belts and our mix of people (which is unique to all clubs).

Novice factor:

We are all still novices, and this I think is an important part of our clubs current structure. Everyone is in reach of everyone else. No one stands in a special place because of their belt. Everyone is competitive, unless someone is brand new their is no one that is an "easy roll". Or anyone that is so good that you know you cant beat them. So you are always trying. This I think creates a high level of ability for our belt. Everyone is learning from each other.

Within a club with a greater range of belts you have the advantage of rolling with people much better than you and much worse. Which means across the spread you actually have less people to competitively roll against. So its abit of a trade off, a blue or purple might be able to give you really good tips on a sweep and you could pull that sweep off on a weaker player but you will probaly have less oppertunity to use it against someone your own level.

So there are advantages and disadvantages to the novice factor, but here is where our mix of people comes in.

Andy Roberts boyz:

To be scientific about it, we are awesome. Everyone will go out of their way to help you in anyway they can. Giving you a lift, advice (from training to nuitrition), buying you a drink, etc. There are no group cliques, everyone gets on very well. If you submit someone they will pat you on the back and give you a smile, ego's are at a minimum. But we are competitive, we all want to improve and do better every session. Which I think rubs off on the new guys. People who dont have what it takes to last in BJJ, often dont. We also have a good range of people in different weight categories from 100kg plus to under 65kg. A range of different expertise: JKD instructers, japanese jiu jitsu instructers, judo blackbelts, MMA no gi fighters, Muay thai, Kung fu, Karate, etc. There is a friendly rivalry between most people in the club, but its a very positive one. It is a tool for motivation and no one is a bad winner or sore loser. Our rivalry (due to similar ability) has allowed us to form strong close social bonds.

Freshness of club:

We are still a new club, so most of us can still be considered new to the art. So everyone is still very passionate about training. The honeymoon period is particularly long in BJJ it seems, Im starting to think it wont end. It hasnt for Andy. Which is interesting as its quite a gruelling sport, you put alot of yourself into it, and leave alot on the mat (blood, sweat, ego).

Andy Roberts:

It makes sense to talk about our instructer as he is the leader of our social environment, without his input the club fades to nothing. His instructing style is clear, concise, emphasis on basics first, level headed, social and fun. His covered all the major bases to make himself a successfull instructer. He has very good links in the BJJ community, he knows everyone. Being a high level judge for BJJ (and UFC) he has explicit knowledge on the rules and tactics we need to know. Andy has been very good in taking down any barrier that could create a wall between instructer and students which Ive seen quite often. There is no us and him, to a degree there has to be some sort of seperation as he is a senior practitioner and I am paying him to teach me. But he rolls with us, jokes, socialises and drinks with us. If Roger suddenly dojo raided us and said he was now taking all the lessons, Andy would join our ranks and we wouldnt treat him any differently.

Typical lesson structure:

We arrive, chat and change. Then put mats out. Andy does a warm up which changes every few sessions. We drill technique, positional sparring, more technique then sparring. We drill stand up throws fairly often as well. End of lesson, we chat and put the mats away, change and go home. Time on the mats normaly equates to about 1.5 hours. So the actual lessons themselves are what you would find in most other clubs.


This is about as far as I can go before I start going into behaviour settings and other psychological theories, and thats gonna add like another 2000 words on this baby. This post could of gone on for alot longer but with the move coming to the new club I think everyone will end up changing, I cant quite tell how yet though,. But I think Ive given a good idea about life at the club and why I think we are a good club. I really think the social aspects of our club will become an important part of our success. In terms of how well people get on but also with how we treat each other and give everyone who needs it a hand.

And now for something completely different:

(The Jiu jitsu cat picture is the sole saving grace of this post, its a pile of shit. I got stuck between trying to be non scientific and trying to give insight. Only reason Im keeping it as I think it provides some extra info on our specific club. One day ill try this post again but talking about clubs in general, so I can apply it to the whole of BJJ training.)


Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm not a BJJ practitioner but have studied Karate/Wing Chun and done some Judo. I was just Curious as you state that everyone in your club is a white belt and that you are all of similar standards but you also said that some of the guys are Judo Black Belts. Surely these Judo guys are way ahead of the guys who have only studied stand up arts or are completely new to the whole martial arts scene?

Jadon Ortlepp said...

You would think wouldnt you. And to begin with you would be correct. But in BJJ you can be a white belt for quite a while (nearly 10 months for me). So the big difference in ability quickly vanished as the strikers got the basics down. Theirs a definite curve so while the judo guys started ahead, the grappling beginners quickly come up to a competitive par.

There is quite a difference among judo guys though, depending on how much there club likes newaza, so its hard to generalise. But I would equate a good white belt to an ordinary judo blackbelt, in terms of ground ability. Depending obviously on the judo club in question.

Dont get me wrong, I love judo!. It was my first martial art. But so much emphasis has been taken away from the ground. And in BJJ that is 90% of our focus, where we can stay a white belt for years. Even longer for blue.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the explanation. So what is the grading structure in BJJ?
BTW have you ever rolled with a guy called Kevin Chan? I ask as he was my Wing Chun Instructor who is now also a black belt in BJJ. Here's a link to his website

Oliver said...

I have. And he made me cry like a girl. He's very very very good on the ground. And even lighter than me, which is just mean.

Something to aspire to, I guess. ^_^

Take care,


Jadon Ortlepp said...

Sorry for the long delay. Right, grading structure in BJJ.

White,blue,purple,brown,black. With stripes in between. No formal gradings as such, most placed award a stripe or belt based on your performance. Start tapping blue belts bang your a blue belt. Hence the high learning curve as no one likes getting beat :P. Can take years inbetween each belt (almost guarantee it will). White to blackbelt your looking at probaly 10 years + depending how much you train and if your BJ Penn or not.