Do you have a BJJ Resume?

I’ve written about sponsorships in Jiu Jitsu before in Modern Sponsorships but I feel that this is a topic that a lot of people in the Jiu Jitsu community are really interested in.

Not only is it a popular topic but as Jiu Jitsu continues to grow there will be a need for more professionalism throughout the entire sport.

When young athletes approach me for tips on how to land a sponsor the first thing I ask them is if they have a Jiu Jitsu resume. Usually they have no clue what I’m talking about, so I have to explain what a Jiu Jitsu resume is and why they need one.

You don’t need a Jiu Jitsu resume to land a sponsor but it will definitely help in the long run.

What’s is a Jiu Jitsu resume?

In its simplest form, it is a recording of your competition success over time and has a number of other uses.

Unlike a traditional resume, where employees create a resume in order to secure employment. Jiu Jitsu resumes work a little bit differently. While they can be used to obtain teaching and other martial art business positions, they are more flexible and useful.

Have you ever seen a flyer or image for a seminar listing the instructor’s main accomplishments?

Here on this flyer for a seminar for my friend Adam we see an example of a Jiu Jitsu resume listed below all the other important details
Here on this flyer for a seminar for my friend Adam we see an example of a Jiu Jitsu resume listed below all the other important event details

 

Even world champions like Lucas Lepri still list out their major accomplishments.
Even world champions like Lucas Lepri still list out their major accomplishments.

Yeah, that’s another example of a Jiu Jitsu resume.

In the past, the tournament record keeping was not as cutting edge as the tournaments today where they keep track of your performance and rank you amongst your peers by the use of point systems.

Even now, there really is no way as of yet to aggregate all of the results from every tournament. Although websites like BJJ Heroes does make a good attempt at keeping track of the major tournaments results and the black belt athletes that participate in them. But the performance of lower belt athletes and competitions outside of the major tournaments are not accounted for often.

So that means that it will be up to you to keep track of your own records. Luckily it’s pretty easy.

Who needs a Jiu Jitsu Resume?

You would think that only aspiring and professional Jiu Jitsu athletes would need a Jiu Jitsu resume, but I believe that everyone should have a one.

If you are competing you will need to have a Jiu Jitsu resume.

If you have plans of teaching Jiu Jitsu or applying to positions looking for instructors you will need a Jiu Jitsu resume.

It’s as simple as that.

No only does it serve as a record of your past success. It’s also a valuable tool in showing yourself off as a great candidate for sponsorship, employment, etc. Especially, for younger athletes just entering the scene.

If you haven’t quite had the chance to make your name known. Having a Jiu Jitsu resume will be a great first introduction to showcase your skills and talents.

And as you progress, and get to the point that you are doing seminars. You will need that Jiu Jitsu resume to help promote and market yourself. People might not know who you are at first, but they will know the significance of many of the tournaments that you hopefully won or placed in. Even guys that have won multiple world titles still list their accomplishments. So it’s best to keep an accurate account of everything that you’ve done.

Even if your goals don’t include having a sponsor or doing seminars. Having a Jiu Jitsu resume is a good idea because it not only serves as a measure of the success that you’ve had overtime but also your progress.

I don’t look at my own Jiu Jitsu resume often, but when I do I’m able to look back in time to see my progress from a white belt competing in my local NAGA teen division all the way to my current achievements in the black belt division in many tournaments around the world.

Why do you need one?

I mentioned it before in the above section but a Jiu Jitsu resume is not just a resume. It has many uses:

  • Marketing Seminars
  • Landing Sponsors
  • Applying for Jiu Jitsu Teaching Positions
  • Record of your Tournament Success

How to set one up?

There are two main types of Jiu Jitsu resumes. One simple and easy to put together, and the second which is a lot more detailed.

Simple Resume

The simple Jiu Jitsu Resume is just that. It chronologically list your tournament wins from least current to current.

The basic layout of the simple Jiu Jitsu resume lists the tournament name, belt division, weight class, and placement of all the tournaments that you have competed in to date.

Tournament Name

I’ve seen a few different layouts, but the most common and the one that I use list the name of the tournament or if it’s a part of a larger organization, I will list the name of the organization first and then the specific tournament name.

Ex. IBJJF Pan Championship versus Pan Championship

Belt Division

After you’ve listed the tournament name, next up is listing your belt division. This is an important part that many athletes purposely leave off in order to make themselves look better but can come off as a red flag for anyone with any knowledge of the tournament circuit.

For example listing that you are a Pan champion while if true, is not as prestigious when you did so in the white belt division. I even suggest that black belts should list out their belt divisions so that there are no questions. This also serves to spotlight anyone who just mentions the tournament but not which division that they placed in, and automatically makes me want to look deeper into their background.

Weight Class

The weight class is pretty self explanatory. Most tournaments use predefined names for their weight classes such as feather weight, light weight, ultra heavyweight, etc. While others will just list out the weight in kilograms or less commonly pounds.

Placement

Only list tournaments that you’ve placed in. Some athletes will only list whether they were the champion or vice-champion, but I usually stick to the traditional 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place numbering convention.

Miscellaneous

I would also include any tournaments outside of adult level divisions. So if you’ve placed in a masters or juvenile division it is better to be more detailed in your listing than to leave anything to the imagination. Again, any discrepancies in your Jiu Jitsu resume can come off as a red flag and could potentially keep you from getting sponsored or landing that highly valued teaching position.

Be accurate

I can’t stress enough how important it is that your Jiu Jitsu resume is an accurate representation of yourself and your success. Only include tournaments that you’ve placed in and exactly in which divisions. Anything outside of that can come off as suspicious and is not good if you are going around teaching seminars or applying for instructor positions where you will be responsible for an academy and it’s students.

You see this happen a lot with those fake black belts that pop up ever so often. You might be able to fool a few unsuspecting students and even instructors, but eventually you will get found out. That is one thing that I really like about Jiu Jitsu. If someone comes off as sketchy or can’t support their claims as far as their lineage, who they trained under, the tournaments that they supposedly won. You can be sure that someone will notice and let it be known throughout the Jiu Jitsu community.

Keep it updated

Once you have the base format and all of your updated tournament information listed in a google document or a word doc all the hard work is done. Any new tournaments can be added at your leisure or whenever it pops in your head. In fact, I probably open my Jiu Jitsu resume 2-3 times a year to update it. Which only takes a few minutes.

I think the hardest part will be listing earlier tournaments and making sure that you don’t overlook anything. Especially if you’ve been competing for a long time but haven’t kept any records. That might take some investigating on your part.

Detailed Resume

A detailed Jiu Jitsu resume will probably only be useful for those looking to apply for Jiu Jitsu instructor positions. In this regard it is very similar to a traditional resume in the U.S.

It’s focus is less about your competition success, although I would include any major titles. It’s more about your teaching experience and other credentials.

Conclusion

I believe everyone should have a Jiu Jitsu resume if you plan on competing, getting sponsored or teaching Jiu Jitsu.

Not only will it serve as a great introduction as to who you are and what you’ve done, but it will also allow you to keep track of your progress and show where you came from. Because no one else will do it for you.

 

P.S. If you would like to learn more about Jiu Jitsu resumes and other important topics concerning Jiu Jitsu athletes please join my weekly email newsletter for more up to date information.

Losing

This is a topic that’s hard for many athletes to talk about it.

We put so much hard work into achieving our goals but sometimes we end up falling short.

I’ve seen people handle losing in different ways. The humble ones are able to acknowledge their loss(es) and learn from their mistakes which I think is the best possible action. While others might not handle losing so well.

Rio 2016

If you were watching the 2016 Olympics in Rio, there was a lot of controversy over an Egyptian judo athlete refusing the shake the hand of an Israeli athlete after losing in their match. While there are obvious political and religious factors at play. Which I will not touch on. I’ve seen this behavior a few times even absent those factors.

I don’t know what causes athletes to act so unsportsmanlike or maybe sportsmanship is more dependent upon the individual athlete and their values and attitudes. But I think we can all recognize bad sportsmanship when we see it such as in the case above.

I’m not going to talk about the numerous reasons why losing occurs but instead I’m going to focus on how we all can better handle dealing with losing.

Losing is something that I have personally experienced during my career in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

It kind of sucks writing about it but it’s true.
I will say that there are times when losing and having the right mindset can drive you to achieve more. But without the proper mindset, it can become a pit of despair and really hinder your growth and potential.

I’m going to draw from my own personal experience for a bit.

My Past

I received my purple belt during my first year of college. This also coincided with a well know World Champion moving to my academy. I had everything that I needed to succeed. I had great training partners that were a lot better than me, I had the best instructors in the world, and I had all the time in the world to train in between attending my college classes. You would think that I would start tearing up the competition circuit.

But I didn’t. In fact, I lost my first campaign at purple belt, losing my first match at the World Championship that year. I don’t remember if I was down or not, but I do remember being really frustrated. So, I went back home and decided to train harder.

The next year I had a little bit more success than the previous year. I even made it to the finals of the world championship this time. But again, I didn’t come out on top.

It took me three long years at purple belt before I was able to win at the major tournaments like pans and worlds. During that time I trained my ass off and competed as much as I could.

But if I never lost during those earlier years I’m not sure if I would have stuck with Jiu Jitsu and be where I am now. My losses forced me to focus even more on my technique, train harder and smarter, and to continue competing. Losing really is a learning experience but it’s up to the individual in how they handle their losses and move forward from there.

Current favorite athlete to follow

One of my favorite athletes to follow right now is Tammi Musumeci because she writes a lot about her experiences on and off the mats and she doesn’t sugarcoat her life. It’s really refreshing to get that level of insight into the inner workings of a high level competitor and how she deals with the same emotions that we’ve all experienced.

Namely, dealing with setbacks, the expectations, and the obstacles that athletes face in trying to make it to the top. I think we often put our favorite athletes and competitors on a pedestal. We admire their victories and personalities but we often don’t understand the time and the amount effort that it took to get them to that point.

But what about those people that don’t handle losing well?

I believe the people that have the hardest time dealing with loss are those whose entire identities are completely tied to Jiu Jitsu and how well they do in competitions, rolling in the academy, etc.

When they’re winning they feel great. As anyone would. But when they are faced with a setback, or loss, then a lot of times they don’t know how to handle it.

I’ve seen this a lot with students that were considered really talented. Jiu Jitsu came easy to them and they didn’t have to work hard to improve initially. But when it was no longer easy or when they lost to someone with the same amount of experience or less, but considered less talented or gifted. Their first action was often to just quit. That’s why it’s important to have instructors and higher belts to help encourage students through these rough periods.

Higher belt duties

It’s easy to let these students fall off and quit than to actually help them. But from the standpoint of a martial arts business owner, an instructor, and a student. You are losing out on an important part of your academy.

Jiu Jitsu is a people business. Not only are you training their body but you are also developing them. Molding them into something more than what they were when they first began their journey. But if you just let them walk out, not only are you missing out on a client that sustains your business, but also a precious student to pass your knowledge on to, and a valuable training partner.

I remember when I was a brown belt and being one of the best prospects to do well in the 2011 world championship. I felt great going into this tournament and was tearing up the competitions leading up to the event. But I didn’t win. In fact, I didn’t even place.

When I got back home I was so angry and down on myself. I was even bringing my emotions into my training and being an asshole to many of my training partners. I feel like I could have easily continued down this path until something bad would have happened. If it wasn’t for my friend Chris reaching out to me, I might have quit doing Jiu Jitsu.

Chris is someone that I’ve always looked up to and was the top guy in our academy but I’m sure he had been in the same position as me at some point during his competition career. Everyone that competes a lot, or wishes to compete is going to experience loss. We are pretty much courting defeat.

I was lucky enough to have Chris to help me get through this at an important part of my development and it shows the power that a higher belt can have in helping junior students struggling.

That’s why I now make it a point to help lower belts whenever I can, either in person or through my writing and videos. You never truly know what impact your words and actions will have on others. So, let it be for the better.

Asian Influence

This is something that I gleaned from Asian (Japanese) culture that seems lost to us in the U.S. Of course we have respect for elders and those more experienced than ourselves. We have that part down, but the part that we seem to lack is the emphasis of senior students and instructors looking after the well being of the junior students.

In Japan, this is considered the sensei-sempai-kohai relationship. The sensi being the instructor or teacher. The sempai being the older, more experienced student and the Kohai the younger, less experienced student.

Don’t get me wrong. Some academies have a similar setup but it’s not built into the framework of Jiu Jitsu like how we show respect for our training partners before sparring with the fist bump and slap.

I would like to see a greater emphasis from Jiu Jitsu and martial arts instructors in promoting their students in going out of their way to help the lesser experienced students. Of course make sure that they get their technique down and train hard, but to also to take an interest in them personally and their wellbeing as well. As I said above, Jiu Jitsu is a people business.

Development

I remember when I was just the Jiu Jitsu guy. I knew a lot techniques and I did well at tournaments but outside that I really didn’t have any other life experiences or knowledge outside the mats. No one was going to ask me for relationship advice, or my opinion on business matters or anything for that matter.

Now, imagine all you’re good at is one thing and you lose or fail in that one thing.

I hated that feeling.

When you limit yourself to only being good at Jiu Jitsu. Then, what are you left with when you’re not good at Jiu Jitsu either due to circumstance or injury?

I’ve known so many great Jiu Jitsu instructors and competitors over the years that simply got by because they were good at Jiu Jitsu and surrounded themselves with people that looked up to them and only told them what they wanted to hear because they were a black belt world champions.

But there’s no balance in that.

Develop yourself outside Jiu Jitsu

because it’s so important to develop yourself outside of Jiu Jitsu, outside of your career, or your family. Because you need to be more than that, because you are more than that.

Develop other interest, have some skills that you can hone that doesn’t involve Jiu Jitsu or that utilizes your Jiu Jitsu in an entrepreneurial way. Jiu Jitsu is a great martial art. But it’s also a great tool that you can use to better and improve yourself.

For me going to college, traveling, and working in business helped give me a sense of purpose that didn’t revolve around me being good at Jiu Jitsu. There will come a time when we will no longer be able to compete at the highest levels or when other obligations will side track us. That’s when you will be happy that you have other skill sets.

Let go

Learn to let go of your losses. There’s so many things that can cause you to not perform to your best such as:

  • Not feeling well
  • Bad weight cut
  • Opponent had a better day
  • Bad refereeing
  • Wrong gi

There will always be factors that get in your way and sometimes it does temporarily block your progress. At that point it’s up to you to learn from your losses and try to fix whatever might have caused you to not perform at your best.

Even after all of that, sometimes you still won’t be where you want to be and that’s okay. It’s okay to not win every match, it’s okay to be nervous, it’s okay to be the underdog. As long as you’re able to get back on your feet and try again with even more focus and effort, I know you will be alright.

Surviving in Jiu Jitsu

Listen, there is no way to survive in Jiu Jitsu without experiencing loss. Starting out you will be losing to everyone in your academy. That’s just the way that it is, but if you stick it out you will improve and get better.

I think at the colored belt level is when thoughts of losing, or overcoming loss becomes harder. We let our egos get in the way of our development.

I’ve talked about this before in the white belt mindset that white belts are more free in this regard because there really are no expectations for them. Any small victory is a step in the right direction. Every set back a lesson.

But like any skill. The white belt mindset can be developed and honed for any imaginable task.

Martial arts is about being more and gives you the tools to be more. I promise you that after a few weeks, months, and years from now you won’t remember the majority of your losses and setbacks.

In fact, those that you do remember you might begin to think of fondly as the point in time that you decided to rededicate yourself to your training, or as the event that you needed to overcome in order to improve.

Every loss is a lesson

When dealing with losing it’s best to learn whatever you can from the experience and then move on. Keep developing yourself outside of Jiu Jitsu and help others whenever you can. Even a few words could keep someone from completely quitting Jiu Jitsu.

Every loss is a lesson but it’s up to you to figure out what you need to learn from the experience.

Modern Sponsorships

I was recently introduced to a newer Brazilian Jiu Jitsu brand called Enois. Founded by David Telfer who trains out of Robot Fight and Fitness in Santa Monica.

I already have a long running relationship with a well know brand but I was happy to promote some athletes that I knew would be great brand ambassadors.

Between contacting all the athletes, writing recommendation letters, and trying to gauge their interest in being sponsored.

I realized that there was a lot of confusion as far as what they would get, what all they had to do, etc.

Modern sponsorships in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a confusing topic.

Everyone wants to be sponsored.

But not a lot of people know how it works. Not many athletes have written about it for whatever reasons.

When most people think of sponsorships they often relate it to the huge endorsement deals that athletes in the popular sports get.

Sports such as football, baseball, and basketball here in the U.S. Soccer(football) for my international folks.

While Jiu Jitsu sponsorships are not quite as lucrative. I can assure you that the top guys in our sport are making bank.

There are a lot of different types of sponsorships. Many that I will talk about later in this post.

I just want you to remember that the guys/girls getting sponsored are not all athletes that compete every weekend or placed at the big tournaments.

Some own schools.

Some work full-time.

Some have a large social media following and are always posting on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.

I think I will write a post detailing what I’ve done to get sponsored and maintain my relationships with my sponsors over the years but for now let’s focus on the different types of sponsors.

Types of Sponsorships

Most sponsorships can be broken down into 2 or 3 different groups with lots of overlap. Within the different types there are also different tiers. These tiers are determined by the level of the athletes.

Lower tier athletes are generally lower belts (often blue belts and purple belts) competitors or non-competitors. Not well known or only known locally.

Middle tier athletes can be any level but are generally brown belts and black belts. More well known. Probably have a highlight video or two. Somewhat known throughout the Jiu Jitsu community.

Higher tier athletes are high level competitors. Often appearing on magazines and other branding. They need no introduction. They are widely known throughout the Jiu Jitsu community.

  • Lower Tier – Gear
  • Middle Tier – Gear, Tournament Entry
  • Higher Tier – Gear, Tournament Entry, Monetary Compensation

Gear Sponsorship

This is the first level of sponsorship that most competitors will receive.

In fact my very first sponsor was exactly like this. I won’t mention the name of the brand. But they managed to supply me with the defective gear that they probably weren’t able to sale.

I didn’t stay sponsored by them for long.

Gear sponsorships generally involve the exchange of clothing or training gear in return for advertisement at local events, tournaments and online.

The biggest brands have mastered this really well. All they have to do is release a few different items every year and people will proudly purchase without much selling.

The gear package can include everything from t-shirts, rash guards, kimonos,belts, hats, etc.

Usually there is no exchange of money, especially for lower belts and lesser known athletes.

Luckily many of the popular brands don’t have a stipulation on you selling your gear once you receive it.

I know a lot of competitors that never take their sponsored gear out of the plastic wrapping. Instead choosing to sell to the highest bidder. Usually for a large profit.

While others might only wear their sponsored items for tournaments and then sell their stuff later to pay their rent or for tickets to the next competition.

The more well known you become.

The more followers you have on social media.

The more success in tournaments that you achieve. The faster you will move up on the sponsorship ladder.

I’m sure you have seen a few lower tiered athletes on Facebook. While they are technically sponsored they also have to put in more work. Usually by posting on social media a few times a week. Plugging coupon codes and notifying all their followers and friends sales.

For example many sponsors will require that you post on social media with the sponsors hashtag at least once a week. Wear their gear at all competitions. Wear their gear for certain events. And even train in their gear.

Everyone has to start somewhere.

Entry Fee Sponsorship

As you move up in sponsorship level. The more you receive from sponsors. More perks, more gear, more connections.

Once you get to the point that your sponsor is covering or reimbursing you for tournament entry fees. Then you are are already near the top of most Jiu Jitsu athletes.

I have entry fee coverage listed as a middle tier level of sponsorship for very active and successful competitors.

But it’s still a large step in the right direction.

Think about it for a second.

You are getting paid to compete. Paid!

Most people fork over their hard earned money for tournaments without the hope of prizes or rewards.

Up and coming athletes on this level can have anywhere between one or two of their tournament registration fees covered.

Again the more well known. The more popular. The more marketable you are. The more tournaments you can possibly have covered.

This is big with sponsors because you will be able to compete more frequently. Promoting their brand to even more potential new customers.

This is true now with the different video streaming companies. They are able to reach tens of thousands of customers.

This is great for sales.

Especially when their athletes do well while wearing their gear.

Most sponsorships are the same when it comes to covering the entrance fee to tournaments.

This system generally works on a reimbursement scale. So the athlete might have to pay for the tournament(s) out of pocket initially. Then later be reimbursed either a few weeks after the tournament or towards the end of their competition season.

There might be some stipulations on what tournaments and the number of tournaments that the sponsor will cover.

For instance, most of the big companies will only cover the major tournaments. Such as IBJJF, Abu Dhabi Pro, etc.

While some of the smaller companies might cover only local tournaments.

You will know before hand what types of companies that your sponsor will cover. If you sign an agreement. It will be clearly outlined for you.

Monetary Sponsor

Monetary sponsorships are the highest tier level of sponsorships in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The athletes at this level are often full-time brown belts and black belts competitors that make their living through Jiu Jitsu.

Many of the top competitors for big name brands receive monetary sponsorships. Especially if you see them on magazine ads and other marketing items all the time.

This form of sponsorships can take on many different forms depending on the success of the athlete.

Their fan base.

Their ability to draw customers.

Their story.

All of these determine how much a sponsor is willing to pay you.

This is why some sponsor brands might have one or two star athletes. They know these guys have huge followings. Which means more sales when they win.

Monetary sponsorships can include: monthly stipends, tournament fee coverage, win bonuses, kimonos, clothing, custom branding like an athlete specific design.

Monetary sponsorships can be further divided into two tiers. Higher and lower tiers.

Lower Tier

On the lower tier of monetary sponsorships is the win bonus. At this level the athletes only receive compensation if they win or place at major tournaments like pans and worlds.

The amount of compensation is predetermined but can range anywhere between a few hundred dollars to a few thousands dollars.

Outside of this, lower tiered athletes often will not receive any other form of direct compensation.

Higher Tier

Higher tiered monetary sponsorships are a whole other level. This is where you will find many of the top guys. The multiple time world champions and the most marketable athletes in our sport.

At this level athletes are getting paid relatively large sums of money just for endorsing a particular company.  Usually in the form of a monthly stipend. Sometimes including a generous win bonus option.

The monthly stipends amounts very largely.

I know of some guys that make a few hundred dollars a month from their sponsors.

I’ve heard of some top guys that make a few thousand dollars a month just from sponsors alone.

Enough to cover their living expenses so that they can dedicate themselves completely to their training.

A small part of difference could be a world title or absolute title. But I think a lot of athletes underestimate just how much their personality and their story affects how much sponsors will shell out for you.

I’ve covered a lot in this post. But this is really important stuff. Especially for newer athletes that want to make competitive Jiu Jitsu their career.

I mentioned a few times how a lot of what you get through your sponsor will be predetermined.

That’s because most serious sponsors will have you sign an agreement. As in legally binding agreement.

While there are ways around an agreement. If you do sign one you are committing your image. Your personal brand. To the use and benefit of the sponsoring company.

These agreements can often last from one year to multiple years.

If nothing else I hope this post helps inform and empower current and future athletes like you to understand what goes behind being sponsored.

Is it cool to be sponsored?

Yes. Depending on the brand.

If you like the sponsor company and everything check outs. Meaning you are happy with the terms. I say go for it!

But if you don’t believe in the brand or are just going along with them so that they will sponsor you. I say it’s better to turn down their offer. It will be in the best interest for both parties. You will leave yourself open for a company that is a better fit and you will be a lot happier.