Personality and Social Media

Now more than ever, social media is a tool that allows you to promote yourself directly to sponsor companies, your fans, and the larger Jiu Jitsu community.

Being good on the mat is no longer enough.

If you’re not regularly posting on social media and building your own “brand” then you’re doing yourself a big disservice.

Winning and competing are only parts of the equation. It’s what happens afterwards that’s important. When your fame starts to spread, and being able to translate that success into sponsorships, private lessons, seminars, product creation, etc.

In the past, your accolades alone would speak for themselves.

But now you have to actively work to stay relevant and in the public eye. You see this with many of the top competitors today. They’re investing hours every week in crafting their posts and videos. In addition to their training.

Even if you don’t compete or have aspirations of being a world champion. It’s important to realize that you have something to offer. Maybe your unique experience will relate better to the average Jiu Jitsu practitioner or maybe you have great insight into a particular topic that people want to hear your opinion on.

Whatever the case, there really are no rules. There is no wrong or right way to go about handling your social media. It’s something that you will have to cultivate consistently and try to bring value to your fans.

By building up your brand and gaining more followers. You become more attractive to sponsor companies, professional events, and the major Jiu Jitsu news sites. And from there it grows upon itself much like a snowball rolling down a mountain covered in snow. It might start off small and take a lot of time, but it has the potential to grow into something much more.

From a business perspective. If I were choosing between two athletes with similar competition resumes to represent my company. It makes more logical sense to pick the athlete with the bigger, higher quality social media following. That athlete is going to have more influence over his fans. Who are more likely to buy when that athlete endorses my product.

So don’t wait for sponsors to come looking for you. It’s much better to be proactive and start putting in the work now building your follower count and a large portfolio of content. Eventually, sponsor companies will see you rising up and decide to keep their eyes on you or they might even make you an offer to join their sponsor program.

“If you build it, they will come”

Personality Sells

I won’t lie. You do need to have some personality if you want people to follow you. It doesn’t matter the platform. You’re going to have to interact with people.

People like someone that they can relate to.

Someone that they look up to.

Someone that they could hang out with after training.

That means that if you’re extremely socially awkward. You have to be even more social and outgoing. Being cordial in communication and not coming off like an asshole.

I’ve seen this so often that I have to include this. Just because you’re good at Jiu Jitsu doesn’t mean that you can treat people poorly. Especially, your fans (online and offline).

Controversy Sells

If you’re on social media now, you know that there are two major schools of thought on promoting yourself online.

One is more old school. Let your results speak for themselves.

The other has existed forever but it comes in and out of style. This is the outlook that you see with younger athletes, where they make a scene by calling out more well known (and credentialed) competitors in order to promote themselves through that competitors fans and followers.

It doesn’t even matter if they compete against each other or not. More people become interested in the challenging athlete and begin to follow them in order to keep watching their antics and to see what they will do next.

I can’t deny that controversy does sell, but whatever you say or post online. Just know that you should be prepared to back it up. If you call someone out and they accept your challenge. You’re going to have to go through with the match.

The more success in tournaments that you achieve.

The more well known you become.

The more followers you get on social media.

The faster you will gain access to high profile events, sponsorships, and seminars.

Putting in work

Being sponsored isn’t just about getting free gear, doing cool interviews, and being on magazines. At the end of the day, you are promoting a company and its brand.

I’m sure you have seen sponsored athletes on Facebook. Commonly, you will see them posting on social media plugging a coupon code or special hashtag. Notifying all their followers and friends on sales and discounts from their sponsor company.

In fact, many sponsors will require that you post on social media with their hashtag at least once a week. Wear their gear in all of your photos and most competition events.

Next major consumer holiday, just keep an eye out for the onslaught of athlete posts pushing their discounts.

Again, the more followers you have. The more influence you’ll have in getting your fans to purchase from your sponsor. For example, If you have 100,000 followers you could be potentially driving tens of thousands of dollars worth of sales. Just from one post.

Now think about all the different ways that you could monetize your social media following.

Crazy right?

The game is always changing. But if you take just one thing from this post it should be that you have so much potential now.

It might take a while to find your outlet and your target demographic. But once you do, your imagination is your limit.

Guard Development

I was watching my friend Jon Thomas teach a class while training at his academy in Gothenburg, Sweden.

For those of you who don’t know Jon. He has one of the best spider guards in all of Jiu Jitsu. So much so that he got the nickname “macarrao” which means spaghetti in Portuguese.

Partly because of his red hair but mostly because of his awesome ability to recompose his guard by utilizing his feet in even the smallest of spaces.

So I’m just observing the class.

It was a small class but those are sometimes the best because you have your instructors’ full attention.

Any way, the students were reviewing spider guard and the different situations that arise when you play that type of guard.

It was at that moment when I came to the realization that playing guard isn’t easy.

You have to know all the possible outcomes that can occur.

All of the defenses.

All of the attacks.

Developing a good guard is no easy task.

In the beginning, you get passed a lot. There’s just no other way. You don’t have the coordination or the experience yet.

And I think a lot of people become afraid.

They become afraid of having their guard passed and being crushed on bottom or being put into an even worse position.

From Giving feedback:

Getting feedback from training partners and instructors is an important aspect in the life of a martial artist. Feedback is how we correct holes in our games. Feedback is how we help our training partners get better. Feedback keeps us honest and humble.

Guard development usually begins in earnest at the blue belt level but I’m starting to witness more and more people putting off developing their guards until higher belt levels. Much to their own disservice. And it’s this observation that I want to focus on in this post.

I’ve been there before as well.

When I was a blue belt I didn’t have a guard. I was okay on top. Tough and athletic.

But if I was on bottom. It was only a matter of time before a decent passer would slide through my guard like a hot knife through butter.

My solution at the time?

I couldn’t get my guard passed if I turtled.

And this strategy worked for a while. At least until I went up against someone with really good back control or someone bigger that could stop me from rolling to turtle.

So I didn’t really solve my problem of not having a guard. I just kept putting it off.

Listen.

No matter how good you are on top. If you don’t have a comparatively good bottom guard. You will never be able to tap into your true potential.

It’s not a coincidence that the best guard passers in the world also have good guards.

Leandro Lo

Rafa Mendes

Lucas Lepri

Etc

Having confidence in your guard makes your passing that much better. You can commit 100% of your focus on passing and if your opponent manages to sweep you. It’s okay.

But if you don’t have that duality. Being good on top and bottom. Then the fear of being swept or just the fear of playing on bottom will always be in that back of your head and it will cause you to hesitate. Especially when you go up against a tough guard player.

There is no right or wrong here, but I believe that if you want to be good at Jiu Jitsu. Whether or not that includes competing. You will need to develop a workable guard and the earlier you start to build that foundation up, the better off you will be in the long run.

It’s better to put in the ground work now (at lower belts) than to have to address your guard game at a higher belt. Because at that point you will be far behind your peers.

Body type

Your body type will play a major role in your guard development.

Your body type won’t limit the guard(s) you will play but it will determine which guards you will be able to do easily.

Much like an IQ test.

Your body type represents your potential to play certain guards and not your actual success in playing those guards.

EX. Short guys that play spider guards or tall guys that play butterfly.

A useful guide is to find a competitor, higher belt, or an instructor with the same or similar body type as you and study their game. Then try to add elements of their style to your own game.

Flexibility

Flexibility is an often overlooked factor in the development of a guard. A common misconception is that you have to be flexible to play guard.

While this is not the case. Being flexible does make playing guard easier.

With flexibility, you will be able to get into the right positions faster and have more strength in those positions.

Even if you’re not naturally flexible you can work on it and after a few sessions it will payoff.

Constant Study

This is more for advanced guard players.

Jiu Jitsu is constantly evolving so you will need to keep updating your toolset/guard game.

If you get to the point where the majority of your training partners cannot pass your guard. Then that is a sign that you need to start developing the other aspects of your guard.

If you have a great half guard. Maybe try working on closed guard or an open guard.

But if you find that everyone you roll with gives you a hard time when you play on bottom or everyone passes your guard. Then you will need to invest more time and effort in studying the bottom game.

Studying can mean watching competition footage of really good guard players.

Studying could be taking a private lesson.

Studying could be meeting a few times a week with a partner to positional spar with you solely focusing on your bottom game.

Whatever the case, Jiu Jitsu is very democratic. You get back what you put into it.

Mindful Practice

If you want to develop an effective guard you’re going to have to put in the work.

Even if you have the best instructors and training partners in the world, and access to private lessons and online tools.

That can only take you so far.

Eventually, there will come a time when your instructor will no longer have to hold your hands through techniques and instead become more of a motivator and mentor.

When that time comes, it will be up to you to take charge of your training.

You will have to take the initiative in learning new positions.

You will have to decide what techniques you will need to improve upon.

You will have to push yourself in creating a game unique to yourself.

Very much like a role playing game (rpg), the more time and energy that you invest in your Jiu Jitsu the quicker you will be able to level up and learn other skills.

Developing your own guard game

The ultimate expression of Jiu Jitsu is the creation of your own style.

Only you will be able to master your unique body type.

From my own personal experience. I was only able start developing my own guard game when I acknowledge that my guard was a weakness of mine. Then I had to make the conscious decision to actively work on it.

Even if it meant starting on bottom or pulling guard.

Of course, I got my guard passed a lot.

But I was able to work my side mount escapes and my guard recomposing. Eventually being able to hold better guard positions and advance from there.

Martial Arts Business Blunders

I had a really cool article about guard development that I was really excited to post.

But sometimes things happen or events occur that warrant me addressing them.

If you guys know me in real life. I make it a point to talk to and to keep in contact with the owners of the academies that I meet.

Even if it’s just in passing. You can learn a lot about the martial arts business from the ones that are savvy.

It’s no secret why they are successful. You can see it in their mindset and how they approach challenges.

So when they’re excited about another year of member growth or they expanded into a new location. It’s really no surprise.

But I’ve come into contact with a few academies that seem to be making blunder after blunder.

Even more well established academies that have been open for decades are making blunders that are mainly due to a lack of basic business principles.

Making mistakes isn’t bad. It’s not learning from them and continuing to do same things that is the problem.

When you’re in the martial arts business or any business really, you can’t afford to make blunders.

I’ve recently taken up playing chess. I completely suck (right now) but it’s crazy how you can relate that game back to the business aspects of Jiu Jitsu.

For those of you not avid players. In the chess world a blunder is considered:

“a very bad move. It is usually caused by some tactical oversight, whether from time trouble, overconfidence or carelessness.”

And I really want to emphasize the overconfidence and carelessness parts.

In a game like chess mistakes are expected. Especially during the beginning stages.

However, when you decide to enter into the martial arts business world. It’s very much like entering the black belt division.

If you have any major (or minor) holes in your game. They will be exposed for all to see.

And everyone is out to beat you. Even if it means hurting you to do so.

The same goes for the business side of Jiu Jitsu.

If you don’t have the right training.

You will suffer.

If you don’t have the right experience.

You will struggle.

When you’re the head of an academy you have a lot of people counting on your success.

Your family.

Your students.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen many martial arts academies not make it.

Not only does the owner feel like they let their family and their students down. But they often internalize those feelings which can lead to anxiety, depression, and a whole host of other bad stuff.

Common Blunders

Listen, you’re going to make mistakes over the course of managing your business.

Mistakes happen.

But you can’t afford to make mistake after mistake and hope to stay in business.

There’s just too much competition out there.

Pick the right location – it’s better to outgrow a location than it is to have a big academy right off the back.

Avoid the wrong instructor(s) – Find instructors that are a good fit and will represent your academy well.

Avoid joining the wrong associations – Join associations that make your business better and bring value.

Have the right credentials – If you don’t have the right credentials. You’re not a black belt (or soon to be promoted) or you haven’t differentiated yourself enough yet through tournaments, social media, etc. Then maybe you should hold off opening an academy until you have more experience. Otherwise you might do a disservice to yourself and actually limit your progression.

Investing back into your business – This is where I see a lot of academies drop the ball. You have to invest back into your academy.

Keep your academy looking good. Update your equipment and mats every few years.

Invest back into your students by bringing the right instructors.

Invest in your staff by making sure they get the right training that they need to be successful.

Academies are the center of the Jiu Jitsu community

The academy is the foundation of the Jiu Jitsu community.

It’s where student go to practice their techniques.

Where competitors go to sharpen their skills.

And where instructors go to master their craft.

Without successful academies their would be no Jiu Jitsu. It’s only through the success of academies, both small and large, that Jiu Jitsu will continue to grow.

Advice overload

I’ve spent a lot of time with the owners of academies throughout my career and I’ve seen that the ones that tend to struggle the most are often the same ones to turn down good advice or wise council.

It’s funny that in Jiu Jitsu we promote having no ego and being open minded.

But often these same people are less willing to take their own advice when it comes to business matters.

I’m not saying that you have to take every piece of advice to heart and that you have to implement right away.

That would be a terrible idea.

But you should keep an open mind when someone more experienced than yourself reaches out to you or when one of your students voice a good suggestion.

Feedback and how to filter

From Giving feedback:

Being receptive to feedback is an important part of Jiu Jitsu (business) because it is the only way that you will be able to improve.

Receiving Feedback
Actively listen. Respond and remember what is being said.
Say thanks. Regardless of whether the feedback is useful or not.
Evaluate feedback. Think about how you can effectively apply the feedback to grow your Jiu Jitsu (business).

These same steps can be used in receiving advice (aka feedback) on your marital arts business.

It’s telling that many of the best competitors and instructors are also some of the most receptive to feedback.

Jiu Jitsu and entrepreneurs

I’ve found that many of the business owners and entrepreneurs that I know love talking about their businesses and actively seek feedback and advice about their business.

That’s one way that I know that an academy owner will be successful.

It’s when I come across owners that still operate their business like it’s 1980’s Brazil or ones that consistently seem to struggle that I begin to worry.

Not everyone is cut out for it

I’ve said this before but just because you’re good at Jiu Jitsu doesn’t mean that you will be good at running a Jiu Jitsu business.

You could be a world champion.

Or the best instructor in the world.

And that alone would not be enough to ensure that your martial arts business will be a success.

That’s the hard, uncomfortable truth.

The most successful academies weren’t started by Jiu Jitsu practitioners alone.

In fact they started off as a partnership between a high level competitor or well known instructor and someone with a background in business and ample resources.

The Mendez brothers and RVCA founder PM Tenore.

Marcelo Garcia and chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin.

And many more well known academies that you have probably heard of.

Get help

It’s hard asking for help but if your martial arts business is struggling. You have to look at the big picture.

It’s better to get help now and save your business than to not get help and slowly let your business fail.

This might seem so illogical to many of my readers but I’ve witnessed first hand the decline of an academy.

It wasn’t pretty and completely avoidable.

Don’t be another statistic.

Even if your academy is doing well. Is there a way to take it to the next level?

By having the right people looking out for you like mentors, other business owners, and even knowledgeable students, you already have a competitive advantage.

But you will also need to be receptive to what they say. Even if it’s not what you want to hear.

No ego.