On Homecoming and Belonging

Believing in our dreams is important — you chose to be Jiu Jitsu teachers, you chose to have an academy, you chose to be part of our team and our family — and the question I always ask myself is: how can we make this better? How can we really make this dream come true — for all of you?

I am very thankful to Master Jacaré and Gigi for their partnership and the trust they instilled in me so I could share my ideas and put Alliance in a place where it should be. I feel really proud to have been on this path together for some many years. That’s not to say we didn’t have our arguments and problems, but above everything we believe in the same ideal. Having that sense that we are working towards something so much bigger than just ourselves, diminishes any arguments or misunderstandings we have. The overall feeling in which we do anything is one of love and respect, and above all else we have this sense of family.

What matters to us is how we can help you make your story your own, and how we can help you construct your dream. When I thought about this, I remembered the message I had when I started to persue my own dream. I had decided I wanted to live off Jiu Jitsu when I was 15-years-old. I started training when I was between 13-14 years-old; at 15-years-old I started to help Jacaré with various classes like the beginners and kids etc,. I liked it so much, I knew I wanted to do that for the rest of my life.

In a conversation between my dad and my older brother (4 years older and at that time at University) my dad asked my brother what he wanted to do, what were his plans? They were chatting and I was next to them, my dad turned to me and said,

“What about you?”

“What do you want to do when you’re older?”

I immediately replied, “Jiu Jitsu.”

He said, “what!”

I said, “Jiu Jitsu.”

If you talk about Jiu Jitsu today people still think about what it was like 30 years ago, there wasn’t much of a market for Jiu Jitsu, but my dad said this…

“Do you know the size of this market?”

I said… “No”

He said, “it’s tiny — the size of that market is very small, which means the following: you’re going to have to be really good to be able to live off Jiu Jitsu. Do you think you can be really good? enough to exist in a market where only very few can live.”

Being naive aged 15, I said, “of course I can,” and this stayed in my head. My whole life I was certain I wanted to life off Jiu Jitsu and I had that message in my head that I would have to be really good. I would have to be different to others. I would have to work more, dedicate myself more, train more, win more competitions.

In different phases of your life, you have different objectives and my objective was to be world champion, whether that was a blue belt, purple belt or whatever. This discipline that exists to be able to achieve those things is something that never dies. But my focus isn’t to be champion anymore, my focus is to make Alliance the best team in history. I want to help you create the best possible academies, ones where you treat your students better than anyone. I want every one of you to understand that message and for your students to receive the best service in the world. That is my mission. If we were to look at the market we have for Jiu Jitsu, it is infinitely bigger than what it was 35 years ago. When I was a 15 years-old boy, I believed in that market. So, I really believe we have to be the protagonist of our own story, we have to make these things happen.

And here we come to a theme that is intrinsically wrapped up in Jiu Jitsu: The feeling of Belonging. 

I have this routine in my life at the moment. Every day, I wake at 6.30am, I do my weight training from 7-8am and from 8.30 – 9.30am I read. This last year, I read 25 books and for the coming year, my goal is 50 books —  what happens with this?

With all this reading, a few things have stuck in my mind. One of the books I read (a recommendation from one of our affiliates in the USA) was called “Tribe.” It’s about the power of belonging, which has everything to do with what we do. I remember when I was a boy and I was competing, I was so much prouder winning for my academy than I was for myself. Obviously, it was great to be world champion, but really, I felt much prouder winning for others — for my teachers, my training partners, for my team — that feeling of belonging is what allowed me to be here today because I really am part of that. So, what does it mean to “be part of something?”

It means that you really believe in what you do, in the people by your side — you fight for them and this gives you infinite satisfaction. We’re here amongst our huge family, but when you stop and really ask, what are you doing for the colleague next to you? how much are you doing for the group as a whole? this is what it means to be “part of something.” This has an immeasurable return. Normally people look only to themselves which is an ego trip the whole time.

There’s another great book I want to recommend called “Ego is the enemy” by Ryan Holliday, it’s very good and it’s exactly this idea I want to communicate to you: move away from the ego because that won’t take you anywhere, it will get you no further than page 2, but after that you will need people by your side and it’s much better when you have people by your side. If you win you’ll have people who will celebrate with you and if you lose, they’ll help you get up again, so “being part of something” is perhaps one of the most important things to being human.

As humans, we have a strong instinct to be part of groups — in its essence this is what it means to be human. If you were to categorise the necessities of being human “belonging” would be in the top 3. There are the obvious necessities like food and water, but we also have the need to belong to something, it’s a constant search —  it’s difficult to find happiness without this.

In reality, we are very lucky to be part of something, and consequently for our students to be part of something. I’m saying this because the question is really: how can I replicate this for my students? How can my student have the same feeling? How can I help my student understand the importance that Jacaré has for me?

I could easily say “it’s all me.” I could easily say “I’m the man,”but there was someone responsible for creating that person. You become much greater when you do that, it isn’t the opposite; when you try and attribute everything to your own doing, you become smaller — we have to understand that we must share knowledge, that we must walk together, that we’re a team, a family, that we’re part of something.

Coming back to this book “Tribe” by Sebastian Junger, he gives some really interesting examples,

One of which is War Veterans. What’s the biggest problem we see in a war veteran when he returns to society?

The problem is he will never have that same relationship he had during the war in the trenches with his comrades. That connection that comes from life and death situations, when one person relies on the other, he can never replicate that in normal life. People in the military who go to war and really have that experience, can never find it again, even with close family. People that go to war know that feeling of being “together” which is what we try and do. When you go to a competition, you’re fighting for your training partners. The strength that comes from unity creates this sense of belonging, which is really strong.

Your students are not obligated to compete, but if you can create this feeling of belonging in your student, he will be much happier — he will have more meaning in his life, and consequently he’ll spread this feeling to all his training partners in the academy.

We have this connection naturally, because we participate in a fighting sport, we kind of  go to “war” all the time. Another interesting fact…

Throughout the indigenous reserves in the USA there’s an exchange that often happens — some people go and live on these reserves who are not indigenous, and the opposite happens where some leave the reserves for the city. People that go and live with the tribe, don’t return to the city, but those that leave the tribe for the city, 80% return simply because they lost that sense of belonging, they lost that feeling of being in a tribe — of being in a community, which is what “being part of” means.

It’s this feeling that I want you to have, it’s the feeling that I have, it’s the feeling I want your students to have and like I said before, this is immeasurable. People need to be part of what we believe in.

In order for this to happen, there are obviously various factors that need to happen. Your work needs to be good, the service you deliver needs to be good, everyone needs to come together, your daily work as a teacher in your academy. It’s not much different. We just have to have this in our head as the message we want to pass on to our students.

Loyalty, belonging, and an eternal search for meaning these are our main searches as humans — this is the mental trigger for all humans — we have to help our students understand this, and in order for them to understand you also have to be part, you can’t replicate something that is a lie.

As I said before, if I can’t replicate what I have with my teacher, what kind of relationship can they have? It stops there with me.

We have to have this sense of community and we have to replicate this for all of our students.


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