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  • When Can Someone Start To Teach Jiu Jitsu?

    About 10 years ago, there were many schools that were run by blue belts. Now, although it may sound insane to many of you, these blue belts were only running schools because they were in regions where there were literally no other belts around. The schools were small, so they didn’t have the funds to fly-in any high level instructors to stay and teach. They either had to travel to the nearest city with a qualified instructor or trust in the teachings of a blue belt. This practice still occurs today, generally in more remote regions. 

    There are many different levels of blue belts as well. Some blues have a very shallow knowledge base, only using a couple of techniques that work well for them, but there are also extremely ‘geeky’ blue belts that have a huge technical knowledge base but have not been able to practically apply all of them yet – that comes with time and practice. Sometimes they are able to teach these techniques that they themselves have not really used all that much. 

    After all these different scenarios, the question remains: When is someone ready to pass on jiu-jitsu knowledge? At what level should they do this? 

    The general consensus in the BJJ community has always been that at purple belt, you can begin to be an assistant instructor. For example, Kron Gracie was already teaching at his father’s school at purple belt. And although we are talking about a high-level practitioner in Kron, this is the general Gracie way of allowing practitioners to start teaching.

    Purple belt is also considered to be the beginning of “advanced” jiu-jitsu. Many years ago, when jiu-jitsu was a little less popular abroad, even in the United States, there weren’t even belt divisions – especially in no-gi. Divisions were divided by experience – beginner, intermediate, and advanced. These left the boundaries of what is considered to be “experienced” quite open. But generally, white belts would compete in beginner, blue belts would compete in intermediate, and purple, brown, and black belts would all be clumped together into advanced. Even in the earlier days of the Abu Dhabi World Pro, purple, brown, and black belts were all in one division. So this helps enforce the general consensus that purple is already advanced and thus can start teaching at gyms, and if there is a need in the community, they can open schools and teach beginners.

    The bottom line is that anyone with sufficient knowledge can really teach depending on the circumstances. BJJ needs to continue to grow. If a blue belt has to open a gym because there is no other choice, then so be it. It’s better to train than not to train at all. But as a general rule of thumb, it seems that purple belt is the more broadly accepted level where you can accept someone as a teacher (depending on your situation).

     

     

     

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  • Cool Match-ups To Look Forward To (Part 2)

    Rodolfo Vieira vs Keenan Cornelius (gi) 

    We’ve seen this match before at Copa Podio when Keenan was a brown belt. Rodolfo is known as one of the best guard passers in the game, but it took quite a bit of effort to pass Keenan’s guard to get the win. Now, a few years later, it will be interesting to see how they do against each other. Keenan is not only more experienced now, but he is also stronger and brings a variety of unique guard techniques to the competitive mats. 

    Surely Rodolfo is training to pass every guard possible, but it’s hard to find partners that can mimic someone like Keenan. Hopefully we can see this match in the absolute division in the world championships, and if not, it would be a great fight for a pro invitational competition.

     

    Gary Tonon vs AJ Agarzarm (no-gi) 

    Gary Tonon and AJ Agazarm are two of the top Americans in the game today, along with competitors like Rafael Lovato, JT Torres and Keenan Cornelius. What makes this match so great is that both these guys are about the same weight and both have been doing very well in their no-gi divisions. Tonon has been very active, recently fighting in several invitational tournaments in the USA, and AJ Agazarm has already won the world title. They are also very exciting fighters, so we wouldn’t expect a lot of the stalling you would usually see at the heavier weights. 

     

    Cobrinha vs Rafael Mendes (no-gi)

    One of the biggest rivalries in jiu-jitsu is between these two; Cobrinha, the ageless warrior, versus the phenom, Rafa Mendes. Ever since Rafa was young, he became Cobrinha’s biggest hindrance to enjoying many years of complete dominance in the featherweight division. This rivalry trickled into no-gi as well, but Cobrinha was always able to fare a bit better against Rafa. The matches between these two are so intense, that whether it’s gi or no-gi, there will always be fireworks. Rafa has already sealed his dominance in the gi  division with five world titles and armbarring Cobrinha at the Pan Ams. Nothing like this has happened in no-gi just yet, so it would be interesting to see what would happen now, especially with Cobrinha’s recent ADCC gold victory.

     

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  • Cool Match-ups To Look Forward To (Part 1)

    With most of the major tournaments this year at a close, most of us jiu-jitsu nerds start to think about the kinds of matches we will want to see either in the remainder of this year or in 2016. Looking at the results of the Worlds, Pan Ams, Metamoris, Copa Podio, Five, and Abu Dhabi events (ADCC, World Pro and Grand Slam), there are more than a few match-ups we can come up with that would be very entertaining going forward, both gi and no-gi. 

    Lucas Lepri vs Rafael Mendes (gi) 

    Even though Lepri is a category heavier than Rafa, it’s not a huge difference in weight. Both these guys are as technical as you can get, and it would be insane to see what happens if they were to square-off. Lepri brings an extremely heavy and well-balanced top game, which could be a big difficulty for Rafa who prefers to play bottom with his dela riva and berimbolo sweeps. As seen with someone like Augusto Mendes, it could be a problem. So the interesting thing would be to see how Rafa could overcome such a strong guard passer like Lepri. Rafa doesn’t do the absolute division and Lepri probably can’t and wouldn’t cut down in weight, so something like this would have to happen in a pro invitational tournament like Metamoris, Polaris, Copa Podio, or Five Super League.

    Erberth Santos vs Buchecha (gi) 

    Once upon a time, Buchecha used to be that young hungry guy that was going to come eat your lunch and take your world title if you weren’t careful enough. Surely enough he came and took it away from Rodolfo Vieira – who we all thought was unstoppable. Erberth Santos has the potential to be that bully in the absolute division. He is young, confident, and trains super hard. A Brazilian from Lloyd Irvin’s team who is full of energy - it would be very exciting to watch him square off against Buchecha, who is also very energetic. Both these guys are giants, so it’s always entertaining to watch them move like cats. Buchecha would definitely be the favorite, but it wouldn’t be a good match if there wasn’t that guy with the x-factor like Santos. Considering that they are in the same category, we could easily see this at the Worlds or Pan Ams next year. 

    Keenan Cornelius vs Felipe Pena (gi) 

    These two have already faced off at the World Pro, with Keenan just barely taking the win. These guys were made to fight each other. They are both similarly built, they are both hungry for the win, but their styles are different, which makes the match very interesting. While Cornelius is still the more unpredictable competitor, I think Pena will always keep him on his toes, so we will see Keenan go to his limits. Hopefully this match will happen often considering they are close in weight. This match would be just as interesting in no-gi as well. Both competitors made it to the finals of their weight category at the 2015 ADCC.

     

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  • Aftermath: Abu Dhabi Grand Slam Tokyo

    On the same weekend as the ADCC in Sao Paulo, on the other side of the globe, Abu Dhabi’s love for jiu-jitsu continued with its first of four major tournaments in Tokyo. The United Arab Emirates Jiu-Jitsu Federation (UAEJJF) has planned a seasonal grand slam series that will not only help elevate the status of the sport, with its top-notch organization and TV broadcasting, but also provide prize money for black belt medalists. 

    The series is to be held in areas that the UAEJJF considers to be the hubs for jiu-jitsu around the globe, each in a different corner of the world; Tokyo for Asia, Los Angeles for North America, Rio de Janeiro for Brazil, and London for Europe.

    Even though many of the top athletes were busy with the no-gi spectacle of the ADCC in Sao Paulo, the Tokyo Grand Slam was successful in attracting the likes of Marina Ribeiro, Celsio Vinicius, Gregor Gracie, Mike Fowler, Faisal Al Ketbi, Lagarto, Erberth Santos, Clark Gracie, Rodrigo Caporal, homeland favorite – Roberto Satoshi, and many others. 

    They crowned their first absolute champion with Erberth Santos, beating Lagarto twice. Erberth Santos is one of the top future ultra weights to monitor right now. He is only 21 years old and is doing remarkably well. It’s extremely exciting to ponder how he will fare against the other top athletes as time passes. It will also be interesting to see if he will be able to win the other three Grand Slams and become a kind of “grand champion”. 

    In addition to creating these awesome additional prize money tournaments, the UAEJJF will implement a ranking system that will give bonus prize money if you are highly ranked. The point system will take into account all the tournaments under the UAEJJF, this includes the global trials for the World Pro, the Grand Slam tournaments, and the World Pro itself (held in Abu Dhabi). However, it should be noted that you earn more rank points depending on the prestige of the tournament. So for example, you could win 3 trial tournaments, but you would gain more points if you win just one grand slam. The entire premise here, ultimately, is to further develop the struggling ‘profession’ of jiu-jitsu. Imagine a world where jiu-jitsu players had a chance to travel the world to make a living just training and competing. 

    Right now, people are complaining that the $2,000 USD prize money for the gold medalist is a joke. Sure, it doesn’t compare to boxing or even MMA. But if you’re complaining about the amount of prize money given, then maybe you should help the cause. Get more people to compete in these tournaments. If the tournaments grow, so will the prize money. At the end of the day, any tournament must be a sustainable business. Boxing and MMA pay out more because they have a spectatorship relative to the size of the paycheck. If you don’t like the prize money, get more people to watch jiu-jitsu too. If everyone does their part, we will most likely see our children making decent money in the sport. 

     

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  • ADCC 2015 Brazil Aftermath

    Considered to be the most prestigious no-gi grappling tournament ever, Brazil hosted this Abu Dhabi Combat Club for the second time. The first ADCC Brazil was especially memorable for many because of the revelation of Marcelo Garcia, Eddie Bravo, Leo Vieira and many more. 

    In the women’s division, we have Mackenzie Dern continuing her dominance this year with another win over her rival, Michelle Nicolini. The matches are always close, but she was able to scrape out the win because Nicolini had a penalty, similar to the situation with Gabi Garcia back at the World Pro earlier this year. In the heavier women’s division, Ana Laura Cordeiro took home the gold. 

    In the men’s categories, starting with the heaviest division, Orlando Sanchez stepped up and took the gold against Jared Dopp. This division was really wide open with no real favorites, except for perhaps Vinny Magalhaes (another ADCC veteran). 

    In a very stacked 99 kg division, Rodolfo Vieira was able to scrape out a win by judges decision over fellow Copa Podio champion, Felipe Pena. Both finalists had to win over the likes of Xande Ribeiro, Joao Assis, and Hector Lombard. 

    In the 88 kg division, we had the two favorites come out on top in the finals, with Yuri Simoes claiming gold. He beat the ever-so-dangerous Keenan Cornelius with a strong 3-0 points victory. Other grapplers to note here were Romulo Barral and bronze medalist, Rustam Chsiev. 

    The 77 kg division featured one of the best submissions you will ever see, especially in a finalist match. Davi Ramos had been off the jiu-jitsu grid for quite some time. He had diverted his attention more towards MMA, and as a result, no one really thought he would have the ability to stay at the pinnacle of the sport. But in the same tournament, not only did he submit Gilbert Burns with a rear naked choke, he also caught Lucas Lepri with a flying armbar! He jumped over Lucas’ guard and straight into a super tight armbar, giving him the instant tap. To pull off something like that at this high a level is astonishing. It will run in grappling highlight reels for a long time. 

    The 66 kg division didn’t see any surprises. Rubens ‘Cobrinha’ Charles took home the gold with wins over other favorites Bruno Frazatto and Augusto Mendes. Cobrinha doesn’t cease to amaze as he gets older - he doesn’t seem to slow down at all. 

    The coveted absolute title this year went to a smaller than usual champion. Claudio Calasans was able to earn one of the most prestigious titles in grappling with a win over Gabriel Rocha. The division showcased other talents from the rest of the tournament, like Rodolfo Vieira, Rafael Lovato Jr, Vinny Maghalaes, Yuri Simoes, and others. 

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  • The 3 BJJ Association Leaders You Should Always Know

    Gracie Barra – Carlos Gracie Jr. 

    Carlos Gracie is seemingly the kingpin of jiu-jitsu. With founding ties to Gracie Magazine, Gracie Barra, and the IBJJF, “Carlinhos” is not only one of the top association leaders, but one of the most important figures in BJJ history (along with his uncle and father, Helio and Carlos Gracie). 

    Gracie Barra is the largest jiu-jitsu team in the entire world. They are not only a team, but an organization and a serious business. They have been a successful franchise for many years and provide opportunities for their black belts to open businesses across the globe. They provide support and guidelines for all their branches and really strive to achieve success. 

    Carlos Gracie Jr. has some of the most famous students in the world, including Roger Gracie, Jean Jacques Machado, Renzo Gracie, Roleta, Kyra Gracie, and many more. He is very much a behind the scenes kind of guy so many beginners don’t tend to know much about him, but he should be known to every serious practitioner. 

    Alliance – Fabio Gurgel

    Fabio is one of the most technical jiu-jitsu practitioners of all time. Not only is he responsible for building and growing the Alliance jiu-jitsu team, along with Romero Jacare and Alexandre Paiva, but he is also a four-time world champion and a three-time European Open champion. He even won the adults European Open once at the age of forty. 

    His collection of knowledge prepared Alliance world champions such as Marcelo Garcia, Lucas Lepri, Bruno Malfacine, Gabi Garcia, Michael Langhi, Bernardo Faria, Leonardo Nogueira, Cobrinha, Mario Reis, and many others. It’s the combination of being a great teacher, a pious leader, and a seasoned competitor that allowed him to be so successful. 

    Nova Uniao – Andre Pederneiras

    Nova Uniao is one of the more unique legendary teams because it has a strong balance between jiu-jitsu and MMA. In recent years, the team has put a greater focus on preparing their top athletes for MMA rather than pushing into BJJ. This is most likely because of the quicker payout that MMA provides – many of the athletes at Nova Uniao are from a less fortunate financial background, and there is one man that makes the effort to give these guys an opportunity to do what they love - Andre Pederneiras. 

    Pederneiras himself is a student of the legendary Carlson Gracie and had a few major old school MMA fights himself in Japan. Andre, together with co-founder Wendell Alexander, created a team that supports many athletes – both MMA and BJJ. The team did have its BJJ glory days with top athletes like BJ Penn, Leo Santos, Vitor Shaolin and many others. But since then, these athletes, and the newer generation have both changed their focus to MMA with the addition of champions like Jose Aldo and Renan Barao.

    This is by no means a comprehensive list. Provided here is merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of top talent and gym leaders. There are many more chamipionship caliber BJJ associations and leaders, both past and present. 

     

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  • Is a Name-Change Necessary For The Olympics? (Part 2)

    In part one of this discussion, we discussed how the ‘B’ in BJJ is possibly counterproductive for any Olympic goals. But even without “Brazilian” in the name, we have the problem where there can’t be two jiu-jitsu disciplines if one is to become an Olympic sport. It needs a more unique name, but it seems that ship has sailed.

    We couldn’t expect the Gracie founders to think this far ahead when they readapted the art in Brazil. Of course with hindsight, it would have been better if they just thought of a more original name instead of just assuming it was called ‘jiu-jitsu’. Yes, technically all Japanese martial arts are rooted somewhat from jiu-jitsu and can be called as such. But historically, Count Maeda wasn’t a jiu-jitsu practitioner. He was a judo master and his teachers were Jigoro Kano and Tomita Tsunejiro, the founder and his senior disciple. Jigoro Kano was also a jiu-jitsu master, but again, if Maeda was fundamentally teaching the Gracies judo, why did they call it jiu-jitsu? Why not call it judo? But I guess we’d all call it Brazilian Judo afterwards, which would the sport in the same position as it is now.

    Ultimately, the problem is the originality of the name. Any other Japanese name could have worked. For one, ‘ne waza’ would not have been a bad idea, considering that’s what jiu-jitsu is - it’s groundwork or ground fighting. That would have been a literal description of the sport and would still sound quite cool while being unique at the same time. It’s a pity that after all that BJJ has been through, one of the many things potentially stopping it from becoming an Olympic sport can be as basic as its actual name. There is only one boxing, only one judo and only one tae-kwon do; but there are two jiu-jitsus, and this is the reality of the situation.

    The other option is to dismiss and ignore traditional jiu-jitsu completely, for competition purposes. While it is widely practiced across the globe, there doesn’t seem to be any serious attempts to popularize traditional jiu-jitsu as a sport by any of their federations.

    So again, what to do? It could only be something drastic and basically impossible. After everything that the sport has been through, including its role in MMA, it would seem to be a shame to even attempt something like a name change to differentiate the sport from the traditional martial art to help with it’s recognition as an Olympic sport. On the flip side, the same could be said for traditional jiu-jitsu versus Brazilian jiu jitsu. As BJJ continues to grow, perhaps the meaning of “jiu-jitsu” will just replace itself. People may begin to identify it as BJJ and not the traditional form, much the same as how MMA replaced “NHB” (no-holds-barred) and, to some extent, Pankration. 

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  • Is a Name-Change Necessary For The Olympics?

    It’s important to state how far down the line it is before jiu-jitsu can become an Olympic sport. Jiu-jitsu, although growing in popularity globally, pales in comparison to other Olympic and non-Olympic sports. 

    Let’s start with the basics: in order for a sport to become an Olympic sport, it should be practiced in a certain number of countries world wide. In actuality, it should not just be practiced, but also organized with its own legitimate governing institution. At the moment, jiu-jitsu is like the wild west – anyone with money and a bit of a reputation can go ahead and start an organization that can attempt to become the new international governing body of the jiu-jitsu world. But between the IBJJF and the World Pro, nothing has truly been able to stand up against those two behemoths of the grappling world. They both have the experience, money, and history. Even then, the IBJJF is not really focusing on any Olympic goals. The United Arab Emirates Jiu-Jitsu Federation (UAEJJF) is at least making the effort to showcase the sport via individual countries. This can allow for the development of the sport in countries outside Brazil, USA, and Japan. At the World Pro we saw plenty of countries like Mongolia and Jordan making real progress. But even with these efforts, it could take decades to reach the same point as judo when it was accepted into the Olympics. 

    The fact that most of the world calls the sport “BJJ” is already counter-productive for this cause. Brazilian jiu-jitsu suggests that the sport ‘belongs’ to one country. The sport name should be completely unbiased in its nature but even that presents another issue. 

    Removing the name ‘Brazilian’ would leave us with ‘jiu-jitsu’. In Brazil, ‘jiu-jitsu’ does refer to what everyone else calls ‘BJJ’ but in places like Japan, or in international traditional martial art circles, ‘jiu-jitsu’ refers to the original ancient art that was popularly used by the samurais. This was the broader art that gave birth to not only BJJ, but judo, kendo, and other Japanese combat sub-arts. 

    So what to do? Remove the ‘Brazilian’ before ‘jiu-jitsu’ from all major tournament marketing? That could be a good start. The World Pro does not use ‘Brazilian’ in combination with ‘jiu-jitsu’ in any of their marketing because they understand the ramifications of this use pertaining to their goal, which is to create a global organization of jiu-jitsu. However, it seems that the IBJJF does not see this to be an issue, as “Brazilian” remains in their name. They could always change it to IJJF, which would make more sense, except that federation already exists for the original jiu-jitsu (even though it seems to be a very outdated and unused federation when looking at their website).

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  • Five Grappling Super League Preview

    In the last couple years, BJJ competition has taken a turn towards a different direction. In addition to having the tournaments we are all so used to, where anyone can compete and test themselves, more “pro” events have been popping up for pure spectating reasons. The most notable of the recent efforts have been created by Copa Podio and Metamoris. Although these two events are different in format, the goal is fundamentally the same – organize entertaining jiu-jitsu matches that people want to see, but also in a way that is a sustainable long term business so more events can be organized in the future. 

    Five Grappling Super League has now stepped up to bring its perspective on how these events should be organized and presented. For those of who don’t know, Five Grappling is one of the top tournament circuits in North America, held throughout the year in major cities. They have placed a strong focus on helping North American BJJ athletes showcase their skills against other locals but also against top international BJJ athletes. On August 2nd, they will hold their first pay-per-view event which will include super fights and an eight-person tournament for both men and women – two separate categories. This will be the first time that an organization is making an effort to showcase women’s BJJ on this level. 

    The men’s mini tournament is stacked with some talent that you don’t usually see in the spotlight. Five Grappling has created a great opportunity for rising stars to showcase their skill. The eight men participating are Tim Spriggs, Bruno Bastos, Yuri Simoes, Hector Lombard, James Puopolo, Joao Assis, Abraham Marte, and Lucas Rocha. These are all notable athletes, so the question is: who has the best chance of taking home the $10,000 prize money? When taking into consideration all the aspects of age, accomplishments, physical ability, and technique, the overall advantage must go to Yuri Simoes. 

    Simoes is one of the youngest of the bunch. In no-gi he is the most accomplished, with Joao Assis as a close second. Both these guys are world no-gi champions. Assis has won the ADCC championship and Yuri won the absolute division at the Worlds. However, if we nitpick and look at the details, Yuri is younger and has been more active lately than Assis, which should give him the advantage. But it won’t be an easy win at all with athletic specimens like Marte and Spriggs in the mix. 

    The 8-woman tournament also has a great mix of ladies including Fabiana Borges, Tammi Musumeci, Nyjah Easton, Karen Antunes, Chelsea Bainbridge-Donner, Luiza Monteiro, Mackenzie Dern, and Leanna Dittrich. Most of these names may sound foreign to most of you since the female BJJ scene does not receive nearly as much attention as the men’s, something Five is looking to change. 

    Mackenzie Dern is the name that stands out most from this bunch and that’s for good reason, since she won the absolute World Pro title earlier this year, surviving a match against Gabi Garcia. She has, by far, the best chance of winning the $10,000 prize. Luiza Monteiro, another world champion, has the dark horse chance of winning as well. Expect these two to make it to the finals, assuming they are on opposite sides of the bracket. 

    The event will also feature two superfights between some household names; Otavio Sousa versus Keenan Cornelius and Joao Miyao versus Gary Tonon.  Not only are these guys some of the top competitors in the world, but you get the whole “America versus the world” vibe from these matches – which is part of Five’s goal, to showcase American talent. Expect the favorites to win, Cornelius and Miyao.

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  • 5 Things All Companies Consider When Sponsoring an Athlete

    Brand Loyalty

    One of the most important things all major companies consider before endorsing a new athlete is brand loyalty.  Brand loyalty is a consumer behavior related to personal preference for a particular company, brand name, or product line.  Loyal customers purchase products from their preferred brand regardless of convenience or price.  This is the kind of relationship companies want to have with the athletes they choose to endorse.

    It is imperative for athletes seeking sponsorship to have a strong history with the products or brand name they are seeking to promote.  After all, you will act as an ambassador of sorts for their brand through representing their company name and logos on your t-shirts, competition uniform, banners and social media platforms.  You should demonstrate brand loyalty before seeking sponsorship with a company.   

    Integrity

    Brand loyalty is directly related to the personal integrity of the athlete.  Being completely and utterly loyal to a company or brand is an ethical commitment. Your personal integrity, as well as the integrity of the sponsoring company, means that wearing and otherwise promoting any other brands within the same market is wrong.  The integrity to be loyal to your sponsors and their brand means not only wearing their products and supporting their products but believing in them.  As a sponsored athlete, every class, every tournament, every photo opportunity is a chance for you to proudly promote and show support for your sponsors.  This is easy when you are honestly proud of the products you promote.

    Integrity also speaks to the willingness of an athlete to promote their sponsors without being prompted.  If you have chosen your sponsors correctly, promoting the brand won’t be a hassle; it will be welcomed habit.  Companies also want to know that the athletes they choose to support have a high level of personal integrity in the practice room and on the competition mat or canvas.  

    A high level of sportsmanship is a prerequisite for getting and maintaining the sponsorship relationships you need to support your competition career. Winning certainly helps, but if you lose a match, it doesn’t mean your sponsors are going to stop believing in you.  After your opponent’s hand is raised, you shake their hand and the hand of their coach and learn from your mistakes.  

     

    Communication

    Athletes seeking sponsorship need to know how to present themselves as potential ambassadors.  The first thing every athlete needs is a brief one-page resume reviewing commitment to the brand or product, recent achievements, as well as a detailed description of how you will promote that brand within your community.  A solid resume should also outline a history of competition results, with focus on your recent victories within the past year.  Providing a list of products that you already use and believe in, a clear explanation of what you are looking for from your sponsor, and pictures/videos of you competing in the company’s products are all very important elements of a sponsorship resume.  

    Knowing what you want from the brand before applying for sponsorship is key.  If you are seeking a gear sponsorship, lifestyle/apparel sponsorship, help with competition entries, travel, incentives or training costs/tuition, then be sure to communicate that up front.  Often times, taking a diversified approach to seeking sponsors can help athletes here.  While you may seek a gi sponsorship from your favorite kimono company, you might receive assistance with your competition entries from sponsors within your local community.  Very rarely will any one single company provide an athlete with full support for all of their training, competition, and travel expenses.  

    Circle of Influence

    An athletes’ circle of influence is an important factor in sponsorship.  The broader the circle, the more an athlete can give back to their sponsors.  Effective sponsorship involves much more than wearing a kimono in the local tournament. 

    If you own a Jiu-Jitsu school, your circle of influence could involve introducing both the students on your own mats to your sponsors’ products as well as the other coaches and school owners within your association.  If you don’t own a martial arts school but are an active competitor, you can still promote your sponsors by wearing their gear during training and networking with those around you.  Every time you explain why you prefer the brand name rash guard and fight shorts you are wearing, you are solidifying your relationship with your sponsor. 

    Social media platforms are also key communication avenues for your circle of influence.  Sharing pictures and videos of your sponsor’s brand establishes a clear track record of loyalty.  Once sponsored, promoting your sponsors brand on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. will help promote both the athlete and the sponsor.  Making and sharing posts about your sponsors products and creating your own pictures and videos of your competition footage in all of your favorite products can reach thousands on major social media platforms. 

    Consistency

    For most companies, consistency is a major consideration when endorsing an athlete.  Do you have a strong commitment to training?  How often do you compete?  Are you committed to continued competition?  

    These are all important questions, that aren’t always necessarily based exclusively on your competition results.  While in the Jiu-Jitsu world many companies look at who is making the podium at major IBJJF events, consistent competition can be just as important.  Every time you step on the mat is a chance for you to promote your sponsor. 

    Companies want to know that once they invest in you the relationship will continue and even grow through mutual benefit and support.  It is important for companies to know that you are committed to furthering the relationship through consistently doing your part. 

    In short, companies want to know that the athletes they choose to support will consistently and effectively communicate brand loyalty to their circle of influence with sincerity and integrity.  My relationship with my amazing sponsors is based on these principles and should provide you a model for building your own list of sponsors.

     

    My name is Brian Wilson; I am a purple belt in BJJ, full-time martial artist, owner of Força Martial Arts & Fitness in Russellville, Arkansas, and a sponsored athlete.  I am also a historian and martial arts scholar holding a Master of Arts in History. 

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