Dont’ Drown the Person Who Teaches You to Swim

As I near the 20th anniversary of when I started training Jiu-Jitsu, I am compelled to say thank you to my instructor, my master, who has made this incredible journey possible.

Thank you for sharing your art, your creation, your craft. Thank you for sharing your passion, your commitment, your resolve. Thank you for sharing Jiu-jitsu with us: your students. And when I say “your students” I mean each and every one of us. I mean those of us who are wearing black belts and those of us who are wearing white belts. I mean from people who have spent twenty years on the mats with Master Renzo to everyone training around the world today. As students of Jiu-Jitsu we owe a debt of gratitude to your family. Because while changes occur and new creations are made you have always been here for us. For that I am very grateful.

I could write stories about driving to New Jersey two hours in each direction to train with Master Renzo. And I could talk your ear off about all of the times when I felt defeated by the complexity of jiu-jitsu and by my own limitations as a student, but I came back anyway. And, of course, each of these stories would end with how it was all worth it. It’s commitment that keeps us coming back to training.

But what keeps someone coming back to the same instructor day after day, year after year? Loyalty. I truly believe that love is important to build a strong relationship, but it’s loyalty that creates a family. Sure there are temptations in the world that challenge our loyalties and there are always going to be people that attempt to lure us towards those temptations. But I chose my instructor the day I met Master Renzo. And opportunism won’t change that. There is a Japanese proverb that reads: “Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher.”

We can embrace new trends without abandoning fundamentals. Just because we spend time learning and mastering the tornado guard doesn’t mean we forget the guard that Master Carlos and Master Helio taught to their children, and their children’s children. The berimbolo won’t soon make us forget the scissor sweep. And there is no trend or fad or fashionable instructor that will ever lead me to lose sight of the people who believed in me so long ago – and have stayed with me ever since.

I have never sought another teacher, just as I’ve never sought another family. To me, there is far more to our training than finding the coach that will accept the credit for the next tournament win. The stakes are much higher than that: our integrity, our history, is on the line. And without loyalty or integrity, there’s little else.

I am a Renzo Gracie Black Belt. And I have every intention of fulfilling your family vision – our family vision – of training to 9th degree.

Your student,
Gene Dunn