Creating An Empowering Gym Culture

Published on by MacKenzie Arrington

Photo Credit: Jeff Chu @jeffreyschu

Not everyone has the luxury of walking into their gym everyday and feeling that buzz of excitement that comes from being in a truly extraordinary environment. That is because a lot of gyms out there lack a few key components that go beyond only being a place to train jiu jitsu. Sure you might have some top named killers training on your loads of mat space daily but it can still be a terrible place to train. The demographic of those walking through your doors and onto the mats needs to be considered and more often than not the middle aged father of two training 3 days a week will not be there for the long haul or want to bring his children into the sport if the vibe of a gym is not constructive or inviting. This is why it is important to develop a positive culture for every walk of life by empowering each person on the mat by following a few simple steps: Connect, instill confidence, share, challenge and inspire.

What is empowerment? This is not the result of a ton of strength and conditioning or a “miracle pill” you bought off the internet, it is being confident in yourself and skills to the point where you apply what you know to those around you for a greater purpose. By feeling empowered you will make those around you better, which in turn will improve your experience because they will reciprocate what you are giving them. To make this effective within your gym you do not need to be a black belt, the owner or even on the pay roll, that is the best part. Once you have a core group of students and training partners that are empowered it will become infectious (a much better infection to be spreading than ringworm, staph and negativity.) There are 5 keys to empower your training partners/students.

-- Connect: Getting to know each one of your students or training partners by having 1-on-1 with them after a roll even if it is only 30 seconds to a minute to give them feedback. By doing so you are troubleshooting holes in their game or your own, giving props, learning a new move that they tried on you or finding out what their current goals are on the mat.

-- Instill confidence: “Tap and tap often” is a saying we hear often and it should be associated with give credit where credit is due. Don’t make excuses on why you tapped or why you got swept, instead give credit to your training partner and ask them to show you their set up or how they saw the opening. This will build their confidence while also building your own.

-- Share: Don’t be the Scrooge McDuck of jiu jitsu, share what you are working on! Nothing causes tension more than people feeling left out of a secret or people withholding information. The cat will be out of the bag eventually once you start using a new submission or sweep so why create a negative environment by withholding it? By sharing what experiences you have had and the skills you possess you are opening yourself up to those around you and improving their BJJ experience and in turn promoting them to do the same effectively creating a BJJ think tank environment on the mat rather than poker table tense situation.

-- Challenge: Push those around you to improve by teaching them what you know. If you have a rock solid deep half sweep cough Bernardo teach it to everybody so that why they are challenged to expand their game all the while you are challenging yourself by having to get even better at the sweep because your training partners are savvy to it now.

-- Inspire: Be a leader to those around you, share you experiences, own your weaknesses and let them be known, be as transparent and humble as possible. This will shed any veil of superiority that might have been making you appear unapproachable by your training partners and students that hinders progress on both ends.

"Don’t be the Scrooge McDuck of jiu jitsu, share what you are working on!"

The premise is to ultimately create encouraging circumstances for everyone that steps foot into your gym, be in first timers or even World Champions. So whoever is at the gym on any given day feels confident in their ability and surrounding to the point they want to keep coming back and giving their all while improving those around them. This is what Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is truly all about and if every gym works on this not only will it improve the sport by getting more people involved but also it will help your gym grow as a business. Improve the BJJ lifestyle by empowering those around you. Encourage everyone on the mat to understand the how, what and why of every technique. Don’t forget that eating well is also a major part of the BJJ lifestyle, so check out Eat well, train hard. OSS MacKenzie.



MacKenzie Arrington is the professional chef, author and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu purple belt behind You can find him training at Alliance in Buffalo NY and read more of his work in the Grub Column featured monthly in Jiu Jitsu Magazine. MacKenzie packs his Inverted Gear daily in his Datsusara gear bag and stays alpha with Q5 supplements. Keep up with his work through Twitter or on Facebook.

 Use grapplergourmet for 10% off at Inverted Gear, GOURMET10 for 10% off Q5 and gg-5 for 5% off at Datsusara.