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I know that some people consider it an outdated concept, but loyalty is important to me. I try to be loyal in all of my endeavors, and I expect others to be loyal to me in return. I’ve been with one firm for almost 30 years, I stayed with my one and only Karate instructor from the age of 19 until he passed away when I was in my late 40’s, and I’ve been loyal to one woman longer than many of my teammates have been alive.

Don back in the day

She Looks the Same – Me, Not So Much . . .

I also am proud and fortunate to be able to say that I have been training at Steel City Martial Arts under Sonny Achille for almost 11 years, that Sonny has been training under Professor Pedro Sauer for almost twice that time, and that Pedro Sauer remained loyal to Grandmaster Helio Gracie since the time he was 14 years old.

SCMA at a tournament back in the day

With Sonny and Team SCMA at the Arnolds in 2009 – Note the Young(er) Dave Wright!

So, with this as background, you can understand why I view a lot of the Jiu-Jitsu “drama” with a combination of amusement and amazement. It reminds me a little of a story that I heard in the 1980’s when I was doing a lot of climbing. The story was that well known climber Ron Kauk was asked why he never wore Lycra pants, like a lot of the younger climbers were starting to wear. His response was, “because John Wayne never wore Lycra.” Similarly, I just can’t imagine John Wayne sitting around after a Jiu-Jitsu class whining about why he’s thinking of leaving the school because his feelings are hurt or his needs aren’t being met.

Don Wayne

Now please don’t get me wrong. I know that there are lots and lots of very good reasons for leaving a Jiu-Jitsu school, and I certainly would leave a school if I was subjected to one of them. An abusive environment and lack of sound, technical teaching are but two of them. And, I know that most people don’t really settle into Jiu-Jitsu until they’ve been at least a Blue Belt for a while, so I’m usually not too surprised when a White Belt or new Blue Belt decides to switch schools.

But, I’m often saddened when I see a considerably more senior student, usually with years of training under one instructor, decide to switch. What changed all of sudden? Couldn’t you work things out? It’s almost like watching a mature marriage disintegrate. And, I’ve been around long enough to see several senior students, who were very involved with an instructor and their school, leave to start their own competitive program in the same town. It simply boggles the mind.

At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon or your father, I’d like to leave you all with the following advice: train hard, have fun, tap when you’re in trouble, wash your gi after every class, and don’t get caught up in Jiu-Jitsu drama. And I hope to see you on the mats, soon!

Steel City Black Belts

Almost 100 Years of Combined Experience at SCMA

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