Some are familiar with the term. Others that are not as deeply involved in the art, may not be aware of the expression. I honestly never even heard the word until someone addressed me as one. Apparently in the ancient times of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (which some still choose to live in) students who left an academy they were training at, to train at another, were labeled as traitors; or “Creontes”. Their reasons for leaving, did not matter.
Jiu Jitsu then, is not what Jiu Jitsu is now. It has evolved, and is more than just a martial art. In today’s world BJJ has become a business for those who choose to open their own academy, a career for those who have what it takes to make it as an athlete, and it has become modernized.
This means that a lot of BJJ practitioners with modern mindsets, are now involved in a martial art, that still has ancient minded people pointing fingers.
What makes someone a traitor exactly? Is there a BJJ Bible somewhere that has an exact definition of “creonte” in it? Where are the lines drawn in terms of being labeled a traitor? Do certain situations exist that make switching academies okay? If I leave one academy to train at another, because I think I will advance myself more at the new one, does that make me a creonte? Think. What if it were the exact same situation, except the roles were reversed? I have an instructor say to me, “Hey, you will only be held back here. I think if you want to achieve great things, you should train at a better academy.” If I choose to leave now, am I a creonte?
At the end of the day everyone will have an opinion, and there will be people standing behind their beliefs on both sides of the topic.
In most common cases, people that switch academies, do so for a handful of different reasons. More specifically, these people that switch, are not involved in the politics of Jiu Jitsu. Jiu Jitsu isn’t their career (for all intensive purposes, this article is not referring to the casual, lower belt, BJJ practitioner). When the topic is addressed these days, it is because the athletes switching, are mainly switching for causes that never existed until now. Now, BJJ is possible to be made into a career.
I have seen people switch academies for many reasons. To list a few common ones; belt promotions, money (which breaks down into a thousand other related reasons), and training partners. Is someone who trains and competes for a living, considered a creonte if they leave? Regardless of the reasoning, an athlete is going to go wherever they feel will best serve their career. Those who understand and respect that, know that one must do what they have to do, in order to accomplish great things. I humbly set forth that this should not make one considered to be a traitor. In fact, in my personal experience, most of the people that I have discussed this with were incredibly supportive. White belts to black, regular practitioners to world class athletes, generally all showed support.
I recently made the biggest decision of my career thus far. I decided to switch over from one well-respected team, to another, at a time that was very questionable. I was at an academy for just under 3 years and became heavily involved in helping them out in multiple areas. Many would say that I was in an ideal situation. I was teaching full time, winning major championships, and training all in one place. So why the change? In my time at Drysdale Jiu Jitsu, I truly grew a lot. I would go so far as to say that I was a completely different person the day that I left, in comparison to the day that I showed up.
I wanted different things. I had new goals and needed bigger hurdles to jump in order to accomplish them. What I wanted didn’t exist in the world I had created for myself in Las Vegas. I began wanting to teach less and to train more. I wanted to travel the world competing, and teaching seminars, but more importantly I wanted to the best in the world at my weight class. Being the competitor that I am, I make sure to celebrate every accomplishment by setting the bar higher for the next goal; and this instance, the formula for doing so was to be found somewhere else. Once I realized this, the decision was made, and the necessary steps were taken.
Shortly after I relocated from Las Vegas to San Diego, and proudly joined Andre Galvao’s team, Atos.
I quickly discovered those who were my supporters, and who were not. Nothing can make a more clearer distinction of who supports you, and who doesn’t, then making a purely selfish decision such as leaving one team for another. It is always nice to have people say kind things to you about your decisions. However it was more enjoyable to see who was there for me, and who wasn’t when the time came. I had a student of mine ask me, “Coach, you won all of these great tournaments and have all of your students here supporting you. Why leave?” I am not sure if he understood it when I explained to him, or if he will later, but I told him the truth. Its not about what I had, it was about what I wanted. Indeed I could have stayed. I would have eventually been promoted, and maybe won a few tournaments, but I knew I would never reach my potential. That is what made it such an easy decision to make.
For me it wasn’t about the color of a belt around my waist, money, or anything else that some may think. It was about my future. I needed to be in an environment that I could thrive in, and make a name for myself in the sport.
I want to tell my kids one day, “You have to let go of the good, if you want to reach out and grab the great in life.”
Kristian Woodmansee is World, Pan American and European Champion. He is currently the #1 ranked No Gi Brown Belt in the World. You can reach him via Facebook.