Photo: Eric Shaw and William Vandry
by Professor William Vandry
Proverbs 16:28: “A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends”
“My code of life and my personal bushido is honour, respect, loyalty, courage and surrender.”
– Rickson Gracie
I remember when I was a white and blue belt training at my instructor’s academy (Master Carlos Machado), at times there were new students, people interested in BJJ, and the popularity derived from the UFC, and of course Walker Texas Ranger TV show featured the Machado brothers in an episode. I used to go to Dallas every Tuesday morning for the 11am class. Then I would stick around to do my one hour private lesson, then my instructor Carlos Machado and I would go eat lunch, hang out a bit, and then I would meet him back for his 6pm class. I lived almost 3 hours away, so I couldn’t stay for the full night class, but I would do some drills, and then get on the road to go through rush hour and end up somewhere around midnight back home.
I used to assist Carlos when he would at times do private lessons for me to basically be the object of drills to help his student. I enjoyed just being a part of helping my instructor and supporting his school. I went with him to seminars and at times when he was out of town during my class days, I would teach his class. In the old days, guys like Robert De Franco and I used to help or assist with seminars, etc. just to be students helpful to their instructor.
Of all the other schools I have trained at in other states, I never walked in with my gi. I would call them first, ask them if it were ok if I could take a class. I never asked for rolling time, or mat time, just asked if I could participate in a class. And when any of my students went out of town or another state, I would tell them the same thing to do.
“Techniques? I’m here to roll!”
It seems now schools are more like clubs or groups that just get mat time.
I had a student from another school last year that came by my academy. He ran into one of my students and told him he wanted to know if he could come by to try out a class. My student invited him (which is fine, schools need word of mouth too). He came into the lobby where I was sitting at the front desk. I didn’t know who he was, so as I always ask a walk in, I said:
“Hi, can I help you?”
He answered with: “Yeah…uh…hey I was just wanting to stop by, and get a little rolling around…some mat time.”
Notice he didn’t ask to try a class, he stated he just wanted to roll around. I didn’t miss a beat. I then asked him this: “Hey, are you married or do you have a girlfriend?”
He said no, he was single.
I then asked: “Are you eating after class?”
He said yes.
I then said: “Good me too. Do me a favor, can you go to HEB, go to the organic meat section and get an organic ribeye steak. Then get organic onions and mushrooms, and make me a medium rare steak, and get some organic carrots or some good side vegetables after class?”
He stumbled on words, because he couldn’t generate a response due to the shock of my question.
I then asked: “Insulting, isn’t it? Now you know how you sound to me when you walk in my school, don’t even introduce yourself by name, don’t even have the decency to call me Mr. Vandry or Professor, or even say hi. You simply just come in telling me you wanted to use my school for mat time.”
He then attempted to articulate a defense by stating he spoke to my student and said he could come by my school. I then told him why didn’t he even mention that? I also told him he didn’t ask about class, he just wanted mat time. I told him that when you go to a school, you address them respectfully, and ask them about their class. I did let him train in class, and suffice to say, he probably has a lot more work on fundamentals to do. And by the way, he is an active student at another school, who had no interest in actually joining my school, he simply didn’t get enough people to have more mat time at his school. I then told him he might want to speak to his instructor first, before going to other schools. I told him if he needs more mat time, to address it to his instructor. What was his reply? He said:
“Oh, he wouldn’t mind, he doesn’t say anything if we want to go to other schools.”
I had another experience last year when three men came by my Saturday class when it was ending. All three are students at another school. Two of them were nice guys, and respectful. The third was a bit more of a forced personality. He asked me:
“Hey, do you got days where there is open mat?”
No introduction. I told him I did on Fridays, but I have classes during the week. He then pounced on that and asked what days was mat time after my classes? I then told him they were classes, not open mat times for people to come at the end of class.
I then told all three that they should speak to their instructor about more mat time, or get some private lessons from their instructor who should understand their game, and what their needs are. Guess what? The guy gives the same response as the afforementioned incident by stating:
“Aww he won’t mind, if we tell him we want to look at schools for open mat he doesn’t tell us we can’t”
Notice how two different school’s students feel the same way approaching schools. I explained to all three that maybe his instructor fears they may leave his school if they go to other schools. He seemed to be irritated from the beginning, and told the other two guys: “Ok that’s fine, let’s go guys.”
The other two looked embarrassed, and told him: “Go ahead, we will meet you later.”
The guy looked shocked, and stormed out.
Both of them were nice guys. They both apologized, and told me they didn’t think of their instructor and his business like that. I talked to them more, and told them to come on the mat. I then asked them what is a part of their game that they have problems with? They both stated side escapes and defending guard better. I had them stick me in the side, then I escaped, and showed them a drill for that, and one to better their guard. I spent about 30 minutes working with them. I then ended the drills, and told them:
“Guys, I charge for my private lessons and classes because this is my academy. I am paying for your half hour out of my pocket, you know why? Because I want you to remember this for your instructor. Remember he like me has to pay his rent, electric bills, his personal bills, and I want you to see the value of an instructor. Support him, and don’t disregard him.”
I told them if their instructor is out of town or one day they don’t train at his school, they can always contact me. I told them one thing I do not do is pull students from other schools. Both of them were thankful, and the next week one brought me a jar of strawberry preserves his grandmother made at her farm.
The third one I am mentioning was a student who had trained about four years in another state. He emailed me on facebook asking if he could try a few classes. I told him to stop by anytime. He had some injuries from past training. He came to two classes, he was very impressed especially due to our leglocks. He did tell me he has went to five other schools and liked my teaching techniques the best, but he also noted a friend he knew that knows another school owner desired him to train with them. I will omit names to respect their identities. He then emailed me this:
“In all likelihood, I think I’ll be joining another gym in town, but I appreciate all of your help. If at all possible, I would still like to join you periodically when you have seminars (especially around leglocks) so please let me know when the next one is. Hope you guys are well and again, thank you for your help.”
So here I have a student that tried five other schools, told me my classes were the best taught, then emailed me stating he would go to another school, but still wanted to come train with me periodically, and especially when I taught leglocks? Wow.
I responded by email, and here is the gist of it:
“… I am flattered for your request to attend or seek knowledge in areas such as leglocks or my seminars, but my friend, I will have to decline. Let me explain why. In this business, I do not solicit from other schools….I honestly would feel if you seek knowledge, perhaps you could arrange private lessons with your new instructor. Explain to him what your looking for, what areas he can examine you to develop your game, defense, guard, attacks, etc., similar to how I showed you new breakdowns for anklelocks when opponent grabs the collar or defends. I really wouldn’t feel right to possibly take his private lesson money, or finances away from him. I know this business very well, and schools do this to other schools all the time. I do not….When you go under an academy, support it 100%. I wish you well. William Vandry”
I edited some words out, but I mentioned the three guys story to him in the email. When students go around, at times some look for schools, some just look for mat time. Well, you hear at times schools should not care where their students go. I had a brown and black belt a few weeks back from DFW that asked could they attend my Saturday class. I told them the time, I trained with them, tweaked their game and they enjoyed the class. I had a purple belt from DFW that stopped in, but I told him I didn’t know if this conflicted with his instructor. He then showed me his instructor is an RCJ Machado instructor that referred me to him. I told him to contact schools before you drop in. I did let him take class with his girlfriend, and I trained with him and worked on some guard points for them to take back to DFW.
The issue for dropin students should be about their interest in taking classes to learn, try a new art, or they are from out of town and missed their class from their local area. But if students train at a school, and want to just use your school for mat time, they have no interest in your school,your lineage, your information, philosophy or anything regarding martial arts. In some areas, for example in DFW area, BJJ black belts Marcos Santos, Orlando Waugh, RCJ Machado schools, and other surrounding areas instructors such as Jeff Weeks, or Marc Hagesbusch in Tyler, we all grew up in BJJ together. We all know each other and we take care of students from our schools or visit. It’s back to the what are you making me for dinner joke.
In this business, I have had great students, and some of the worst human beings on the planet as students.
For more on this, go read my past article:
William Vandry: Your responsibilities as a Martial artist, and BJJ black belt
I heard Master Rickson Gracie talk about this and the term Creonte on a video interview.
“…this is a guy who betrays the teacher to get an easy promotion…”
Rickson Gracie explained in interview with Tatame, that it was him who convinced his nephew Rener Gracie to stop promoting students online:
“It’s absurd. There can be no online belt promotion. After I read an article on Rener Gracie talking about Gracie University, saying that he promoted online students to blue belt, I had a confrontation with him. I said that if he continued to do this, I would denigrate his image, saying that he was a charlatan. And after that, he reconsidered, and thought that the idea did not make sense anymore. The blue belt is the most important Jiu-Jitsu. White to blue, it is the stage of enlightenment. The blue belt needs to be a confident guy that is a tough guy that can handle an aggression. And for that, he can not get a belt over the Internet.”
I mentioned in my article above link how there are at times instructors have unprofessional issues such as alcohol, or drugs, or dumps the school to a blue belt to teach all the time, and other areas. I mentioned these:
1) He may not be a good instructor and lacks credentials, fundamentals, drills, cannot oversee students
2) He may not be a credible instructor
3) He may have issues outside of class that he brings to the school (drugs, marital issues, alcohol, etc.)
I always welcome a student that comes from out of town. Anytime as mentioned above, if a student is from another school locally, I always send them back to their instructor unless they somehow no longer train there. Does this matter anymore? Now people use the ‘friends’ card by defending their view that they should train at other schools because schools shouldn’t stop them from going where they want or blocking friends from training. Well, the one misleading concept of this particular defense avoids these points:
1. Solicitation of students usually happens more often than not. This is directly affecting the instructor’s living.
2. Injuries can happen when someone gets someone to train at their school. This has happened more than once to me, when in the past a student got invited to another school, one ended up needing surgery due to an accident at another school.
3. I have heard it from fellow black belts, seen it, and I myself have experienced this. A student cannot get a belt from the instructor so he keeps shopping until someone gives him an unearned belt due to either joining his school, but more so usually schools like that are hoping that unethical person is going to bring more students from that other school.
So when people defend training at other schools, some are legitimate. For example, I have had associations under me close to each other, say 30-45 minutes to each other. Before I would ever do anything like that, reps would be aware they are not allowed to solicit from another association or accept a student transferring to his school unless it was due to relocating.
Some are not. If they are associated, good. If not, not so good. I remember in 2001 I had a white belt that got invited to a seminar at another school. I never heard from him again because he was given a blue belt by the seminar teacher.
The five students above are all black belts under me. In order: Ian has been my student 18.5 years, Ted 17 years, Jesus 14 years, Ed 13 years and Jeff 17 years.
A good friend of mine Eric Shaw and I both trained in Dallas back in the 1996 days when I was just a kid. Eric started a little later than I did, he was a white when I was a blue. This will be 21 years we both have trained with many instructors via travel or friends, but no matter what, we never changed our flag. Here are photos of Eric in 1996 and 2014:
Here I started in 1996 in a pic with Carlos and Rigan Machado:
Here in 1997 with my first student Jarred Manbeck and Carlos Machado:
2015 after 19 years and long distance my first student Jarred earns his black belt
Here I am training with Rigan Machado for the 2001 Pan Am as a brown belt:
In 2006 I am with Carlos and John Machado as a black belt:
Here in 2012 as a fourth degree black belt, I am sitting with John, Jean Jacques and Rigan Machado:
Here in June 2016 as a fifth degree black belt, I am with Rigan Machado in Hollywood, California:
. If you train at a school, remember schools have rent, utilities, phone, payroll, taxes and marketing costs they have to pay. When clubs or groups start up in garages or other places and undercut schools, this is bad. In addition, if you do train at a school, speak to your instructor. If your contract terms end, and you are still looking then go look around. If a student goes to your school, ask him what happened with his past instructor. But if you are a student from a school that goes looking around for mat time, remember that school is like going over someone’s house and asking your friend’s wife what’s for dinner?
Absorb, and think.
Prof. William Vandry