BJJ in My Eyes – The Most Valuable Assets of Great Students; Work Ethic, Respect, Loyalty and the Code of Ethics

William Vandry's picture

3rd Degree BJJ Black Belt William Vandry, posing in front of some of the students at his quarterly seminar at Vandry Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Austin, Texas


1996 Vandry BJJ’s first student (William Vandry, Jared Manbeck, Carlos Machado)

2012 Vandry BJJ’s first student defines a loyal Martial artist


I was able to absorb and digress Jiu-jitsu history with one of my students recently.  In June 2012, my first student from 16 years ago in Killeen, Texas came to visit me.  His name is Jared Manbeck.  When I met Jared, we both were very young men back then, and I was one of Texas first blue belts, and later one of Texas’ first four BJJ Black belts.

Jared and I had kept communication but we had not seen each other since 2000.  He planned to visit me to train and update his BJJ and to just catch up and pay respects to his instructor.

We were able to get some good mat time, and I think I gave Jared a few new ideas to improve his game.  We had dinner that night, and when Jared left, I reflected and talked to my wife about my BJJ old days in Killeen.  I reflected past students, and how fortunate we were to do what we do.

I told Jared one day maybe I should write an article about my history, and my great legacy with the Machado brothers.

I have seen the entire history of BJJ in Texas.  I know pretty much every name in our state or Black belt lineage.  I remember the first schools in Texas and USA for that matter.  Mine was one of them.

When my instructor moved to Dallas in December 1995, I began training with him in January 1996.  I used to drive four hours there and four hours back every Tuesday.  I could not wait to get the class instruction, the mat time, and mat time with my instructor Carlos Machado, and my private lesson.

I would drive back almost falling asleep at the wheel.  I used to pinch myself, open the window and even torture myself by stopping by those truck stops on highways to get a cup of coffee to keep me awake.  I loved it.  And I loved earning my belts.  I loved working hard for what I have earned in BJJ.  I was given my 3rd degree BJJ Black belt almost three years ago.  I train with my students just about every class I teach.  I need my mat time, my experimentation, my ideas, designs and exploration of newer techniques.  I also have very tough blue, purple, brown and black belts that are my students.  This desire of mine is like Tesla, when he designed newer ideas for the future.

I admire Nikola Tesla, and his brilliant mind.  I enjoy reading about his science.  My instructor has that Tesla affect.  He develops newer ideas all the time, and each time he visits, he educates me more and more.  And his mat game is better, more technical each time.

That’s where I got mine from.  His work ethic was something I already had.  And either you do or you learn it.  The many thousands of mat time hours I have had in my career is a type of polishing effect.  I learned that from him too.  And to gage your abilities.  What I mean by that is to not inure or ‘tough’ up a student.  This is not ethic, this is bullying.  And I note in my career, what I learned from my instructor on work ethic made me balance all types of students.  Overall, I have had the greatest students in the world.  And of course, like every instructor teaching, you get the bad apples from time to time.

The three points in this article I am going to review.

1.  Work ethic

This term describes a person who has standards and values of training, developing and improving his martial arts personally, psychologically, spiritually, mentally and physically.  The students that keep training and learn from mistakes are the best ones.  The students that train while they are winning, and break or claim they are tired when they are losing are not just a horrible work ethic; it is a horrible ethic that is simply an indication of the person in life.  Work ethic derives from our responsibilities, actions, attitudes, and patterns.

2.  Respect

This term is the one every student should have.  If you are superior to a student, you can still develop your skills.  If you cannot respect a student, you really don’t respect yourself, or your actions.  Like work, like relationships and life, it is a daily reminder and daily practice.  These actions are always in and outside of class at all times.

3.  Loyalty

This one is also vital.  The loyalty issue is something you either have, or you will never have.  And blind loyalty is not the answer either.  If you have an instructor that aids you, or mentors you, cherish that relationship and never lose it.  I have known my instructor Carlos Machado for almost 17 years.  I always give him props, and remind everyone where I came from.  Never shame yourself to your instructor.  Never shame or embarrass your instructor with your words or actions.  And never try to use your instructor.  I have heard tales of this all around the USA in BJJ.  I personally know of a story of a martial arts instructor first hand that trained his students, and in the end they attempted to recruit his students for their own break off schools.  When I first heard this firsthand, I couldn’t believe it.  And I have heard it many, many times.  I myself have had similar experiences.

I told him these words, and paraphrased a quote from the Godfather 2 movie:

“My friend, in the Godfather 2 movie, Hyman Roth (The head mafia lord) told Al Pacino as Michael in the movie had a discussion about certain acts that were not approved, and betrayal.  Roth tells Michael: “I knew Moe, I knew he was head-strong, talking loud, saying stupid things. So when he turned up dead, I let it go. And I said to myself, this is the business we’ve chosen…”

When I told him that, this is the business we’ve chosen. I explained all of the timelines and lineages specifically of Jiu-jitsu.  We have different break offs of Gracie associations that many newer students don’t even know who is who or who is against each other. I told him 15 years ago a BJJ school was an icon.  We had these young American guys who were Brown or Black belts teaching. We earned our belts.  Now we don’t know who trained under whom, and where did we get that certification?

He discussed with me as an example how people who receive different belts from different instructors.

Now this does happen, and at times there could be a legitimate reason; the instructor did something criminal or unethical.

My lineage is proud and goes back 17 years.  The Machados have been very good to me, and I have learned so much from the top.  This with ideas is what I pass to my students.

He was right when he questioned actual credibility or teaching ability.  I told him, it’s much tougher to get your PhD than it is an online degree.

There is a quote I remember in the bible about false prophets, which somehow got into my mind when I was writing this.  For those who do not have religious preferences or practice a different religion, or are atheist or agnostic, the quote I am speaking of comes from one of Christ’s follower’s named Peter.  Peter discusses false prophets in Peter 2 2:1 in the Bible:

“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction…”

This somehow just fit right into this subject on this article.  I also drafted a Code of Ethics list last year, and I wanted to wait to post it on an article.  So here it is:


Jiu-jitsu continually strives to live up to the seven principles of the Code of Bushido “the way of the warrior.” The Code of Bushido teaches humility, truthfulness, bravery, benevolence, compassion, sincerity, loyalty and devotion.  As Martial Arts practitioners we believe that (the) Code of Bushido serves as our constant reminder to perfect our character, as well as facing our weaknesses.

As many codes of ethics will adhere to, our 9 codes of ethics are the following:

1. Humility

Many fighters or practitioners can be tempted by vanity and arrogance.  In our Jiu-jitsu community, there are many dark sides that are based on selfishness, prejudice, insecurities, arrogance, anger, and lack of morality, immaturity and lack of respect.  These sins of the martial arts are to be discarded and constantly reminded to avoid.  The opposite and good sides to adhere to are selflessness, acceptance, security within yourself accepting imperfections, public humility and temperance from anger, moral structure adhering to your martial arts responsibilities, emotional maturity, and respecting yourself first, and others while reminding yourself that in the public eye one venting of anger, name calling or threats will always be remembered.  Those ghosts fall in the past, and always strive to be remembered or attached to an organization.  Unfortunately those ghosts are confined to their own self convicted Hades in life.

2. Truthfulness

Betraying a fellow martial artist, an instructor, an organization or a creed are a sin in the martial arts and if forgiven, will reoccur.  Selfishness is a disease that is incurable, as there is always an ulterior motive that stays with the person.  Be open and truthful, and never betray your teammates, school, instructor, lineage, your roots, and always remember you have a duty and obligation as a martial artist, and a piece of a lineage that will either stop with you, or root for the next generation.  Keep your word and truth always.

3. Bravery

The willingness to stand up for truth and justice is a traditional virtue in martial arts. The courage spoken of here is a higher kind of courage. It is the courage of self-sacrifice, of standing up for the truth, of mentoring and defending junior students as well as supporting them, regardless of what the odds are or what the cost may be. It is not the petty actions of proving one’s self-worth by engaging in meaningless rivalry, foolish stunts or the intimidation of others as well as shameful behavior that disgraces the essence of your community and the Martial arts.  Courage is based upon the strength to walk away from a person you could physically destroy, as well as engaging in physical conflict to defend the weaker.  To develop courage, one must have self worth, and value in his or her community.  Without either, they are simply a nomad and will never tap into their potential.

4. Benevolence

An inclination to perform kind, charitable acts.  This code is a code to follow for a lifetime.  Many aids, helps, suggestions, guidance as a mentor get discarded, unappreciated and very rarely are paid back by passing this to another.  Benevolence is an act that although rarely is any type of gratitude, thanks, giving, appreciation given back, a person must always hold his creed.  To give or aid those less fortunate or not as talented, is a wealth of reward, but for those who simply take, those are to be discarded and doors closed upon.

5. Compassion

Compassion is a virtue, and a drive that endears the martial artist with his own ideals, dreams, passions, and virtues and desires to better himself, his abilities, his mental focus, his skills, and more importantly his part in a chapter of a lineage that has a vital meaning to tomorrow’s students and history.

6. Sincerity

Deeds, not words. Is your intent sincere, or ulterior motivated?  Selfish desires to take from an instructor, student or academy are unforgivable sins.  These sins do not come from the martial arts academy, but rather from the upbringing of the student’s personal life before he met his or her instructor.  Sincerity is a desire to assure, and present oneself with a public display of the martial artist and their open, supportive desire.

7. Loyalty and Devotion

These two creeds are vital and a completion of the above codes.  Loyalty is a value that if betrayed, does not come from the academy or lineage.  This comes from the person that betrays his wife, her husband, their mother and fathers, their brothers and sisters, and most of all, they betray themselves their entire life.  A relationship for years means nothing unless that loyalty is untainted.  Devotion is the promise of support, loyalty, appreciation and desire to be a piece of a larger puzzle for the future.  This code of Devotion comes from both instructors and students.

8. Integrity

Moral character is the spark to develop a martial artist to his full potential.  Open, honest, and discipline in life to avoid corruption of finances, vanity, or evil.  Pride must always be a shield to defend against vanity, but against arrogance as well.  Actions, not an enemy’s definition or a rival from anther school, academy or community defines integrity.  Those competitive remarks will never scratch the layer of integrity.

9. Respect

Respect and gratitude toward others has a strong effect on personal relationships, both at work or at school, and with friends and family.  In community, respect develops your own inner spirit, your own ethical behavior and sets an example for those in the future.  Others needs, and pains are acknowledged by your respect, as well as sincere concern for those less fortunate.  Respect is also to be given to those who show it.  For those who are not respectful, this is simply a mirror image of their own self-respect.  If one cannot show respect daily, none other than himself or herself will unmask the mask of false respect.  Respect those that are older, those that were great in the past and forgotten today, those that are younger and you must accelerate your patience to aid.  Respect your community.  Respect your values, and most of all, respect yourself.  Respect senior ranks and their accomplishments.  Respect your lineage, your origins and set a frame for those that will respect you in the future.


Professor William Vandry

Aborb and think,

Professor William Vandry, (3rd degree Black belt BJJ – Head Instructor VBJJA – Austin)

Vandry BJJ Academy: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and Kick Boxing – Austin, Texas