One of the most highly debated items in the Jiu Jitsu community relates to its purpose or why people commit to training. The argument has divided most people into the self defense or competition/sport camp. Of course there are people who enjoy both aspects, but in the end even they prefer one over the other. Today, it dawned on me that most people are overlooking one aspect which I would argue could be the most important, community. The recent success of events such as Cosmic Rolling, the Martial Arts Sparring Club of Md, and now Grapple in The Park 1 and 2 are a clear sign that people are interested in more than paying for comps or drilling self defense scenarios. They enjoy the sense of community and the people who come together to train Jiu Jitsu.
Some quick atmospherics from Grapple in the Park 2 to support this theory – At least 60 attendees and that’s a swag because people arrived and left as needed. Over 11 academies represented from D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, some from over an hour away, again a swag based only on people I personally rolled with. Representation from every belt level actively participating, instructing and rolling not just “gracing folks with their presence”. Men, women, teens, and below. No incidences of “ego overload” on the mats and no injuries. Add in free drinks and free wings and what more could you ask for?
After a few unsuccessful attempts I finally grabbed Zach Davis and asked him a few questions about Grapple in The Park. Zach has been extremely busy running the event and answering questions from the local news reporters all in between rolling and answering technique questions from attendees. I wanted to know where he came up with the idea for Grapple in The Park and where he saw it going in the future.
First, why a park and why not a gym? The key here is the independent nature of a public park. The park is a community space designed for recreation in nature. By utilizing a non affiliated space it opens the event up to everyone and does not indicate any bias or affiliation with a particular gym. This turns out to be a great idea considering the unfortunate partiality that still exists in the Jiu Jitsu competition based community.
The “Why” of Grapple in The Park is pretty straightforward. To create a place for people who may never compete / have no desire to compete to roll, meet, and learn from different people in a fun, safe environment. Of course, there are active competitors there as well, but they are also just trying to relax and have a good time.
As most people know, Jiu Jitsu can be pretty insular, especially at the strict competition schools, and it’s interesting to note the number of people who have only trained at their home academy or one of it affiliates. I personally think this is quite unfortunate. I understand a professional basketball player wouldn’t just go play pick up at the city park so I get it for the elite grapplers or the people who only train with focus on their next event. I just don’t understand why someone would not want to experience everything Jiu Jitsu has to offer on and off the mats. Some of these people are more comfortable being big fishes in small ponds or are simply attempting to hide their lack of skill behind their schools name / reputation, because every IG post shows “the best class with straight killers”. Either way they are missing out on a great opportunity to make new friends and enjoy a great time.
So what does it all mean? I guess I have no idea. All I know is that events such as these are great for building the Jiu Jitsu community and building relationships. I know I will fully support them as often as I can and I recommend you check them out. I think Zach may have mentioned the next event will be around January and held indoors. Don’t worry about being cold and don’t worry about snow they have those covered. Pack your gear and come on out. You’ll have a great time and meet some great people.
Until next time, Keep Grinding.