Friday, September 19, 2014

Because You Didn't Ask: Toro BJJ's Blue Belt Journey Comic & BJJ Sponrsorship(s) Redux

On that note, something I've heard and discussed amongst others, the concept of sponsorship in BJJ.
I stumbled across this from over at (the first place you should go when you get to your office/cubicle/open your eyes in the morning followed shortly thereafter by my blog *ahem*).
You hear high level guys talk about it. You hear low level guys talk about it. You hear commentators talk about it. At any rate, some food for thought is here from an actual company who has pockets which could provide sponsorship

At the end of the day, if you have a "take take take" mentality, that will shine through and a company worth its salt will not sponsor you. Or, at best, a non-descript no name company will through you a Gi or two or an entrance fee, but that will be about it. Relationships, to flourish, must be synergistic. They must be symbiotic. Hopefully, both parties/organisms/whatever will benefit.

Recently, I was working at my other job and a friend who has a number of friends who are sponsored in skateboarding and snowboarding asked why I wasn't sponsored. She asked how long I'd been training, how long I'd been competing and with incredulity in her voice asked why I wasn't sponsored. Consider that she has no working knowledge of Jiu-Jitsu, as a sport, the rules whatever. Yet, Jiu-Jitsu is a niche sport, but wasn't that also the case once and perhaps to some extent still the case for skateboarding and snowboarding. Sure, they have a bit more exposure and visibility with the X-Games and the now Summer and Winter Olympics notwithstanding. But long before they had that exposure, athletes were receiving money to rep certain brands et cetera. And sometimes, you can think you know more than enough about a topic and not see it with fresh or unbiased eyes. Depth of knowledge doesn't always mean that you see the topic or area better or more effectively and in fact, too much knowledge can almost or perhaps outright become a source of diminishing returns.

It was a valid question. Rather than react out of defensiveness or justify why I'm not sponsored, I had to attempt to look at it without a filter, without my supposed knowledge of truths I specifically hold to be true about this question.

I see white and blue belts sponsored or so they claim. I may not personally want to rep those brands, but there are certainly brands I would like to represent or benefits to be gained from representing those brands.
Regardless of what excuses I might make, the following truths remain: Jiu-Jitsu is a niche sport but one with a rabid fanbase. I own something like 9 Gi's. I know plenty of white belts who shell out money for Shoyoroll Gi's. Hundreds and hundreds of competitors routinely fly across the country and even the world sometimes to compete in what amounts to amateur level competition (meaning it is not directly awarded prize money).
We can use the comparison to other professional sports or niche sports to rationalize why you or me or whoever is not sponsored, or we can see those for what they are: excuses.
The guy I beat 30-0 last weekend at US Grappling Chicago was allegedly a sponsored fighter by RevGear.
I've competed and seen white and blue belts and other purple belts and above sponsored.
At the end of the day, there are guys with more, less, or the same Judo, Jiu-Jitsu, and MMA background/resume as myself that are all sponsored.

I didn't honestly have an answer for her.

But it has started some fundamental questions I need to ask myself?
What brands so I actually support and am I willing to support?
I don't like tacky brands with a million logos.
I don't like MMA-themed gear.
Coming from Judo, I prefer a clean Gi with little flash/flair, and beyond that, it is legitimately important that I believe in the quality and durability of the product and that it's something I actually use.
What do I intend/am willing to offer a brand in exchange for their support?
What do I expect in return?
I work a full-time job and a side job. Jiu-Jitsu is still something I see as a passion of mine. I am wary of making the jump to seeing it as my livelihood and here is why.
Before college, I put together my portfolio for art school/college. The process of deadlines and the pressure of outcome expectation made me view art and the act of creation out of more necessity than simply desire made me view my passion in an entirely different way. I don't know that I'm ready to have Jiu-Jitsu be seen as something more work/job than desire/passion and monetizing your desire/passion like with all things comes at a price or at least an exchange.
Another sticking point for me is autonomy. A friend of mine who shall remain nameless, gave a rash guard to famous Jiu-Jitsu competitor but he couldn't put it on or take a picture wearing it due to sponsorship obligations.
This may sound silly, but I want to wear the Gi I want to wear and the shirt I want to wear.
At any rate, perhaps, I'm just a bit too much Kron Gracie for my own good and I'm destined to be largely unsponsored as I journey through Jiu-Jitsu.

I've plugged Toro BJJ on here a number of times because 1) I know the owner and 2) I've used their gi and other training gear over the years in both Jiu-Jitsu and mixed martial arts. I've seen their line of Gi's since the beginning and still use both the Gi tops I have of theirs and wear them on a weekly basis. I learned about the whole Gi construction process with the owner of Cageside MMA/Toro BJJ and got a lot of insight into what it actually takes to get a quality line of Gi's from inception to reality.
The owner of Toro BJJ started his own company. In his warehouse is a fully functioning Jiu-Jitsu academy.
In short, it's the type of company I've always respected.

I've got a pretty big announcement concerning some competition news for yours truly, and a busy month and a half ahead with hopefully at least 3 times in the next 6 weeks in Greensboro, North Carolina, Delaware, and Virginia.

- Good luck and happy trainingz


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