Things Gun Owners Should Know About Joining a Jiu-jitsu Academy

After my second Shivworks ECQC class, I’ve resolved to get more grappling training.

However, I carry a lot of tools, and I wasn’t sure how these would integrate into a Jiu-jitsu academy (or similar). What do I do? What do I say to the owner of the academy? What other things should I know about training at an academy that I’m not even thinking about yet?

I asked three people I trust: Cecil Burch of Immediate Action Combatives, Jason Clarke of Iowa City Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, and Skye Middleton of Gracie Jiu-jitsu Milwaukee.

Here are their answers.

What do you do with your tools — specifically guns and knives?

Cecil Burch, Immediate Action Combatives: “Most of the time I leave my tools in the car. Unless there is a dedicated space that will safely store my gear, I prefer to store it where I have some control. There may be lockable lockers. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. If there is, I will bring my lock and lock them inside. I refuse to have tools accessible to anyone else, so it is either locked inside or in my vehicle.”

Jason Clarke, Iowa City BJJ: “During your initial visit on your trial offer you will learn more about the accommodations available to you. Most academies do not offer lockable lockers unless they are part of an existing larger gym or happened to have the space and money to have purchased them. Therefore, you will likely not have a place to securely store your belongings inside the facility. I always expect my students to keep their gear bags out in the training area where they can see them. If this was the protocol at the academy you’re training at, you may be comfortable with keeping a small pistol safe in your gym bag and then keeping your bag in the training area where you can see it.

However, I would not make a display out of unholstering and locking up the firearm in the changing area. People changing near you will definitely feel uneasy about that, especially when you’re new and they don’t know you. My CCW and LEO students transition out in their vehicles and either leave the firearm in their vehicle or secure it in their bag and keep the bag where they can see it. Where your academy is located and how far you feel comfortable walking from your vehicle to the front door will play a factor in your decision. If my clients complain to me about a firearm in the changing area I’m going to ask said person to transition out in their vehicle from there on out.”

Skye Middleton, Gracie Jiu-jitsu Milwaukee: “Students usually lock them in one of our lockable lockers.”

Should I notify the owner of the gym that I am bringing tools inside?

Jason Clarke: “I feel that as an academy owner/business owner that it’s none of my business if my students are legally carrying a weapon. I support the Second Amendment and carry my own EDC weapons. I do, however, fully expect those carrying inside my business to be responsible and discrete. There’s no reason for anyone to see the weapons being displayed or shown off during business hours unless that is the discussion or lesson of the day. I’m not a gun store and I cater to a wide range of people who both support and lament the Second Amendment. I also have children and their parents in my academy daily. I fully expect that patrons in my academy not treat it as if they were at a gun store and respect the opinions of my other clients. The best way they can do this is to keep their weapons concealed and secured when not worn. While it is none of my business regarding who is legally carrying what, if they make it my business by being irresponsible I will obviously need to talk with them about matters and perhaps send them off for some proper firearms training.”

Skye Middleton: “Definitely notify them of a firearm. Primarily because of the possibility of a kid getting a hold of it if it’s not under lock and key.”

Cecil Burch: “I would tell the head person that I was bringing in weapons. If I could not trust him with that info, then I would not train there. If I do trust him, then I think it is common decency to inform him.”

What else should gun owners know about bringing tools to the academy?

Skye Middleton: “Generally, folks don’t bring their tools to Jiu-Jitsu mainly because it’s a pretty safe place to be. A room full of experienced grapplers is a pretty safe environment I’d say :-)”

Jason Clarke: “There’s no need to broadcast that you carry weapons to anyone at the academy. Keep it to yourself until you can gauge the other students better, and that might take a while. Students ought to be cordial with beginners but they might be a bit reluctant to get real friendly with you right off the bat. The thing is, beginners come and go at a blistering rate in some academies so the old timers may want to see if you can last longer than a few months before they decide to get to know you better. Don’t take it personal if this happens. Be resilient and if your academy does social functions try to attend them and get to know everyone.

Be aware that most of the students have drunk the BJJ Kool-Aid and may not see a need for weapons or self-defense training outside of what BJJ offers. That’s fine, you don’t have to convert anyone and it’s probably better if you don’t try. Train hard, stick it out for the long haul and after you’ve made some decent training buddies ask them if they’d want to go shooting with you one day or hang out with a guy named Craig and get into a fight in a car with guns. “
Cecil Burch: “Whether I bring them inside or not, NO ONE else should know. Keep that info to yourself (outside of telling the head instructor as I said above).”

What should we know about fight-focused techniques and training inside of an academy?

Cecil Burch: “DON’T spend your time asking how to insert gunwork into the technique. Be a student first and learn the fundamentals of BJJ. If you understand those, then you generally can answer your own questions. If you don’t understand the fundamentals, then it does not matter how much they tell you how to insert weapons use – you will never be able to pull it off until you can perform the fundamentals anyway. Grappling is the single hardest aspect of fighting, with the most variables, and where tiny adjustments make huge impacts. You need to learn the essentials first before worrying about the interdisciplinary component. Trying to do that part prior to grasping the foundational concepts is the surest route to never getting better at any of it.”
Jason Clarke: “Don’t ever say you won’t do a particular technique because you don’t see how it will apply to you in a real life self-defense situation. There is more value within the move that you can’t see than just the move itself. Merely attempting to execute the move will develop your kinesthetic awareness, strength, flexibility, speed, timing and athleticism. Consider everything as another challenge in mastering yourself and your body which is what must happen before you can ever effectively control another person’s body. Additionally, through experimentation and experience with a wide array of moves and positions you may learn and notice concepts and overlapping grappling principles. The truth of the matter is you don’t know exactly which techniques you will need in a fight until you are actually in the fight at that moment. You may be in a well defined position that you’re familiar with, but, more often than not you’ll probably find yourself in some sort of mutant position that you’ve never been in or been taught  how to solve. Your level of self-mastery and understanding of grappling concepts and principles will help you solve that problem faster and more reliable than all the time you spent not training certain techniques because you didn’t think you’d ever need them.”

What other general things should we know about joining an academy?

Cecil Burch: “Don’t worry about whether the gym is a ‘street’ focused school, or a ‘sport’ focused school. The fundamentals are the same regardless. No legit school will waste time teaching you high level sport focused techniques until you can do the basics, and those will be the same at every school. Find the best and most legit BJJ school, no matter their focus, and train hard for 6-18 months before worrying if you are at the right gym.
Understand that you will get your ego bruised, badly. You will fail more often than not the first 6-12 months. Don’t expect it to be ’10 easy steps to fighting mastery.’

Understand that the skills you are working on the ground are the same skills needed when standing upright and entangled with an opponent. BJJ is not just teaching you ‘groundwork.’ You are working standing skills even when you are horizontal.”

Tap out or tap rack ready out

Big thanks to Cecil, Jason and Skye for answering my questions. I hope that you check out their academies if you are interested in learning more about BJJ. If you don’t live in Arizona, Iowa, or Wisconsin they may have recommendations for instructors in your area. Skye was very helpful at pointing me in the right direction here in Minnesota.
I hope that this article answers some of your questions, but if you have additional ones please comment below.

About the Author:

Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd is a regular guy and works to make Web sites and mobile apps easier for people to use. He spends his free time attending fight-focused firearm, knife, and combatives training, motorcycling, writing, and playing games. His daily carry is a Glock 19 pistol and an AR15 .300 Blackout pistol in a backpack.

1 Comment on "Things Gun Owners Should Know About Joining a Jiu-jitsu Academy"

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  1. Martin Luther says:

    I got lucky a few years ago as I found a group of people training in Systema in my home town. Most of these guys and gals were gun carriers so this was incorporated into the training. Some of the guys would have their gear in a backpack near the training mats as we didn’t have lockers. After class was over, everyone geared back up. I usually disarmed out in my vehicle and placed my gun in a safe I installed in my truck. We used trainers like rubber knives and blue guns and could train with our holsters on if we chose. This place was probably not the norm. My experience with most martial artists is that they are not into firearms. This might be that they have a lot of time invested in their art and see firearms as a way to compensate for lack of fighting skill.

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