No. BJJ, as an activity, is not a cult. In BJJ, you have the freedom to leave the sport anytime you want. Your involvement in it is a personal decision. that being said, some gyms or associations can display cult-like tendencies, which sometimes negatively impact their members' lives.
Some people think that the hierarchical structure, ranking system, and sometimes-fanatical obsession of BJJ could be considered cult-like.
This has been a topic of debate among practitioners and outsiders alike.
The world is full of individuals who once practiced various martial arts, but after discovering BJJ, abandoned them and started preaching about the one true path. Now, let's evaluate the real evidence and determine if BJJ is indeed a cult.
Before we dive deeper into this whether BJJ is a cult, let's first define what a cult is.
Wikipedia, defines a cult as a social group defined by its unusual religious, spiritual, philosophical beliefs, rituals, or common interest in a particular personality, object, or goal. Cults often have additional features like a strict hierarchy and special methods for members to recognize each other, whether through clothing, language, or unique signs.
With all this in mind, we'll define a cult as a social group characterized by its beliefs and rituals. There must be a common interest in a specific personality or goal that harms its members.
Cult members will devote their time, money, and focus entirely to the cult. With these criteria at hand, can we compare BJJ with notorious cults like Heaven's Gate, the Unification Church, or the Branch Davidians?
My initial consideration is that the answer is no. But a closer examination shows SOME similarities: a family at the top holding secret wisdom, a uniform indicating one's position in the hierarchy, a special language that most people will not understand, unique greetings, a clear distinction from other martial arts, a culture of evangelism, high costs compared to other martial arts, and encouragement to invest more time and effort.
However, I still believe BJJ is not a cult. Jujitsu can change lives for the better. It can improve your fitness, boost your confidence, and you forge strong friendships within your gym. While BJJ may resemble a cult superficially, BJJ is a force for good, unlike true cults.
That said, some BJJ schools show cult-like characteristics: disproportionate respect for black belts, a single accepted uniform available only within the school, prohibition against training with anyone other than the professor of your gym, and instances of instructors taking advantage of their students, either financially or even sexually.
Remember, physical discomfort is a common part of training in BJJ. But emotional discomfort is a serious red flag.
If you ever feel pressured to invest more money than you can afford, if you witness instructors belittling students, or if inappropriate actions of senior members are downplayed or covered up, it is time to find a new club.
In summary, while BJJ may display cult-like tendencies, it isn't inherently a cult. However, certain schools definitely exhibit cult-like behavior.
I'm interested to know your thoughts. Do you think BJJ is a cult?