Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art rooted in honor and legacy. In the earlier days of BJJ, this meant that a student’s loyalty to his or her instructor was a crucial aspect of the sport. That’s why, if you are a BJJ practitioner, you have probably heard the term “creonte” before.
What Does it Mean?
First and foremost, the term “creonte” is derogatory in BJJ—you definitely don’t want to be one.
Creonte is used to describe a BJJ practitioner who is “disloyal” to their instructor or academy, usually by leaving their Jiu-Jitsu school after establishing a meaningful relationship with that team.
Many times, this comes about when students are forced to move locations. This is generally not as frowned upon by BJJ instructors, so the student might not be labeled as a creonte in this instance. A more egregious example would be an athlete either secretly training at another academy, or leaving altogether because they grow unhappy with their current curriculum.
If there is some extenuating circumstance, a student will most likely not be called a creonte simply for leaving their team. It is generally more traditional instructors that choose to use the phrase or believe in the ideology at all, usually in instances where a BJJ practitioner blindsides their team by leaving suddenly.
For example, Keenan Cornelius leaving Andre Galvao’s famous academy (Atos) to start his own American Jiu Jitsu school, Legion. These two black belts are unlikely to ever be on good terms again after this break-up.
Nowadays, it is becoming rare for the idea to be taken seriously at all. As the sport continues to grow in popularity, the traditional and hyper-loyalist ideals that used to dominate the Jiu-Jitsu scene are becoming rarer to find in modern BJJ academies.
Where Did the Word Come From?
The term “creonte” was first coined by Grandmaster Carlson Gracie, who allegedly first heard the word from a popular Brazilian soap opera called Mandala.
Mandala featured a character on the show whose name was Creonte Silveira. Creonte was a notoriously disloyal on the show and changed allegiances several times. Carlson Gracie watched and enjoyed Mandala, and began calling people who left his team to pursue training elsewhere “creonte.”
Since then, the term caught on and became part of Jiu-Jitsu culture. BJJ expert Vinicius “Draculino” Magalhães explains the origins of the term, as well as how to pronounce the name in the video below.
Modern attitudes towards the term “creonte”
There is certainly some debate today as to whether or not people should use the term creonte. The growing popularity of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has attracted more and more casual practitioners that want to try the sport. Because of this, many in the community see creonte as an outdated term and idea.
Obviously, casual BJJ students don’t need to have the same degree of loyalty to their school or instructor as people who train more seriously. This means that this “creonte culture” doesn’t really affect the casual BJJ crowd.
Additionally, modern instructors have adapted to BJJ’s booming popularity by changing the way they teach. One of the original stigmas of creontes in the early days of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was that disloyal students could go to another academy and reveal secrets from their original school.
Today, this paranoia just doesn’t really exist anymore, as the internet has effectively eliminated any “secret techniques” that used to vary from school to school.
Is it Okay to Train at More Than One BJJ School?
Today, it is far more acceptable to train at more than one Jiu-Jitsu academy. Whether it is due to travel, or just a change of pace, training at multiple gyms does not necessarily make you a creonte. In fact, many students find that it is beneficial to do so, and more and more instructors agree that the idea of a creonte is on its way out the door.
Training with more than one team could expose a BJJ student to new styles that they may be unfamiliar with, better preparing them for Jiu-Jitsu competition. Additionally, it gives them a wider variety of training partners, as it can get easy to learn a partner’s grappling style and patterns when you roll with them constantly.
If you want to get this experience of training with different people by moving from gym to gym, it is a good idea to have a “base” academy. This is normally the school where you learned your fundamentals, and spent the most time with that instructor. This is also the team that you would represent in competition.
When training with other teams, it’s a good idea to let the instructor know which academy is your base. It’s always in good practice to be as transparent as possible, as some instructors or schools might be less comfortable with letting you train there.
If you’re ever in doubt, just ask your instructor. They’ll let you know how comfortable they are with you going out to train with another team. Additionally, they might even tell you which schools are the best around to attend classes or open mat sessions.
How to Honorably Leave Your BJJ School
In the United States, people tend to be much more open about leaving Jiu-Jitsu gyms to train elsewhere than some of the more traditional schools in Brazil.
This is partly due to the fact that in America, the idea is that students are paying money for a service, so if they are unhappy or think they would be better off elsewhere, they are free to leave. Many more traditional academies and instructors might disagree, but this attitude is generally where modern Jiu-Jitsu seems to be going.
Ryan Young of Kama Jiu-Jitsu explained how to properly leave a BJJ school in the video below: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQQSatcWYAU
To summarize Ryan’s points, he explains that if you are thinking about leaving a Jiu-Jitsu school to train with another team, talk to your instructor first. They might be able to to adjust the curriculum to suit your needs.
For example, many people end up wanting to leave a BJJ school because it is more focused on competition when they want to learn self-defense, or vice versa. Talking to your instructor about what you want from the program might encourage them to change what or how they teach to suit you best.
On the other hand, if you are simply not enjoying training with your team or in your gym, it might be best to leave. Practicing with people who don’t want to be there can have a negative impact on the session, and it can hurt everyone’s experience in the gym.
The World’s Most Famous Creonte
Perhaps the most famous instance of a BJJ athlete being referred to as a creonte came from the team where the term was coined in the first place.
A boy by the name of Vitor Belfort came to Carlson Gracie’s gym when he was 8 years old to train vale tudo, a combat sport with a rule set very similar to mixed martial arts. Belfort was a very talented athlete from a young age, and Carlson Gracie took notice and took the young man under his wing.
Carlson trained Belfort personally, expediting him to his Jiu-Jitsu black belt when Belfort was just 17 years old. Carlson took Belfort to Los Angeles with him in 1994 to open his own Gracie BJJ gym, and treated him like a son during that time.
When Vitor Belfort entered his first UFC tournament in 1997 at just 19 years of age, Carlson Gracie was by his side. Belfort ended up winning this heavyweight tournament, and attributed much of this success to Carlson.
Years later, however, their relationship would sour. Belfort lost his UFC Light Heavyweight title to Randy Couture in 2004. He ended up leaving Carlson’s tutelage to train with Brazilian Top Team after this fight, which angered his former mentor.
Carlson started calling Vitor “creonte” after this, a nickname which he eventually started calling anyone that left his gym to train elsewhere. From then on, creonte became a part of the BJJ culture.
In modern day BJJ, the concept of a creonte is mostly outdated. There are certainly some instructors and academies that expect more loyalty than others, but the popularization of the sport has made the term mostly obsolete.
With that being said, there are still appropriate ways to go about switching schools or going to train at multiple academies that we covered in the sections above. Hopefully, now you have all the information you need to know about “creontes” in BJJ!