.-The term Creonte is a BJJ specific term that some people use to refer to others who they perceive to be traitors. Specifically it refers to people who have left one gym to join another gym. In doing so it may be felt that they show a lack of respect for their teammates and coaches for the time and effort spent teaching them. The term was coined by Grand master Carlson Gracie based on a character from a popular Brazilian TV show in the 80’s.
The term is still in use but Jiu Jitsu but it no longer has the same relevance in modern BJJ. It is most commonly used in memes and online jokes within BJJ community.
The origin of Creonte
Originally “Creonte” was the name of a character in the popular Brazilian soap opera ‘Mandala‘ which ran from 87-88 on television in Brazil. The character of Creonte Silveira was a despicable person who regularly switched alliances to save his own skin. He was consistently dishonorable and was despised by fans of the show. Carlson Gracie was obviously a fan of the show and began to use the phrase to describe students who chose to leave an academy to join a rival team.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at this time was still a relatively unknown martial art that was mostly practiced in Brazil. Royce Gracie was yet to shock the world with his Jiu Jitsu in the UFC. It would also be many more years before the explosion in popularity of BJJ in North America and the rest of the world. In Brazil the BJJ community was close knit and loyal to their own BJJ lineage. It was before the time of DVD instructionals and YouTube. As a result teams and instructors were protective over their own techniques and knowledge. The team rivalries also meant that there was always paranoia that someone could leave your team and share the knowledge that you had cultivated with a rival team. As a result the risk of a student defecting was a lot more emotive. This is why such a harsh term like Creonte was used.
The practice of moving gyms and teams is done regularly in Jiu Jitsu. Many people move location for work or family reasons. Depending on how far they move, training at the same gym is often no longer possible. These people tend to be grapplers who attend classes as a social outlet or as a way of staying fit and learning self-defense. In my mind the term creonte is generally not used when referring to these people.
In fact the term was created and is mostly reserved for high level grapplers. Specifically those grapplers that are interested in competing in the sport of BJJ. When a high level grappler leaves a team that they have trained at for a number of years, there may be a perception that they are ungrateful for the time that their instructors have put into coaching them. By leaving the team they are taking with them some of the knowledge of the team. The fear is that this knowledge will then be shared with a rival academy.
However the reality is that high level grapplers regularly move to a new team to get access to better training partners and coaching. Gyms such as ATOS and Unity are full of students who have moved countries to train with the best of the best in the hope of winning a major Jiu Jitsu title. For many high level competitors BJJ is a individual sport and you need to be selfish in order to be the best. If you are from a small team in rural part of your country your access to other high level grapplers may be extremely rare and this can limit your ability to improve.
However many others will argue that loyalty is a core value of BJJ. They may feel that as a team you learn together and help each other be the best grappler possible. If everyone who was a good grappler decided to leave their academy for “better” academy it diminishes the
The fact of the matter is that you as a Jiu Jitsu student are a paying customer. As a result you have every right to join whatever team you want. To call someone a Creonte for wanting to join another team is more of a reflection on the instructor rather than person choosing to leave the team. It is natural that a instructors ego may be hurt when hearing news of a students decision to move academies. People choosing to leave a team is a part of owning an academy. It is something every gym owner and instructor will have to go through. Instead of getting upset use it as a chance to ask some questions about yourself. If you are honest you might even figure out some ways of improving student retention.
Loyalty is an admirable quality and it’s reasonable for any academy to have it as a core values. However using the term creonte to refer to ex-students is a bad reflection on the culture of the academy. It also suggests a bad environment for learning. An atmosphere where students are afraid to visit other academies and have contact with other instructors is not conducive to a good learning environment. A good instructor should have the confidence in their own ability to teach and accept any students choice to move to a new academy.