William Vandry: Your responsibilities as a Martial artist, and BJJ black belt


New Vandry BJJ black belt ranks

I just finished teaching my quarterly association seminar for my representatives out of town, and local students.  Of all my seminars, this was the top of them.  Of course I usually think that each seminar.  Jiu-jitsu has so many personality types, goals, mentalities that you literally deal with a melting pot of society.  I have completed a weekend of a rush, adrenaline, awe and grace to God for all he has given me.  My seminar awarded four new BJJ black belts, and a first degree Black belt, along with new blue and purple belts.

A huge congratulations to my new black belts and degreed black belts:


Matt Serfoss 1st degree


Jeff Anderson Black belt


Ian Haynes black belt


Michael Drabek black belt


Josh Travieso black belt


Jesse Armas black belt

Congratulations, and thank you for your years of commitment, loyalty, respect and support.  Matt has been with me for 13 years.  Jeff for almost 15.  Ian for almost 17 years, he started with me in Killeen before I moved to Austin.  Michael for 12 years,  Josh for 9  years., and Jesse Armas almost as long as his father and fellow black belt, Jesus Armas.

I have trained with all of them hundreds of hours.  They are all great leaders, and leading in rank is also a responsibility.

I looked around at the seminar and beamed with pride.  I will say at this time, this is the best my academy has been in my career.  I am grateful to God for success, and giving me the abilities he has.  I held a senior belt meeting and training session on counters the Friday night before the seminar.  I wanted to discuss responsibility, goals, and a code of honor I expect from my students.  I asked for reflection, and the positive result of meetings like these.  Students need mentorship, and leadership.  There has to be a format for people to follow responsibility and expectations as Martial artists.  Senior belts should mentor junior belts, and always remind themselves of their duties as seniors.


“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today”

-Abraham Lincoln

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

– George Santayana

BJJ is a great martial art.  It has so many good things including fitness, learning, developing, mentoring, changing lives for the better, duties and responsibilities.  I had a student recently in class who is now a Black belt.  He was training for a past tournament.  He approached me after a class and said:

“William, I want to thank you for all that you have done over 8 years.  You have treated me so well, and are one of my best buds.  You were one of the first people I met when I came to Austin, and we are still together and close.”

I am a fifth degree Black belt in the art of BJJ.  I never asked for rank,  bargained for it, hinted at it or felt I deserved anything unless my instructor gave it to me.  I earned it.

As in the Star Wars movies, there is the good and dark side of the force.  We have that in Jiu-jitsu, and as a matter of fact in all martial arts, and life.  In a different 2009 article I wrote about responsibility:

…This does not come with a Black belt.  This is a self charged responsibility

….but we should also understand that our conduct is an everyday microscope

Most of these bullying mentalities are immature, and are not impressive, and most of the time these types never grow out of it….

If your instructor has a small school, support him.  There may be different variables:

 1) He may not be a good instructor and lacks credentials, fundamentals, drills, cannot oversee students

 2) He may not be a credible instructor

 3) He may have issues outside of class that he brings to the school (drugs, marital issues, alcohol, etc.)

Ethics vs. Malevolent acts

I am not referring to types regarding drugs or alcohol.  Those are obvious.  We have a different plague growing.  I had a fellow black belt visit me recently.  He told me how another black belt he knew opened a school near his.  That created an issue between two former friends.  In addition, another school opened across from his, and solicited his students.  I told him one thing you cannot teach is ethics.  I told him if students eagerly leave your school for what seems to be greener pastures for them, then let them go.  Students can  make errors influenced by peer pressure, or poor judgment.  However, if you are a student that makes a decision knowing it can injure your instructor or his business financially, think about what you are doing first.

Years ago my mentor had quite a dilemma.  Many of his students did an about-face, and left his school.  When they left, this also caused a drop of students.  This obviously would attribute to financial loss.  I remember how many of his students were still there and how many were not there for him.  I was the first one in line behind him.  You always support your instructor.  Always.  They are not perfect, and they do mistakes and blunders.  But like all true relationships, you have to accept the flaws as well.

I am not here to argue why some left his school.  I know some of them.  Some are friends of mine, and I think at times communication can be a factor.  There are billing, scheduling, oversights, plain forgetfulness, or procrastinating when issues should be handled.

These errors cost us in business.  Those issues instructors have to hold themselves accountable for.  However, the one issue I disagree with strongly is when students, competitors or former employees intentionally attempt to damage that instructor’s living.  When you have those that intended to do harm, or attempt to pillage from an instructor’s network of students, it’s a malevolent, or evil act as defined by the Oxford dictionary.

I know a fellow black belt from DFW area that told me he experienced assistants leaving his school and solicited about 40 of his students with them.  Fellow black belts of mine told me they experienced this many times.

I personally have experienced  this more than once.  I had a student years ago who felt self entitled to open a school and solicit my students without my knowledge.  About 40-50 students pulled me aside privately, and told me he was emailing them, and soliciting their kids from my kids class.  I dismissed him.  Another experience I had with another past student was one who asked me for help in many ways.  He told me specifically that he just wanted a chance in life’ in a matter when no one else could help him.  I helped him, but at a later time felt he deserved a black belt whether he earned it or not.  What was his reason?  He thought he had a big cash cow opportunity mentioned in an email he sent me:

“…I have had a great opportunity that I feel I must act upon. This decision will best benefit my students, my school, as well as myself.  As a part of my departure, I must request that I completely and promptly be removed from your website….”

Notice it wasn’t mistreatment, an illegitimate school, or anything related.  He felt he was about to have a big gold mine.  The unfortunate thing was when he failed to achieve a black belt under me, he tried to go to three of my instructors, then elsewhere.

I had another past student that opened a school without my knowledge.  I found out at a later time he was soliciting my students through facebook.  I noticed missing white belts.  I saw him in person one day, and he expressed that he missed our conversations and company.  I told him in person that I could not have anything to do with anyone that intended to make a living off my living.  He had no response or explanation.

I had another  former student who like a previous one above, could not achieve his black belt.  He failed testing, and seemed to only attend classes late during sparring, and not practice techniques.  Within a few weeks of failing an exam, he sent me a vague email stating he was leaving my school.  I tried to email and call him back to make sure nothing was wrong with his health or at home.  He then explained it was about he not receiving a black belt.  In his email he made bizarre points:

“….So, I felt like by choosing to go to another school, where nobody knows me or has expectations of me that I cannot fulfill, is my only option. I am not asking for you to make a special exception for me, as I know you have strong reasons and thoughts for your new requirements, but because of them, it doesn’t seem like it’s a good fit for me to stay any longer…” 

Anytime a student states he is going to go far away, or fading out, or in this instance where he stated he was going to go where nobody knows him or has expectations he can’t fulfill, I will tell each school owner, they actually intend to do the exact opposite.

I changed all of my locks three weeks before he did what I thought he was going to try to do.  Students of mine forwarded emails or text messages he sent to them basically soliciting them to leave my school.  Some of his solicitations to my students even tried appealing to their friendships as a reason.  These unethical tactics went beyond shameful when he asked one of my children’s class instructors to leave my school.

To me that didn’t sound like someone going where no one knows him or has never heard of him.  It didn’t sound like a very ethical person either.

Here is my advice to instructors.  For students you had that were solicited, if you feel you have to contact them or explain to them, you don’t.  It wont matter.  There is a saying, your real friends don’t need explanations and your enemies won’t believe you anyway.  I think most instructors are angry or vent when this happens at their schools.  Maybe 15 years ago I would, but I kind of just got a laugh each time I found out something new and chalked it up as experience.  I wrote him off and kept teaching and working on my school.  After I was shown so many of his contacts, emails, text messages and stories, that should have been the end of it, right?  Well, guess what happened six months later?  I received another email from him:

…i know we haven’t spoken in awhile, but i thought you might find this interesting.

hope you are well.


Ironically, when I read that email, for a second, I sincerely felt sorry for him.  I felt a sincere pity for a person that didn’t want to earn something the right way, and worse, someone who threw away many relationships with fellow students he thought he could control, and now was attempting to somehow undo his damage.

In Martial arts business, if anyone leaves after you’ve treated them well for their stay as a student, they have developed that type of relationship with many in their life.  This is one example of what seems to be a plague in BJJ.  Now we have white or blue belts breaking off to open schools to start a business at their instructor’s expense.

This is wrong.  And malevolent.  Unprofessional and unethical.  I have had past students who are some of the most unethical people I’ve ever met, but I have had way more that are worth their weight in gold.  I’ve had those that I gave jobs to, and later regretted it due to missing accounts and disaster business-wise.   I’ve helped students with food, rent, jobs, but in the end we as instructors rarely hear “thank you”.

But see there is a valuable point.  Always remember those that preserve, and give back to your community and keep them forever.  Regarding these types that black belts and myself have experienced with, I remembered a quote from Proverbs 16:28:

“A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends”

And from Proverbs 6:16-19:

16 There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him:

 17         haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,
18         a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19         a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.


” You’re going to be held to account for the things you’ve done.  Do you know that? Do you?”

– The Book of Eli (2010)

“A psychopath ain’t a professional. You can’t work with a psychopath.”

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

In 2012 I wrote an article on the Code of ethics:

…The most valuable assets of great students; Work Ethic, Respect, Loyalty and the Code of ethics…This one is also vital.  The loyalty issue is something you either have, or you will never have.  And blind loyalty is not the answer eitherIf you have an instructor that aids you, or mentors you, cherish that relationship and never lose it I have known my instructor Carlos Machado for almost 17 years.  I always give him props, and remind everyone where I came fromNever shame yourself to your instructor.  Never shame or embarrass your instructor with your words or actions.  And never try to use your instructor 

There is a quote I remember in the bible about false prophets, which somehow got into my mind when I was writing this.  For those who do not have religious preferences or practice a different religion, or are atheist or agnostic, the quote I am speaking of comes from one of Christ’s apostle’s  named Peter.  Peter discusses false prophets in Peter 2 2:1:

“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction…”

Here are the Code of Ethics list from the article:

…Jiu-jitsu continually strives to live up to the seven principles of the Code of Bushido “the way of the warrior.” The Code of Bushido teaches humility, truthfulness, bravery, benevolence, compassion, sincerity, loyalty and devotion.  As Martial Arts practitioners we believe that (the) Code of Bushido serves as our constant reminder to perfect our character, as well as facing our weaknesses…

Respect your instructor

Are there answers?  First, if you are a student, respect your instructor.  Act like a Martial artist, not a bully, user, or self entitled.  Clear that evil.  I have always told any student from another school that wants to become a student under me:

“Did you speak to your instructor?”

Usually, they reply no.  I then tell them they should always talk to their instructor.  Even if you do not stay at their school, you should respect those that taught you or introduced you into the Martial arts.  See, many in this business think about money, or a new student, prostituting ranks, and they don’t care where they come from.  You should.  What do you think is going to happen with you?

Personal attacks

A fellow black belt endured a very unfortunate attack and threats to him, his students and his academy on facebook.  He is a legitimate black belt, and started a little after I did.  Now these days we have competitor schools, former students or former employees that act as if they are a concerned citizen to defame that business or school under screen names and aliases.  Even worse, they mask themselves under the guise of the ‘BJJ police’, ‘ethics moderators’ or ‘community regulators’.  Who made them that?  How many of these people have a full time job, a happy marriages or relationships, and don’t spend 12 hours a day on facebook?  How many of these people post on the Internet without swearing, gossip, judging credible black belts when they themselves are not?  How many of these actually do real charity in their community like my wife and I do year round?  How many of them consider charity volunteering at an animal shelter one time and promoting themselves, or donating $20 to a charity and mentioning it every conversation?  Jigoro Kano formed Judo, and his belt system was what promulgated our BJJ original base through Count Koma.  Did Grandmaster Carlos Gracie ever see children wearing yellow, orange and green belts like today?  Attacks like this (death threats against instructor and children), and many others are personal, vindictive, yet they all have one thing in common: they attack legitimate black belts, not just hokesters or impersonators of Martial artists.

It used to be when people wanted to expose frauds for public awareness and safety.  There were the fake Kung Fu or Karate instructors in the 70’s or 80’s.  Now they don’t care.  Just flaming a blog on someone’s reputation is proof enough!

Martial arts schools are supposed to teach self defense.  Not MMA, or fighting or being a competitor.

If a Martial arts academy has a 50 belt system, as long as the instructor is legitimate, who cares?  Gracie Barra, RCJ Machado and other lines from Brazil have adopted and modified belt standards since the days of Grandmaster Carlos Gracie.  Who really feels that is the issue?  Keep in mind, a Martial arts program is different from a BJJ program.  There are school owners out there that automatically label themselves as ‘Professor’, even ‘Master’.

Master Caique, who received a red and black belt from Master Rickson Gracie in 2010 strictly enforces a good teaching policy where you cannot give a black belt until you have been a black belt for 9 years from cjjusa.com:

‘…Once you complete the ninth (9th) year of wearing a Black Belt, the Red Patch Black Belt is allowed to promote a new Black Belt…’

What are the qualifications of these ‘peers’ that personally attack Martial artists on a blog?  When we weed out personal attacks, competitors, former students, or former employees, what else do you have?

Very little to write about.

The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), released by the American Psychiatric Association in 2013, lists both sociopathy and psychopathy under the heading of Antisocial Personality Disorders (ASPD). These disorders share many common behavioral traits which lead to the confusion between them. Key traits that sociopaths and psychopaths share include:

  • A disregard for laws and social mores
  • A disregard for the rights of others
  • A failure to feel remorse or guilt
  • A tendency to display violent behavior

In addition to their commonalities, sociopaths and psychopaths also have their own unique behavioral characteristics, as well.  Sociopaths tend to be nervous and easily agitated.  Psychopaths, on the other hand, are unable to form emotional attachments or feel real empathy with others, although they often have disarming or even charming personalities. Psychopaths are very manipulative and can easily gain people’s trust.

Reference: Bouchard, T.J., Jr., Lykken, D.T., McGue, M., Segal, N.L. and Tellegen, A. 1990.”Sources of human psychological differences: The Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart.” Science 250 (4978), pp. 223–228.

The standard definition of a psychopath is the one made famous by Robert Hare, and most recently written about in the psych-nonfiction hybrid called ‘The key qualities of the psychopath’, a.k.a. person with antisocial personality disorder, include:

– committing acts that harm others (and showing no remorse),

– being incapable of showing empathy

– engaging in impulsive behaviors,

– being sexually promiscuous,

– and manipulating others to get his or her own way.

Internet hostility and Matthew 7:1

If I get a new student, we go over the different programs, I explain it nice and easy, and students are very respectful, train technically, and work on bad positions, new techniques, not simply trying to win.

Those are great students.  And those are the good side of Jiu-jitsu.  When I received my black belt, I was one of the first four black belts of Texas.


Photo: Texas first four Black belts under Carlos Machado: Tim Burril, Travis Lutter, Klay Pittman and William Vandry


Texas second set of black belts: Roman Kilgore, Tery Corkran and David Sullivan (Carlos Machado front, William Vandry back)

I happen to know a great group of my mentors and fellow black belts that have this creed:


8th Degree Carlos and 6th Degree John Machado and the brothers


5th Degree Tim Burill


5th Degree Klay Pittman


5th Degree William Vandry


5th degree Marcos Santos


3rd Degree Travis Lutter


4th Degree Tery Corkran


4th degree Orlando Waugh


4th degree Roman Kilgore


Black belt Eric Shaw


4th degree David Sullivan

There are many more, like my BJJ brother Robert DeFranco, Steve Teas, and a lot more I could mention.  Who or what are peers?  Black’s law dictionary defines peers as:

“Equals: those who are a man’s equals in rank and station: this being the meaning in the phrase “trial by a jury of his peers.”

I think if we are to be judged by our peers, that group mentioned above is a place to start.

So what needs to be done?  To start, Instructors should hold themselves to a higher standard.  Their instructors should as well.  Unethical students should not be embraced for a new set of dues or money, they should be sent back to their instructor.  I have sent many back to their instructors.  There is a quote many use from scripture regarding judging people. The quote is from Jesus in Matthew 7:1:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”  Most do not understand what that quote means.  It doesn’t say do not judge, it says to judge on standards you would judge yourself.

Matthew 7:2-5 states:

“For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

What Jesus was condemning here was hypocritical, self-righteous judgments of others.

Protect Jiu-jitsu among the public, and community.  Preserve our legacy from Maeda to Grandmaster Carlos Gracie, to Grandmaster Helio Gracie to Rolls Gracie, to the Machados, to today.  You can always work to be a better student of the art, not just the mat.

Finishing this article, when I was a little kid I collected comic books.  I had some old comics that I read over and over.  I remember this quote from one, and I never forgot it:

“Men like you are driven by greed!  I have a stronger motivation!  I hate crime…I hate it with every fibre of my being!  Even in a world as confused and uncertain as ours, justice still exists—and whether through me or through the machinery of civilization…the law–Justice triumphs!”

– Batman, issue # 268

Congratulations to my new black belts and students!!

Professor William Vandry (5th degree black belt, BJJ)

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41 thoughts on “William Vandry: Your responsibilities as a Martial artist, and BJJ black belt”

  1. At least I’m not the only one who thinks there’s more to this art than marketing and sparring.

  2. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Disloyalty shows a profound lack of respect, both to your instructor and school, and perhaps more importantly to yourself.

  3. Very well written article William. The many incidents of betrayal you’ve described are evidence that many in this sport have forgotten our Bushido roots. Qualities like honor, respect and loyalty aren’t just relevant in martial arts but also in life. Thank you for being a thought leader in this area and promoting the Warrior Way to this generation of martial artists.

  4. It’s ironic…I was talking with my old roommate today about this exact same thing. There is a well known martial artist in England. This guy is very talented in Original JKD….much of his skill is due to his athleticism. Anyway, he is very good at what he does but instead of honoring those that paved the way for him, he insults them and in particular Guru Inosanto. Not only is Guru one of the nicest people but he is probably the single reason JKD survived after Bruce’s passing. Instead of honoring the one man he should this guy uses his platform to badmouth him. This guy has the gall to say Guru is not doing JKD and is misleading people. The bad thing is there is a whole generation who can end up listening to this pos. Sadly this is everywhere…and it’s up to us to keep and teach honor and truth to those newbies who might not know the difference.

    Ed Aiken
    Vandry Black Belt

  5. Great Article Professor. I’ve had a chance to train with several people that were listed in this article and not only have they taught and shared with me amazing technical Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, they all have set an example and mentored me on how to be a positive, generous, and loyal person. And for that I am truly grateful to be a part of this association.

    Last but not least…Congrats to the new black belts!

  6. Thank you Professor for creating the solid foundation both physically and mentally that us students need as week begin our journey into the wonderful world of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

  7. Benevolence, loyalty, and integrity are topics people don’t usually like to talk about, much less so as it applies to BJJ. It is perhaps uncomfortable for some and the spiritual aspect of martial arts may not always be readily apparent to those who don’t seek it out. These topics are some of the pillars of Jiu Jitsu and the Bushido code. Martial arts is a vehicle to help develop our human potential and we can apply the points Professor Vandry has discussed in the article to our everyday lives.

  8. Ironically, these topics related to sociopaths, pyschopaths, stalking, bullying, and other forms of antisocial behavior are what unfortunately is becoming more and more mainstream.

  9. I enjoyed reading this article! Well written and full of wisdom. I believe anyone who is truly committed to educating, inspiring and empowering others through the martial arts would agree with its content. There is much I could say to further concur. However the article speaks powerfully enough as it is.
    Mr. Vandry you are a stellar example of what a master martial artist should be! Our Jiu-Jitsu community is fortunate to have you.

  10. Awesome Article!! Really enjoyed reading full of wisdom. And well said on the topics where people don’t usually like to talk about or read. Respect,loyalty,discipline and responsibilities,also on topics related to sociopaths,psychopaths,bullying and etc. These topics are never mention because people don’t like to hear about. We need to focus more in the good will of the community. Thank you Prof. William Vandry for mentioning topics which are important to society and the bjj community. Which I totally agree to it. I thank god for the good mentor and friend that you have become in my life and to others. Hope we all learn from this article, God is good….

    Jesus Armas
    Vandry Black Belt

  11. Thank you Mr. Waugh, with your kind words, and reflection of another Texas BJJ mentor! I began a club when I was a blue belt. My goal was always to spread BJJ in Texas, and still is today. Techniques, philosophy, respect are what I teach. Of course today groups attempt to attract clients with open mats, or appease those that desire a month or two free training. The issue is relative to one of my reps in another town. He receives calls or stop ins from people who train elsewhere but ask him does he have any free drop in open mats? What a shame. Those people have no respect from where they come from or their instructor. I had a young man about 8 months ago stop by my academy. He talked to me for about 30 minutes, about his alleged love for BJJ, etc., then hit me with “Hey, you have a lot of guys rolling around, can I try some of my techniques?”

    Whew. I told him he has never once asked me about rates, classes, techniques, and only sought free mat time with my students. I also told him that when you go to schools, you speak and address the instructor respectfully, not simply desiring them to serve your selfish needs to use a school for training, and then never to be seen again. I told him to shop around.

  12. Very thought provoking an excellent article william, my friend an brother.there is not much that can be added, so il just cosign with this. Loyalty and disloyalty unfortunately has always been here from the beginning, an definitely hard to see somtimes..just wait the snakes will always show themselves, the sooner the better. More of a positive note, BJJ is a way of life that helps keep our thoughts as clear as our techniques, if used properly

  13. Thanks for the article. I’ve had the privilege of training with each of those new and degreed black belts shown at the school- and while it’s easy to appreciate their technical skills- I believe it’s their humility and approach to fellow students that continues to pave the way on building the strong community we enjoy. There is probably always going to be weeds that come up – but we have some great examples in the school to follow regarding dedication, how to be solid students, training partners, and friends in the game. Thanks for creating an atmosphere where we can continue to learn, invest, and help build a solid community.

  14. Mr. Sullivan, my dear, dear brother thank you for the post. I think you are correct, in this business we’ve seen it all. Notice David and Orlando how despite all those experiences at different academies and cities, look how long we have known each other and always support each other. Like I stated in the article, it’s like the Jedis in Star Wars who always kept on the good side.

  15. There is an excellent book called “The People of the Lie” by Scott Peck that taught me a lot about the reason people act the way they do. In the end it comes down to a moral laziness that allows people to justify their distasteful actions. BJJ needs good leaders to instill a martial artists code in their students and steer them away from the MMA meat-head mentality. William practices what he preaches by following a code of ethics in every aspect of his life and sets an excellent example for his students and peers. Great article.

  16. I forgot about the book Chandra mentions. In the book, on page 78 it states:

    “They (evil people)of obviously strong will, determined to have their own way. There is a remarkable power in the manner in which they attempt to control others”

    and on page 79:

    “All those who are evil also take the law into their own hands, to destroy life or liveliness, in defense of their narcissistic self image.”

    Thanks Chan, and I agree on her point regarding the MMA mentality. MMA, the sport or courses we support, but you have to look at her point, and note the most loved fighters such as GSP, Randy Couture, Shogun and Machida all have one thing in common: They are ethical, do not libel other fighters, portray their code of Martial arts philosophy that supports the code of Bushido.

  17. I heard someone recently say, “Everyone wants to have a black belt, but not everyone wants to BE a black belt.” I thought that that was very interesting. If you are to maximize the benefits that you can derive from being a martial artist, you must be a martial artist. It seems obvious and intuitive, but not everyone understands this. We as Jiu-Jitsu practitioners should be trying to elevate the art. If the art is elevated then we as individuals will be elevated. It is a positive feedback that will lead to the evolution of our craft, and the actualization of our selves.

  18. Well Said Professor! Loyalty is soooo important in the martial arts. Sometimes it is not stressed enough in Jiu-Jitsu. Its good to see someone stressing loyalty in such a public format!

  19. What a great article and insight from all the true martial artists. I know that I carry these teachings in my every day life because they truly do mean something. I can’t believe there are so many people out there that spend countless hours bashing schools when they can be teaching their students the most valuable lesson in martial arts, honor! I was just watching a show on Kendo where a writer was asking the sensei what’s the perfect move and how do you achieve perfection. The sensei simply stated that a great martial artist strives for perfection, but is humbled by the fact that art is a form of interpretation and you will always have something new to learn. Why can’t we all have a community anymore? Why are people led only by the selfish need to use martial arts to become famous? This is totally killing the giving nature of the art itself.

  20. Thank you Elliot and Micahl! You never forget your roots. I really felt for a fellow black belt that endured online attacks, in this business like the article states, you will have former students, employees or competitors as the source. I feel alliances should bond stronger when issues like this happen.

  21. Great article! This article makes me think about why we support those that have integrity and loyalty. Great teachers cannot empower the people that will use their strength negatively. I’m glad to have experience with several of these teachers. Thank you Mr. Vandry, Mr. Waugh, Mr. Santos, Mr. Lutter and Carlos Machado.

  22. Well said William, what a journey its been for you. God Bless you and your students.

  23. Thank you William for this great article.
    I have spent many years of my life studying martial arts. I have seen the pain of the one problem that continues to plague the martial arts, “selfish People.” I know this seems silly but it is a fact that we have to live with.
    BUSHIDO.. A way of life. The goal of a martial artist is to become one in mind, body and spirit. This is a journey that takes a life time. This journey is filled with roadblocks that we must overcome. This is no easy task. Some will never achieve this because they do not understand or just don’t care. For the ones who do not understand I ask you to empty your cup and search for the answer. For the ones who do not care. Your life journey will not be fulfilling. You are the lost souls that will never be complete.

    Bushidō, then, is the code of moral principles which the samurai were required or instructed to observe…. More frequently it is a code unuttered and unwritten…. It was an organic growth of decades and centuries of military career. In order to become a samurai this code has to be mastered.

    William has spent his life living the bushido way. Morally sound. Loyal and honest. William you have shown me as well as so many others that living the bushido lifestyle is possible.

    I recently have become a black belt and i am now part of your lineage. We have had many conversations and you have shown me so many things beyond jujitsu. For this I thank you. I am truly humbled. For those that have betrayed you and have turned their back on you I say to them. I am sorry for they will never be a true martial artist and will never be one with themselves.

    William you are my mentor, my teacher and more than anything you are my friend. I will always be there for you.

    Thank you

  24. Very thought-provoking article and a big congratulations to the new black belts!

    I know Jiu-Jitsu is viewed by some as a self-defense system, a sport, a means to get in shape, or just a hobby. However, I view it as a way of life.

    ‘From the earliest times, the Samurai felt that the path of the warrior was one of honor, emphasizing duty to one’s master, and loyalty unto death.’ I know that sounds heavy, but as Jiu-Jitsu practitioners, we are modern-day samurai.

    I consider myself very fortunate to be part of the VBJJ community.

    You may abandon your own body but you must preserve your honour.” ― Miyamoto Musashi

  25. Master Vandry your blog was well written and thought provoking. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has changed my life. I started training at the age of 50 (1999) it was hard. I had to work through some injuries and gain a few pounds of muscle by drinking a lot of protein shakes and doing a few weights. I remember training at Travis Lutter’s school with a lot of great guys like Paul Halme, David Jackson, John Jernigan, Buddy Clinton and a lot of other great training partners that encouraged me to train hard. I got the bug and started training 6-7 days per week. When Travis awarded my Blue Belt, I got very “misty” eyed. I have seen BJJ change a lot people for the good. One time Buddy Clinton and I traveled down to Pat Hardy’s for a Royce Gracie weekend of training. We were welcomed as “BJJ Brothers” by Pat, Royce and all their students. I have learned BJJ is a way of life which teaches working hard and setting goals. June 2009 I was awarded my Black Belt by Grandmaster Carlos Machado. It was one of the most exciting and emotional days of my life. Carlos is an amazing instructor, family man and builder of people. I also train under Master Orlando Waugh also an amazing instructor and builder of people. I have spent a lot of time around both these men. They set the example and teach honesty and integrity on and off the mat.

    Some of the behavior you mentioned, such as disloyal students, personal attacks, and internet hostility are the result of our human conditions such as greed, ego, lack of gratitude and some mental issues.
    Greed- I want to start a business but I want the fast track and not have to put in the time to cultivate students so I will steal yours. Ego- I can teach and run a business better than my instructor, I’ll show everybody how great I am.
    Gratitude- not appreciating what you’ve been given; “In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

    Narcissism- A narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. Lack of empathy has been seen as one of the basic roots of selfishness.

    I believe in some cases we can restore broken relationships just like we can with a brother, sister or cousin in a family disagreement. But this is only true to those that are in the BJJ family
    and have the spirit started by the founders, Carlos and Helio Gracie and carried on by our instructors now.

    “The only people with whom you should try to get even are those who have helped you.”John E. Southard

  26. Anthony Johnson

    A true leader creates other leaders that can respect themselves and others around them. He desires not to dominate those around him, but to uplift them. Not to uplift them for his own benefit, but because it is the right thing to do. A real leader doesn’t want someone to follow because of his title. A real leader hopes for friends/students who respect him for being a decent human being above all. William Vandry has created a nontoxic environment for all of us to train in to focus on self and others around us and it’s much appreciated. Thanks

  27. Commitment. Loyalty. Respect. Support. Words like these have been tossed around in casual conversation often without consideration of what they actually mean.

    Commitment: the state or instance of being emotionally obligated or impelled

    Loyalty: a feeling of strong support for someone or something

    Respect: a feeling or understanding that someone or something is important, serious, etc. and should be treated in an appropriate way

    Support: the act of showing you believe that someone or something is good or acceptable; the act of helping someone by giving love or encouragement

    These words are so simple and yet describe complex feelings and acts that we take for granted. They are similar in many ways and even the definitions seem to overlap each other. Many times these words are assumed they should be interpreted the same way between different sexes, different religions, different ethnic backgrounds, and different populations. These principles are basic and should be at the heart of interpersonal relationships across the globe. Unfortunately, we encounter those who do not see these principles as we do. Many times it results in the loss of friendships or other relationships. Fortunately, there are places one can go to encounter these principles. For some, church can provide this. For me, that place was found with Professor Vandry. It started with a job application, an interview, and months of him urging me to partake in the world of BJJ.

    For those of you who may not have known me well back then, I was recovering from years of believing I didn’t deserve much. I had become someone who didn’t feel their own self-worth, someone who didn’t think they could be successful at much, someone who had taken their meekness and turned it into a weakness. Jiu Jitsu changed that in my life. The person who mentored, educated, counseled, and encouraged me to be the best I could be was Professor Vandry. He has been my teacher in every possible subject, not the least in my BJJ lifestyle. I’ve learned how to embrace the good days, accept the days when I don’t get to train like I want to, and overcome the bad days when good technique seems to elude me. These lessons have passed into my personal life in being a single mother of two children, in my studies and acceptance into nursing school, in my relationship with God, and in my personal relationships. I know now that I am strong, smart, and can do anything I am challenged with… Including throwing a man twice my size onto the mat!

    Submission: the state of being obedient; the act of accepting the authority or control of someone else

    In life, the word “submission” tends to have a negative connotation. Even the Bible talks about wives submitting to their husbands and it is still hard for me to swallow. In BJJ, “submission” means overcoming one’s opponent with good technique, hopefully utilizing their strength against them and choosing not to muscle the tap out of them. To me, submission means trust. It means respect. It means love.

    Now I have not trained at any other martial arts schools. I have not experienced any other instruction than that of my professor. I’m sure some feel that they need to seek something from somewhere else. I’m sure they must feel that they are missing out or that the grass is greener. I’m sure they needed to leave Professor’s school to prove something or seek other instruction. I choose to see things differently. I am fulfilled in every moment I spend in Professor Vandry’s school… My school. My home. My family has become men and women who stand along side of me and help me be even more amazing than I ever thought possible. I am treated with commitment, respect, loyalty, and support by these people who have come to mean more to me than I had ever hoped for. I want to be like them… The Josh Travieso’s who laugh at you as they are choking you, then encourage you to take life with a smile so you can have more fun. The Ian Haynes’ who are always finding the positives when all you can see is the negatives in your game. The Mike Drabek’s who try to get you out of your head, while invisible knee-on-bellying you then pushing you to train just a little longer. The Jeff Anderson’s who are always ready to refine your technique and then complement you even after kicking your butt across the mat. These people whom Professor Vandry has sown into consistently sow into me. This family is my family and no one can take that away. I submit my BJJ game into the hands of Professor Vandry willingly and wholeheartedly. Submission is not just about obedience and authority, it’s also about relationships of love and respect. I commit my jiu jitsu education to Professor Vandry and his lineage. I demonstrate my loyalty by the respect for those in this school. I am so grateful for my jiu jitsu and the life lessons that I’ve learned from it. I fully support and cherish my school and can’t wait for the techniques I will learn tomorrow… Because tomorrow is another awesome day I get to train BJJ.
    Jen Smalley- Purple Belt under Professor William Vandry

  28. Well Stated article, Professor Vandry. I found the information very knowledgeable & factual to the many stories I have listened to or observed in the Martial Art world. Your addition of analogies and quotes were very accurate. The world is full of an array of people whom exhibit a profound sense of psychological behaviors, actions, and theories on what they process as their own belief system. Many peruse their goals through life and it’s curricular structure to accommodate what they believe to be their ideal interpretation of a situation or a social term of events, thus leaving behind the true meanings, objectives & morals for which the subject matters are based upon. There are many dedicated & professional Sensei, Professors and Instructors whom represent the Integrity Martial Arts stands for, that implement the teachings that follow a set of morals and guidelines needed for safe and educational progress through it’s practices and ranking system that allow the students the foundational means to produce a predicted outcome, thus leading to a well rounded program. Patience, persistence & dedication are the “keys” to success, which many are NOT willing to endure or go the distance for in order for such progress. Sadly, due to their falsified belief system & psychological dysfunction they attempt to take short cuts and fabricate a different unrealistic path for themselves creating a dead end, only to blame & ridicule the very same professional whom would have given them the foundation needed to go beyond their own expectations. Although we cannot “FIX” the Social dysfunction of part of the society, we can at least look onward and “SEE” the Integrity that Martial Arts has held for centuries and with professional such as Yourself, The Machado Family, The Gracie Family and the multitude of Martial Arts families that represent the HONORED Martial Art Ethics, proves that there is hope for future generations to experience it’s true form! Thank you for the Integrity you represent within your practices that you offer students and fellow Professors you collaborate with as well as others that have the opportunity to explore and observe via your experiences that you share with the world! Forever grateful, Respect!
    Sue Kimball

  29. William, wow, not only an outstanding article but some really thoughful and thought-provoking comments. It sounds like, at least the practicioners above have got the right idea. Individuals can be decisive, but i firmly believe that the art, itself, brings us and binds us together. we are all brothers in a larger capacity via the art but more intimately by being of the same Machado jiu jitsu lineage. It has always been respected within, not only the bjj community, but also amongst martial arts as a whole. I would put the Machado black belts that i know as a group against any other in regards to skill level or quality of character. Names like Vandry, Sullivan, Corkran, Lutter, Kilgore, Waugh, McClure, DeFranco, Brown, Burril, Pittman, Shebaro, Alirezaei, Douglas…the list goes on, comprise one heck of a pedigree. I am proud to say that i know and have trained with the likes of these men and am honored to even have my photo amongst theirs. It’s up to each individual, white belt and up, to hold themselves to an honorable standard. Bushido has to originate within each student of the art. Jiu jitsu is an ancient knowledge and one that should be proudly carried and revered as should be the instructor which has imparted this knowledge to you. It should be regarded as a heavy responsibility. You aren’t just “learning moves” or getting “exercise” but are receiving and passing down a centuries-old tradition. Ensuring the proper passing of exact techniques during the sendoku period (warring state period) of Japan could’ve literally mean life or death for you and those who were given this knowledge. I can see how and why good instructors would have been revered and honored by their students. We live in different times but I don’t think it should be any less of a responsibility to pass along this art or less of a privilege to recieve it. You might still need it someday to save yours or your family’s lives. That being said, we are all bound by this ancient practice and I, for one, am thankful for the knowledge of it that i have recieved over the years from my instructor, Carlos Machado ( as well as from any of those that I’ve trained with) and try to put it into perspective when I pass any knowledge along to others. This is life changing stuff and it transends us all individually.

  30. How easy it is for some people to forget what someone has done for them. The lack of loyalty today always surprises me. Many people never understand what has value in life and what doesn’t. I guess we should feel sorry for them in their sad ignorance but it’s not easy.
    Relationships are everything. What good is anything to anyone without relationships? I however will never forget what Will’s done for me. First and foremost put up with me and my attitude till he could convince me I had something to learn. This was not easy and most people would’ve never hung in there with me. We’re family now and that’s for life.
    Thanks Will!

  31. I was speaking to students in my day class today. Fausto and Mike started commenting on the article. I then apologized, and told them we need to get to class as we were talking in depth. Fausto made such an eloquent, philosophical statement when he said:

    “Its all Jiu-jitsu”.

    What he meant was topics like these that involve our Martial art should be spoken about, even in classes. We are Martial artists, and his point implied open dialogues. I am in awe regarding some of the most intellectual comments I have ever read on any forum.

    – Matt B spoke about integrity and loyalty.

    – My black belt M Drabek stated:

    “For those that have betrayed you and have turned their back on you I say to them. I am sorry for they will never be a true martial artist and will never be one with themselves.”

    Ironically, this article I did not write about or for me. I remember so many of my friends, my instructor and so many other fellow black belts that have had ways worse in some ways. I wrote the experiences I have had for a reason. I did not want to comment on experiences while avoiding any discussion on my own. I wrote this article when I saw an unfair judgment on a fellow black belt and I spoke with other fellow blacks who also feel the same way. I wanted to comment on this, and my peers here are also commenting. Notice the intellectual critiques, self examination and expression of individuals own experiences that come from the heart.

    – I agree with Mike and Israel on the code of the Samurai. You can go back years ago and see my references to bushido code and the code of a Martial artist.

    – My old friend Steve Teas really touched me with his wisdom and points:

    Greed- I want to start a business but I want the fast track and not have to put in the time to cultivate students so I will steal yours.

    Ego- I can teach and run a business better than my instructor, I’ll show everybody how great I am.

    Gratitude- not appreciating what you’ve been given; “In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.

    – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

    Steve, that was awesome and I think a million people in different businesses would love to read that. Tony was right on about creating leaders, not attempting to be a big fish in a little pond.

    Jen texted me and told me she felt she wrote her wedding speech on my blog. I have to admit, women are so intellectual. I was emailing Sarina (Orlando’s wife) telling her how women are so in detail and do not procrastinate like we men do (don’t get my bud Lindsay on this). I have employed people since I was 20. I have been through so many employees, when I first met her I knew she was in a restarting point in her life. But my instinct knew that she was those types of employees and people you don’t ever find often. Thank you Jen, that post is going to hit a lot of people. My friend Sue, along with Jen, Sarina and Chandra give those female intellectual views and discussions regarding points and what I feel are correct microscopes on defining actions as good or bad. My BJJ brother Eric expressed what I feel as a whole, our community sees our BJJ. Hold themselves to an honorable standard. Pat makes a good point about not understand lack of loyalty. Loyalty is not blind, In 1 John 4:1 it says:

    “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world”

    This article made me recall a past student who I expelled due to some really unethical actions, not on me, but elsewhere that I found out about. I remember when I sent him a dismissal letter, I sent this quote from 2 Tim at the bottom of the letter. This article made me think of it:

    “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, UNTHANKFUL, unholy.”

    – 2 Tim. 3:2 Paul points to the last days on ingratitude

  32. 10 black belts posted and a handful of brown and other belts. I think our BJJ community can grow more with a respectful generation and supportive of our schools, cities in the future.

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