Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) is a social activity. Think about it, how good would you be if you had no one to train with? You need social skills to have teammates that are willing to train with you. Without appropriate social skills, people will avoid you and you won’t be able to improve your BJJ skills. So let’s make sure that you can be the best teammate possible!
1.You NEED Your Teammates
Let’s start simple: try to be friendly and receptive. It can be a little scary your first time on the mat, but you have to at least look friendly otherwise it may be hard to get a teammate to train with. A big part of Jiu Jitsu is reacting to your training partner (or opponent) and timing. You simply cannot practice these skills without a partner. Solo drills and training dummies are great; but in order to practice reacting to different things and timing your reactions/movements, you need to train with someone else. For example, you cannot react to hip pressure or being cross-faced with a training dummy or in a solo drill. You also can’t time when to react or when to do a certain technique or movement with a training dummy or alone. These skills are invaluable in Jiu Jitsu. As your training progresses, you’ll pick up on these things and get better at them. Just remember that without your teammates, you can’t train.
2. Be Honest
Don’t be overly rough with your partners unless you’ve agreed to do some “hard rolls” to prepare for competition or you both enjoy going at full speed. It’s also not a good idea to agree to go light then try to “hulk out” when you’re in bad positions and “smash” when you get to good positions. If you can’t flow roll or calm down your intensity; then be honest and let the person know if someone asks you for a “light roll.”
Remember in BJJ, we all need to work together to get better.
Integrity matters in BJJ, and you can quickly develop a bad reputation if you don’t keep your word or you’re not considerate of others. So, make sure to follow society’s rules of respect in the gym just like you would in any other social environment. For example, if you’re really dirty or stinky before class; take a shower. Your teammates expect to get sweaty and reasonably dirty during training, but having a partner with excessive body odor and dirt BEFORE training even begins is not cool.
3. Be Considerate
In the same vein, don’t come to the gym when you’re sick. That includes coming in to watch on the sidelines. Whether you are training or not, if you’re in the gym people can still catch what you have. Think about it, after training everyone’s pores are open. Sickness and travel quickly if we’re not careful. If you have a contagious illness (cold, flu, strep throat, etc.) or a contagious skin disease (staph infection or MRSA, boils, warts, cold sore, ringworm, lice, chicken pox, shingles, athlete’s foot, etc.); please stay home until your illness or skin disease is gone and you’re no longer contagious. Even if others are not aware of your contagious illness (because you’ve taken over the counter meds to control the symptoms) or skin disease (because it’s not obvious or you’ve hidden it), have some integrity and stay home. Your teammates and coaches are doing the same for you.
4. Check Your Emotions At the Door
Furthermore, please control your emotions. Of course, accidents happen but if you’re taking out your anger on your partners or injuring people on purpose, because you think that’s what this is about, then you need to re-evaluate your reasons for training. It’s never alright to hurt someone that you are training with. If you find yourself getting angry about tapping out or someone getting the better of you, then please do some self-reflection and work on this.
Anger doens’t help you when you’re training BJJ. When you’re angry, you can’t think and you make mistakes. No one wants to lose, but don’t let yourself become a sore loser.
Why you mad, bro? 😉
Take losses in stride and figure out what you can do better next time. Pro-Tip: Avoiding similarly ranked people who’ve tapped you in Jiu Jitsu might feel good to your ego, but your progress will suffer. As long as the person is not injuring you or being a jerk, you can use those rolls as a learning opportunity. Even the greats lose from time to time. A little friendly competition is good for motivation and progress.
5. You Can’t Do This Alone
If you ever feel that people are avoiding you, ask yourself how you might have contributed to that. (Hint: It’s not because you’re new.) Do you have a cold disposition? Are you a know-it-all? Are you too loud, too talkative, stinky or have other hygiene issues, excessively aggressive, non-responsive, spastic (kicking everyone in the face), serial killer-esque? You might want to ask a nice, trustworthy, honest person in the gym for their opinion on it. Also, take a look at your personal life, do you have friends? Do people avoid you at work? Do you get similar complaints from different people? Are you able to carry on a friendly conversation with a stranger or acquaintance? Have you ever been accused of being bossy or a know-it-all? If so, these might be things to start working on improving.
In closing, the Jiu Jitsu world is just like the real world and socializing is a significant part of Jiu Jitsu. If you’re being avoided on the mats, try to figure out what the problem is and fix it. You’ll find that this not only helps you at the BJJ gym, but it also helps to improve your personal life. In the meantime, just try to enjoy your time rolling and learning with classmates. You’ll make friends before you know it!
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Professor Mikal Abdullah is a 2nd Degree BJJ Black Belt, veteran, father, philanthropist, and founder of Aces Jiu Jitsu Club. You can find her personal Instagram account with the handle @cerebralbjj or just stop by one of our locations and get a session in!