Every jiu jitsu academy has its own set of house rules, and things can vary from place to place, but generally speaking, there is a certain way to behave and a certain accepted standard of etiquette that you should adhere to.
Sometimes the ‘house rules’ are written out clearly on a poster on the wall, or they can be found on the academy website. The following is an in-depth explanation of how to behave before, during and after every class you attend. Following these rules of etiquette will ensure that you and your fellow students can get the most out of the training experience. It will also ensure that you do not inadvertently upset other students or cause unintended problems.
Health and hygiene
Hygiene is taken extremely seriously at jiu jitsu academies, and maintaining good hygiene standards goes beyond simply being polite. Jiu jitsu is a very close-contact activity, often with large numbers of people training in close proximity to each other. If good hygiene standards are not maintained, you or other students could become unwell from skin infections and other illnesses.
First and foremost, please do not attend any classes if you are unwell in any way. If you have a cough or a cold, you can easily spread this to your training partners. A mild cold for you could be far worse for someone else, and everyone can be affected differently. Similarly, if you have any skin infection, such as ringworm, herpes or staph, please do not train. These infections spread very easily and can infect large numbers of people very quickly.
Always make sure you shower or bathe regularly and bring a washed, clean gi to class with you. You will be in very close contact with your training partners during the class, and there is nothing worse than having to train with someone who is dirty and smells bad. If you have a strong body odour, consider using some deodorant out of politeness to your training partners.
Make sure you trim your finger and toenails regularly. Long, sharp nails are highly likely to cut your opponent when training, and it is easy for these sorts of wounds to get infected. It is a good idea to carry a set of nail clippers in your gym bag in case you forget to trim your nails. For similar reasons, you should always remove any piercings or jewellery before training as they can easily scratch or cut yourself or your training partner. This includes wedding rings, which can get caught and strip the skin of your finger in a worst-case scenario. If you are unable to remove a ring or piercing for any reason, then you should tape over it instead.
Never wear shoes on the mats, and wear some sort of footwear, such as flip-flops, from the changing rooms to the mats. You should also always wear them if you are heading to the bathroom, restroom, or anywhere you aren’t wearing shoes. Most academies clean the mats regularly, and it is an easy way to upset the instructor if you wander back from the bathroom with bare feet bringing tracking bacteria onto the area where you will be training.
Finally, if you suffer any sort of injury that causes bleeding during a class, make sure you stop training immediately and address it straight away. Clean and cover your wound before returning to training and clean any blood that may have contaminated the mats. Also, let the instructor know what has happened, as they may want to disinfect the area.
General conduct at the academy
Always try your best to arrive on time for class. Arriving late is not only disrespectful to the instructor teaching, but it can also be disruptive to the other students and interrupt the flow of the class as the instructor may need to repeat demonstrating a technique to catch you up. At the very least, missing the warm-up will make you more likely to pull a muscle or get injured.
Turn off or silence your mobile phone during the class. A ringing phone during the class is very distracting for both the instructor and the other students. If you want to use your phone to film a technique or a portion of the class, make sure you get the permission of the instructor before doing so. Not every instructor will be happy to be filmed, so it is always best not to presume it will be ok and check first.
Keep your focus during the class on jiu jitsu. The mats are a place for training, and it is best to avoid discussions about politics, current affairs, religion, and other sensitive issues. Also, do not gossip or complain about other people; not only is this incredibly rude, but it will also make you look bad and put people off training with you. If you have experienced a problem or have some issue with another person training at the academy, it is much better to chat with that person directly, or if this s not possible, discuss it with the instructor.
Above all, always treat others how you would like to be treated yourself. People come to jiu jitsu to have fun and to relieve themselves of the stresses of everyday life.
Conduct during the class
Keep talking and noise to a minimum during the class. Do not shout loudly or do anything likely to distract the instructor or the other students during the class. There should be silence when the instructor is teaching, and talking while a technique is being demonstrated is incredibly rude. Also, keep an attentive posture when the instructor is teaching and don’t lie down or lounge about.
It is absolutely fine to ask questions, but don’t go overboard with them. The instructor will often leave a little time for questions and clarification at the end of teaching each technique. If you have questions, keep them specific to the subject of class and try to remember that other people might have questions too.
Stick to the technique that the instructor has taught when you are drilling. You have come to learn from the instructor, and the class is not the place to be trying out the latest technique you have watched on YouTube. Save this for open mats or other occasions when you are training informally. The instructor will have taken time to prepare the class and will have a specific reason why they have chosen the technique that they are teaching. Also, don’t teach your training partner techniques or drills; this is the instructor’s job.
Conduct during sparring
The most crucial aspect of sparring is the safety of yourself and your training partner. It is important to remember that this is training and not fighting. Do not go crazy, and keep things relaxed and controlled. View your training partners as people who are there to help you. If you go excessively hard with them, things will almost certainly escalate, and they will go excessively hard back. Try to let go of the outcome; sparring is simply a learning process where you get the opportunity to apply the techniques you have been learning in a pressure-testing situation.
Always respect the tap. Tap early, and do not hold on stubbornly when a submission is inevitable. You not only risk injury, but you waste time when you could have reset and started again. Likewise, be very careful when applying submissions, don’t crank on submissions or do anything unnecessarily dangerous. As you as your opponent taps, release the submission immediately. Even if your opponent hasn’t tapped and you feel they are in danger because they are holding on too long or don’t understand the danger they are in, you should also release. Your training partner’s safety should come above your ego.
Be respectful of the differences in grade, size, and gender. Experience matters a lot in jiu jitsu, but size and strength are real factors too. A 50 kg purple belt will certainly be more skilful than a 100 kg white belt, but this doesn’t mean that the much heavier player can’t injure the smaller one by using reckless or excessive force. Don’t assume that just because someone is a higher grade than you that it gives you the right to go as hard as you want. The same applies to rolling with much older people; at 20 years of age, endurance and recovery are much higher than at age 50. Try to keep sparring light and relaxed and match your training partner’s level of intensity to ensure you both get as much as possible out of the roll. If you feel like your training partner is going too hard, then it is fine to let them know and ask them to relax a little too.
Maintain good awareness of other people sparring around you. Unfortunate and avoidable injuries can happen when one pair of sparring students roll into or land on top of another pair. If the area of the mat where you are sparring becomes overly crowded, move to a different spot. The convention is that the lower grades should move out of the way of the higher grades. You should stop immediately when the instructor signals that the round has ended. Do not continue sparring, even if you are close to a submission.
Finally, always be humble in victory. Celebrating after you tap someone out is bad form, and there is no place for bragging about who you have submitted. It makes you look bad, and sooner or later, you will be tapped out and humbled too.
Header image used on license from Shutterstock.
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