TFC is the leading BJJ Brisbane training centre, but what is BJJ and which parts of BJJ etiquette are essential?
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is fast becoming one of the most popular forms of martial art in the world. It’s effectiveness was made unquestionably clear when Royce Gracie (pronounced Hoyce) won the first-ever UFC event back in 1993.
Fast-forward 27 years and what once was a relatively unheard of martial art has now found its way into the repertoire of almost every mixed martial artist. If it isn’t being used to make an attack, it is being used to defend one. There is no surprise that when it comes to ground fighting, finding yourself entangled with an experienced BJJ artist draws comparisons to swimming with sharks. At TFC, we are the leading BJJ Brisbane training centre, helping locals learn the game many call ‘human chess’.
For such an effective and potentially destructive art form, it is one that is known for having one of the warmest training atmospheres. Strangers become training partners, training partners become friends and this is made possible due to the respect that is shown to both to oneself and one’s training partners.
Let’s explore the world of BJJ etiquette together.
1 The bow
Bowing as a show of respect makes it obvious that the origins of BJJ come from Japan. Whether it be greeting your sensei, before getting on the mat or just after getting off of it, bowing is necessary. Your trainer is teaching you techniques that will improve your life and may save your life one day. The training area is the testing ground where you sharpen your mind and skills, giving both aspects the respect they deserve is expected from all that attend.
No matter whether you go to train in the heart of Rio or at our BJJ Brisbane training centre, showing respect will have you met with welcoming arms.
2 Your shoes dont belong on the mat
The training area is a sanctuary for a BJJ practitioner. For many, it is their only opportunity throughout their day to disconnect from the world outside. Some students at our BJJ Brisbane training centre say that it is their opportunity to feel genuinely at peace in their day. It holds symbolic value, one is to leave their shoes and with them, their problems.
It is also a place where people make contact with the ground with the entirety of their body on a regular basis. Therefore, ensuring that the mats stay as clean as possible is essential to avoid anything unfriendly getting into our system.
It is worth noting that some aspects of BJJ etiquette hold more importance than others. This particular aspect is without a doubt one that should not at any cost be broken.
3 Belts matter
The colour of one’s belt, as well as the amount of stripes they have, signifies the time and energy invested into learning the art form, this is to be respected. Everyone is expected to be respectful to each other, regardless of rank. However, even more care is to be taken when interacting with a higher belt.
For those that need a more ‘’solid’’ reason, your progress in the discipline can be fast-tracked significantly if the higher belts take a liking to you (partly gained through being respectful), in turn providing you with invaluable tips.
4 Personal hygiene
As the leading BJJ Brisbane training centre, we like to run a tight ship ensuring all members enjoy their time. No one likes a smelly training partner, it can be easily avoided, so try your best to ensure that happens. There are a couple of different aspects regarding personal hygiene that need to be addressed.
Firstly, cleanse your body. Have a shower, get the deodorant on and come to the mats with the assurance that you have ‘purified’ yourself. Next, ensure that your gi isn’t worn for more than 2 days consecutively at a maximum before cleaning it. Due to the weight of most gis it can take a considerable amount of time for them to dry. Get a minimum of two gis that you can interchange when the other is being cleaned/dried. Lastly, oral hygiene. You are going to be in close quarters with your training partners for significant amounts of time, brush your teeth, use mouthwash.. don’t be ‘that’ guy.
5 Tap means tap
Tapping from a submission isn’t something that goes away as you progress through the ranks, it just occurs less regarding certain positions you found yourself in before that you’ve learned to avoid. White belts tap, black belts tap, we all tap. There is no shame in tapping, it is an essential part of the learning process. Breaking the unspoken rule of trust between training partners by holding onto a submission after a tap is not a trait you want to be associated with.
Although BJJ is enjoyable, it is not to be taken lightly. The techniques taught can cause lasting damage, in some cases irreversible. It is your duty that when your opponent taps, you free them as quickly as you possibly can. There are times when your opponent or you are caught in a position that restricts your ability to tap with your hands. In this case, you can either use your feet or simply say ‘tap’.
6 Hold it protect it
Regular breaks are a common occurrence at our BJJ Brisbane training centre and most BJJ places around the world. It allows you to get your breath back and load up on some of that sweet H2O. If you feel like you need the restroom mid-drill, try and hold it until the upcoming break (obviously there are circumstances that require.. immediate attention). Leaving and returning to the mat can cause a distraction which interferes with the flow of the session. This fundamentally has a negative impact on all those involved. A break will soon show up and then you’re free to do what needs to be done!
Buy a pair of flip flops that you use when going to the restroom while in the training centre. It is bad practice to go to and from the toilet without protecting your feet. If unprotected, your feet will act like a sponge, soaking up all sorts of stuff along the way. Transferring this onto the mat where people are training is unsurprisingly very unwelcome. It is up to you to be vigilant about your health and your training partners. Do not assume that because your training centre is cleaned daily that you are able to roam with reckless abandon.
7 Filming without consent
Being a keen bean when it comes to training is great. But, there is a right way to do it. Much of your experience will come from training with your partners on the mats, however there is still considerable improvements you can make off the mats. One way to do this is by watching instructional videos and potentially practising with friends who also do BJJ. New practitioners can sometimes make quite a common mistake. Due to instructional videos being freely available on YouTube, they think they can make their own recordings of their instructor. Some even think it is a compliment to the instructor and are confused when they are told that it isn’t permitted. Simply put, if you’d like to record your instructor teaching a technique, ask. It really does depend on the person, some don’t mind be recorded and some do. However, regardless of how you think they may answer, ask first.
8 Pulling on fingers
When training BJJ, unlike Muay Thai, your chances of getting struck in the face are significantly less. However, BJJ brings with it potential risks to your body and the those of your training partners. Maintaining a level of lucidity no matter what position you find yourself in is important for your safety as well as your partners. Under no circumstances should you be pulling on individual fingers of your training partner. Due to the fragile nature of fingers, they are easy to sprain and break, this is why even in competition it is illegal to pull on individual fingers.
9 No bragging
Regardless of your rank it is important to remember that the mats are a sanctuary. Respect should be shown at all times. Whether in victory or defeat, it is part of BJJ etiquette to remain humble. Ofcourse you can be excited that you were able to pull off a submission in a closely fought sparring session, however the way that you express this speaks volumes regarding who you are and how much you respect those that you train with. Remember your progression is reliant on your partners just as much as it is on yourself, stay grounded and train hard.
10 Lead by example
Once you begin rising through the ranks, you’ll inevitably become someone the lower levels begin looking up to. Just like previously mentioned, remaining humble plays a central role in BJJ. In one form or another you serve as a role model for those newer to the art to emulate, how you carry yourself doesn’t just effect you but those around you. Generally speaking a higher belt doesn’t need to be reminded of most aspects of BJJ etiquette, it becomes engrained after a while. However, one part that can be forgotten from time to time due to laziness is respect for every aspect of the training session. This includes warming up and doing technique drills. You’re never too good to not have to do these. Jump into each aspect with as much enthusiasm as you can, no matter your level.
11 No talking while techniques are being shown
The concept is pretty simple, if your instructor is teaching, you listen. Listening doesn’t require you to speak unless you’re spoken to. This isn’t a control thing, it just allows you to soak up as much information as you can from the instruction being given. Unless you’re having a private lesson, you won’t get to see your instructor showing a particular technique multiple times until you completely get it. Therefore, make the most out seeing it done ‘properly’ by focusing all your attention on your instructor when they are instructing. If you have any questions, put your hand up and wait to be addressed. Once your trainer sends you back to drilling with your partner, you’re welcome to tal again.
12 Stay home if you’re sick
Don’t follow the saying ‘just sweat it out’ when thinking of training BJJ with partners. No one wants to get ill because you are ill, do the right thing and stay home. This doesn’t mean you can’t improve your BJJ while ill, feel free to do drills at home and watch instructional videos. But, coming into the gym and spreading your sickness with the rest of your training partners is not okay and will soon see you asked to leave permanently. In the same way that you should pay particular attention to the health of others while sparring, the same care should be taken when you are unwell.
13 Show up on time
Punctuality is a sign of respect. Although you may feel being a few minutes late is okay, that is far from the case. Of course, from time to time, there will be situations that cannot be avoided. However, don’t make coming to class late a habit. It is ideal to make it to your class at least 10 minutes prior to the class starting. This will allow you to get changed into your training gear and perform some basic stretches before getting started. Many practitioners also find this the ideal time to start building bonds with their fellow training partners.
If for any reason you do turn up late, make sure to make eye contact with the instructor and bow to them upon arrival. Once they have signalled that it is okay to join the training, do so with as little disturbance to the training session as possible.
14 Foul language
You best off leaving any undesirable language out of the gym, let alone the mats. As previously mentioned within the series, the mats are a sanctuary for many of the practitioners and foul language isn’t welcome in such an environment. If for any reason you hear anyone else using such language don’t see it as a green light for you to do the same, if they don’t already know that it isn’t okay they will soon find out.
Regardless of the context, there is no time where using profanity is acceptable in and around where you train. Do your best to not to allow this to happen, once you’re out of the gym, you’re more than welcome to do as you please.
15 Gas tapping
This is almost exclusively something that a beginner BJJ practitioner needs to be weary of. What does it entail? Going all out when a spar begins and then ending up tapping when you fall into a vulnerable position. In most cases, there is no shame in tapping. However, gas tapping is frowned upon and should be avoided at all costs. It is better to spar in a controlled and calm manner using technique rather than go all out and tap when your plan didn’t work. At the very least ride it out and learn from your mistake.
16 Trim Nails
Combat sports are dangerous enough without having to worry about being cut by long nails. Whether it is your finger nails or your toe nails, keep them short. There are so many situations where sharp nails can cut through the skin of your training partner not just causing a laceration but also the chance for an infection to take root. Before coming to a BJJ session, ensure that you hygiene is in check, you don’t just represent yourself when you come to training but also represent the gym. If people aren’t coming to your gym without their nails cut neither should you be.
17 Natural weight during drills
To give your opponent as close of an accurate simulation of what it will be like to try a particular technique, ensure that you allow for your body to move naturally. Do not super loose like a wet noodle, it doesn’t help you or your partner (even though it may seem like it does). Additionally, do not be rigid like an ironing board again this is a problem because it is not providing a realistic simulation of how a body will react to the technique being taught and tested. Allow your body to flow freely and naturally somewhere in between the two spots mentioned before.
18 Don’t be coaching upper belts
There is no need to offer your advice when it comes to BJJ to a practitioner with a belt that is higher than yours. You may be able to point out something that is glaringly obvious, but it isn’t your place to do so. Wait for a person of the same belt or higher to provide such advice. When you’re being given the opportunity to watch higher level belts rolling, take this as an opportunity to learn rather than critique. There is much that can be learned from seeing higher level belts rolling and you will find your own game improving significantly once you start learning from their successes and failures as well as your own.
19 - Be aware of surroundings
When sparring is taking place there will be many pairs sparring at the same time usually. It is important for you to remember to be cautious about where you and your partner are located so that you do not bump into other partners. This is especially the case if the pair you bump into are of higher belts that you and your partner. The space on the mat when sparring is given priority to higher belts, ensure that you are providing adequate space for them to spar while rolling with your partner.
20 BONUS 1
Check our article on starting out in martial arts here!
21 BONUS 2
Check out this hilarious comic on the ‘commandments’ of BJJ. You can find it here!