BJJ etiquette, what to know when training Jiu Jitsu

Jiu jitsu instructor show a move to his students

If you’ve started training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu then you may or may not have noticed that certain things are considered to be proper gym etiquette.

Some of these things might be written out clearly on posters on the walls of the gym. Other “unwritten rules” may not be obvious to newcomers.

Some gyms may not be as strict on other things when it comes to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gym etiquette.

Things like asking higher belts to roll or how you should address your coach may be flexible, but you always practice good hygiene.

Rules on hygiene should always be taken seriously.

We wanted to compose a general list of commonly known BJJ gym etiquette to help people get an idea of how they should better prepare for a gym visit.

1. Hygiene

Look for posters or a pamphlet in your gym; these may go over some of the basic hygiene that is expected.

Many times you’ll be told what to bring and what you’ll need to do to come prepared when you sign up.

Keep the mats clean

Never walk on the mats with your shoes or flip flops still on your feet

The mat will absorb any nasty germs that are on the bottom of your shoes.

On top of making the mats dirty. It will make it unsanitary for the students who are rolling around on the mats; this is how Staph infections happen.

Mats are expensive, and wearing street shoes could potentially damage them.

The only type of shoes allowed on the mats should be wrestling shoes, and that’s only if your gym allows them for wrestling or no-gi Jiu Jitsu.

Always wear your flip flops or shoes when you step off the mat

Especially in the bathroom.

To prevent germs from getting onto the bottom of your feet, you should wear flip flops or other shoes around the gym.

Even a clean bathroom floor is still a bathroom floor. I sure as hell don’t want to roll around on whatever is on that floor.

You do not want to track those germs onto the mat!

This is a big deal when it comes to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu etiquette. Make sure to keep your sandals close to the mat, so it’s easier for you to step in and out of them.

Stay home if you’re sick

Finally, if you have ringworm or anything like it, then common sense should tell you that you should not be on the mats.

Only until there is no chance of it spreading to anyone else should you even consider coming back to training.

The same goes for having a cold or being contagious in any way.

Remember that your fellow teammates do not want to get sick just because you feel good enough to get back to training.

Keep yourself clean

Trim your nails

One of the things that you should do that might not be written down anywhere is that you should keep your nails trimmed short.

I keep my nails short. I also make sure to have a set of nail clippers in my gym bag, just in case I forget to cut my nails.

If you plan on training consistently, make sure not to let your nails get too long. If you don’t your nails short, then you are far more likely to scratch someone accidentally.

Cover up cuts and don’t roll with fresh tattoos

You want to cover up any small cuts or scrapes that you might have. Sports tape is your best friend in these situations, make sure to tape up those cuts. Open wounds get infected, and no one wants your blood on them.

No matter how careful everyone is in keeping the mat sanitary, there are germs on the mat.

You don’t want these germs to end up making you sick by getting into your cuts or tattoos. Nor do you want any germs from your cuts to get onto the mat.

Make sure to wait before getting back to training if you just got some new ink. Tattoos are big open wounds, let that shit heal before you roll to prevent infection.

Remove piercings and other jewelry

You should also make sure that you remove any piercings or other jewelry before you head onto the mat.

While no one will intentionally try to hurt you, things can get tangled up or snagged when you’re rolling(sparring).

I even remove my wedding ring because I was told there’s a chance it could skin my own finger.

Bathe and wash your gi

I can’t believe I have to say this, but make sure you shower regularly and wash your gi after every use. It’s bad BJJ etiquette to be a dirty training partner.

Don’t be nasty by not showering or not washing your gear. Dirty people get clean people sick. Don’t be dirty!

No one is going to want to partner up with you if either you or your gi smell bad. Keep in mind the proximity that some of the positions you and your training partners will be in. 

If you don’t know who the stinky guy is at your gym, it might be you.

2. Show Respect

Show up on time

The first thing that you should be doing to show respect is get to class on time.

Life happens sometimes, but being late regularly or skipping warmups shows a lack of respect both to your coach and your fellow students.

Check your ego

When you show up, you should leave your ego at the door, especially if you are a newbie.

Confidence is a great thing, but if you go into the gym for the first time and you are dripping with arrogance, your new teammates may very well pair you up with their best and watch you get brought down to size.

Having a big ego is not good Brazilian Jiu Jitsu etiquette.

Most people who train BJJ are pretty chill and don’t go to the gym to wreck people or hurt people. This sport is the ultimate ego killer, and if you can’t handle that, then it might not be for you.

Show your instructor respect

You’re usually safe to refer to a black belt as professor. Sometimes coach or instructor is fine, but it depends on how “traditional” your school is.

Some black belts don’t care if you call them by their first name others want you to always refer to them by professor; it just depends.

If you are in doubt, listen to what the older students call them by and then follow suit.

Another way that you should respect your instructor is by keeping talking down to only what might be necessary while they are explaining something.

This will not only show them respect by acknowledging that what they are saying is important but also your teammates who are trying to hear even if you are not.

Finally don’t forget to greet your instructor and teams when you get on the mats.

Remember be friendly and have fun!

Check out our article “What Is a Jiu Jitsu Teacher Called?”.

3. Understand there’s a pecking order

Don’t teach or coach upper belts

The first thing that you should keep in mind is that if you’re new, it’s not your place to teach someone else something. Even if you think you have it down and see that they need help with it.

Unless you have already been training for years, then you don’t know all that you need to to teach someone else.

Let your coach do the teaching, that’s what they’re there for.

If you’ve been training for a while and someone asks you for a few pointers, then to do so is fine. Make sure to save that for when your professor isn’t actively teaching.

Working different moves than what’s being taught at the moment is kind of rude.

Wait to be invited to roll by higher belts

Also, when you’re new, you should be careful about asking someone who is at a higher level than you to roll.

Do this only if you already know them and that they won’t mind.

On the other hand, if they ask you to join them on the mat, then you should not refuse to do so unless you have a good reason.

The higher ranked students have the right of way on a mat.

So if you and your partner are wandering a little close to a pair that are higher level, you should move to another area of the mats where there is more room, not them.

Try not to make the higher belts stop their roll because you weren’t paying attention to your surroundings.

4. Be a good training partner

Don’t be a spaz

One of the common mistakes that beginners make is to start the fight explosively and then to tap out because of exhaustion once you wear out.

This is sometimes referred to as “spazzing,” and it is something that is most often happens when someone is new and overexcited to roll.

Most of the time, the more experienced person will be victorious, and the spaz might go puke in the trash can.

Gas tapping

Don’t tap because you ran out of gas fighting for position.

If you tap out as soon as your opponent has you on your back, not only is this taking the easy way out, you also fail to learn how to survive in bad positions.

It also prevents your opponent from getting to practice their dominant position as well.

If you need to gas tap, you should try to hold out until you’re in a neutral position.

Don’t fight dirty

Things that are NOT ALLOWED in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu are:

  • Strikes of any kind including punching, kicking, elbowing, kneeing, and head butting.
  • Slamming your training partner.
  • Eye gouging or eye poking.
  • Hair pulling
  • Fish hooking
  • Small joint manipulation. Grabbing and bending fingers.

When fighting grips or defending chokes, you can grab three or more fingers at a time, but never are you to bend someone’s finger in an attempt to break it. That’s a good way to get your ass kicked, seriously.

Although legal, don’t put your knee with the weight of your body on someone’s face or neck, that’s also not cool.

Don’t celebrate tapping training partners

Finally, keep in mind that getting a tap when rolling with training partners doesn’t mean anything, and you should never celebrate when you do.

If your main focus when you’re rolling at the gym is to win, you’re doing it wrong. Save that for the tournaments, work with your teammates, get in bad spots, and tap often.

If you celebrate taps or get mad when someone catches you, no one is going to like you.

Final Tips

When visiting new gyms have a gi that you can wear with no team patch. Also, make sure to assume that any gym you visit is traditional old school Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, until told otherwise.

Some traditional things to be aware of:

  • Bow when you step on and off the mat.
  • Greet black belts first and address them as professor.
  • Follow the pecking order when asking people to roll.

You should always be aware of your surroundings. Watch out for other people rolling. Don’t roll off the mats or into a wall because you’re not paying attention.

Keep your training partner’s safety in mind, and don’t be a jerk. There’s a difference between rolling hard and rolling like a jackass. Eventually you’ll run into the mat enforcer, and they’ll bring you back down to earth.

That about wraps it up for our tips on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu etiquette. Keep some of these things in mind when first starting or when visiting a new gym.

Thanks for reading!

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