BJJ Grrl

"Be gentle, kind and beautiful, yet firm and strong, both mentally and physically." ~Sensei Keiko Fukuda

Dos & Don’ts

Georgette started this with her “White Belt Don’ts” and “Any Belt Don’ts”, and it got me thinking. I’m good at making a list of what everyone else is doing wrong, so let’s see what I can come up with ;)

Suggestions and corrections are welcome, too.


Other Lists


Newbie Dos and Don’ts

Don’ts

  • Don’t be a jerk. (I could stop right there, but you probably need specifics, huh?)
  • Don’t kid yourself — jiu-jitsu is not easy, or everyone would be doing it. And if were easy, you could beat black belts in 2 months, and then there would be no reason to pay money to learn it.
  • Don’t panic. (Valuable advice for hitchhikers and newbies alike). Don’t be afraid. (And don’t worry too much if you are scared.) This is new, this is different, this takes time to get used to. Chill. Relax. Breathe. Try to have fun.
  • Don’t spaz.

    Spazzing is moving with lots of energy but very little purpose.
    If you don’t know what you are doing, but you are doing it as hard and as fast as you can, then you’re spazzing.
    ~Kintanon

    Spazzing: flailing; exploding; flopping on partners; grabbing limbs and jerking; trying to turn anything gripped into an immediate submission; pinching, scratching, or biting; shoving/flinging your partner around; jumping into the air and coming down on top of your partner; clawing for grips; trying to force things that are nowhere near close to happening; slamming (picking your partner up and slamming them back on the mat); trying to bearhug someone as a submission or stalling tactic; going as fast and hard as you can all the time; showing no concern or awareness of your partner as a teammate and fellow human; essentially, fighting as if your life depended on the next 3 minutes. (Which it does not.) Often associated with holding your breath and/or being too concerned about what anyone will think if you have to tap. Also related to panicking. All of these characteristics usually lead to your partner being injured. The point of jiu-jitsu is to submit your partner without actually injuring them.

  • Don’t worry if you can’t seem to keep up with the conditioning your first night (or week, or month). Even if you think you’re in shape, you’re not in grappling shape yet. Don’t try to skip the warmup/conditioning by coming in late or leaving early. Pansy. Don’t wait until you’re “in shape” to start jiu-jitsu. You’ll never get there. The best way to get in shape for jiu-jitsu is to do jiu-jitsu.
  • Don’t assume that you’ll be a superstar your first night. You won’t. Everyone sucks when they start. You probably won’t even do the warmup moves right. (You think you’re doing them right, but you’re not. Drop your hips more.) No matter what your background is, it isn’t BJJ. If you come from wrestling, you’ll still be good at wrestling, but you won’t be good at BJJ yet. If you’ve been lifting, you’ll still be strong, but you won’t be good at BJJ yet. None of those are BJJ.
  • Don’t try to hurt people. This is not a fight. This is a class, a practice. If you’re just here to beat on people, you will be shown the door. The people on the mat are your teammates, not your enemies. Don’t do to someone what you don’t want done back to you.
  • Don’t assume that you have to “prove” yourself in order to stay at the school. You don’t. You pay, you practice. You don’t have to hurt anyone to be allowed in. And there’s no “3 taps and you’re out” rule, either, so go ahead and tap.
  • Don’t try to outlast every submission. You’ll only get injured. Go ahead and tap; it’s really okay. And if you seem to be outlasting every submission, then you’re rolling with a very nice person. Thank them later for not choking you unconscious, which is the surefire solution for non-tap-itus.
  • Don’t think that jiu-jitsu rank is based on who taps whom. It’s not. It’s based on your individual skill and progression. Hulk-smashing a smaller but higher-ranked teammate does not earn you “points” toward your next belt.
  • Don’t think you “almost had” anyone higher-ranked. You didn’t. They were being nice and letting you play so that jiu-jitsu is more fun for you.
  • Don’t try to “get revenge” if someone taps you. You’ll only end up on the short list of guys who get smashed for being jerks.
  • Don’t keep track of who you tap and who taps you. No one likes the guys who can recite who they tapped out. (You don’t keep score in a football, soccer, rugby, or basketball practice, do you?) It’s one thing to be proud that you finished a submission correctly or finally caught someone who’s better; it’s quite another thing to keep a tally of “wins” and “losses” to individual teammates.
  • Don’t say you don’t want to roll with [girl/old guy/kid/etc.] because you’re afraid you’ll “lose” and look bad. Because as soon as you say that, you immediately look bad. Don’t, either, try to pick out someone you “can at least beat” (as in, “I can at least beat a girl/kid/smaller guy”). Once again, it’s not about trying to beat anyone, and if that’s all you want, you’ll shortly be the one being beaten.
  • Don’t judge anyone on the mat by their gender, size, or appearance. Right now, they’re all better than you because they have more mat time. The best guy is sometimes a girl. The big dog is sometimes a small guy.
  • Don’t just grab and squeeze. That’s not jiu-jitsu; that’s just stupid. It might be uncomfortable, but it’s not a submission. Maybe your partner can’t move, but you’re not “winning” anything.
  • Don’t hold a submission after your partner taps. Let. Go. NOW.
  • Don’t resist your partner in drilling more than you’re told to. Drilling is for learning movements and memory patterns, and your partner can’t do that if you’re being a jerk. You are supposed to tap during drilling when your partner does it right, so tap. You need the practice.
  • Don’t hold your breath. You’ll only get more tired more quickly. Oxygen is good.
  • Don’t equate practice with a competition. Practice is for practicing. Competitions are for ripping off limbs. Tap in practice. Do not injure your teammates.
  • Don’t equate watching UFC or YouTube videos with actual mat time. To get better at jiu-jitsu, you have to do jiu-jitsu.
  • Don’t try to instruct anyone. You don’t know anything. Sorry, but you really don’t. And don’t listen to just anyone — there are knuckleheads who just want someone to listen to them. Most of what comes out of their mouth is wrong. Listen to the instructors and to most colored belts, and to anyone that they listen to.
  • Don’t brag about which fighters/whatever you’ve met. No one cares. Don’t brag about which fighters/whatever your family members have met. Everyone cares even less.
  • Don’t tell us about the fight career you’re going to have. You wouldn’t last 10 seconds in a cage right now, and we know it.
  • Don’t brag about experience you don’t have. BJJ is a put-up-or-shut-up game. You’ll have to back it up, and you’ll be found out very quickly.
  • Don’t be afraid to tap. All it means is “Okay, you got me. Let’s start again.” It does not mean “OMG I suck and everyone’s laughing at me.” They’re not laughing; they’re tapping, too.
  • Don’t try to excuse getting tapped by saying, “Yeah, well, if I could throw punches…” or “Yeah, well, I could beat you if this were standup.” This is jiu-jitsu; play by the rules. Man up. Accept that you got caught and stop being a whiney baby.
  • Don’t continually show up to gi class without a gi once you know the schedule because you think “cage fighters” don’t need to train the gi. That’s rude to your training partners.
  • Don’t say you have an injury or are tired or don’t know what you’re doing and ask me to go light (which I was going to do anyway because I know you don’t know what you’re doing), and then jump out to 210% yourself.
  • Don’t be a gear-whore. Sure, buy training gear, but strutting in head-to-toe Tapout is no substitute for mat time.
  • Don’t take your shirt off after class and strut around and/or do pullups/biceps curls slowly while watching yourself in the mirror. (Unless you’re Pablo Popovitch, in which case, yes, please do. But you’re not.) Everyone else is secretly laughing at you.
  • Don’t wear your gi/rashguard/shorts to more than one class before washing. That is repulsive, and people are not going to want to train with you. Wash your gear, or buy more to cover you until laundry day.
  • Don’t smoke. You can’t breathe, and then neither can anyone else.

Dos

  • Do be friendly and introduce yourself. If no one’s talking to you, it’s probably because they’re tired of learning new guys’ names only to never see them again. Be the exception.
  • Do try to relax. We know you’re nervous; we were, too, on our first day. We know you don’t know what to do, and we do want to help.
  • Do remember to breathe. Oxygen is good.
  • Do tap. No one’s keeping track of how many times you tap. (Unless you’ve met “jerk criteria,” in which case, yes, they actually are.)
  • Do ask questions.
  • Do ask about illegal moves. Not everything is legal, and some schools have further restrictions on what different belt levels can do, for safety reasons.
  • Do ask about what is and is not involved in BJJ. Examples of not: small-joint (e.g., finger) manipulation, punching, kicking, slamming. Asking a “stupid” question (which isn’t actually stupid) is better than doing something actually stupid in rolling and finding out the answer the hard way.
  • Do understand that ignorance (not knowing) is acceptable. Idiocy (not listening; being a jerk/being stupid) is not.
  • Do pay attention to the instructor, especially when he’s instructing.
  • Do use the moves you’ve learned in class. Sure, you only know 2 — so practice those 2. The technique part of class isn’t just so you can get a breather; those things we’re showing you do actually work. Try them: you’ll be surprised.
  • Do listen to advice you’re given. If they say you’re doing it wrong, then you’re doing it wrong, no matter what you think
  • Do what you can during the warmups and elsewhere in class. Don’t worry about keeping up yet; you’ll acclimate quickly. No one thinks you’re a wimp; they all probably looked the same when they started.
  • Do consider simply watching during live rolling at first or asking someone experienced to show you what to do. You think you know what to do, but you don’t.
  • Do tap. Early and often. Injuries are bad.
  • Do let go as soon as your partner taps.
  • Do tell the instructors if you have any judo or wrestling or other legitimate & relevant experience. Pretending you know nothing, and then smashing other white belts, is not a good first impression. No, really, it’s really not. If you have prior experience, tell them.
  • Do use good hygiene practices: trim your nails, wash your hair, wash your whole body, wash your clothes, brush your teeth, use deodorant. You don’t want to be known as The Smelly Guy.
  • Do report any skin infections to your instructor. If you’ve never seen it before and you don’t know what it is, ask someone.
  • Do go to class as regularly as you can.
  • Do realize that jiu-jitsu is not easy. It takes a lot of long, hard work. It’s very fun and rewarding, though. So do come back.

Everybody

Don’ts

  • Don’t try to hurt your classmates.
  • Don’t try to kill* the newbies**, either.
  • Don’t just roll with guys you can “beat.” Remember, “wins” in class don’t count toward anything. Stroking your ego doesn’t make you any better at jiu-jitsu.
  • Don’t try to skip the warmup/conditioning by coming in late or leaving early. Pansy.
  • Don’t equate practice with a tournament. Practice is for practicing. Tournaments are for ripping off limbs.
  • Don’t say you have an injury or are tired and ask me to go light, and then jump out to 210% yourself.
  • Don’t force submissions:
    1. Especially on people who you know are weaker (and yes, you do know). If it takes you an entire roll to force an armbar on me, it means that your technique is very, very wrong. So all you’re doing is reinforcing bad habits for yourself. If you do it right, I personally don’t have the strength to power out of it, so it will work.
    2. If your partner is defending one submission, then something else is open. You can always transition to another position or another submission. Go to the weak side rather than just trying to force open their defense.
  • Don’t try to outlast submissions. (Escape, yes. Hang on for dear life and hold your breath for 2 minutes, no.) You’ll only get injured. Go ahead and tap; it’s really okay. And if you seem to be outlasting every submission, then you’re rolling with a very nice person. Thank them later for not choking you unconscious.
  • Don’t keep track of who you tap and who taps you. No one likes the guys who can recite who they tapped out. (Be glad of catching a submission correctly, yes; keep a running total of “wins” and “losses”, no.)
  • Don’t try to “get revenge” if someone taps you. You’ll only end up on the short list of guys who get smashed for being jerks.
  • Don’t get mad/upset if someone who normally wouldn’t catch you somehow does. They have inadvertently helped you by pointing out something you need to fix. Figure out what you did wrong and fix it.
  • Don’t get so obsessed with “winning” in class that you only use the 3 moves you know will always work so that you always “win.” You may be having success now and so may think you’ve learned enough. Your teammates, however, are learning to counter your moves, and every day they are becoming harder to submit with your standard A-game set.
  • Don’t think that jiu-jitsu rank is based on who taps whom. It’s not. It’s based on your individual skill. Hulk-smashing a smaller but higher-ranked teammate does not earn you “points” toward your next belt.
  • Don’t drill a variation on the move being taught unless your instructor allows you to. Drill what’s being taught. Tap during drilling; you’re supposed to.
  • Don’t take your shirt off after class and strut around and/or do pullups/biceps curls slowly while watching yourself in the mirror. (Unless you’re Pablo Popovitch, in which case, yes, please do. But you’re not.) Everyone else is secretly laughing at you.

*There’s a difference between obliterating every new guy who walks in the door and representing your school well.
**There’s also a difference between new guys who really want to learn jiu-jitsu and new guys who want to “trane UFC” and already think they’re better than everyone. One of these needs to thoroughly learn a lesson.

Dos

  • Do tap, early and often. Injuries are bad.
  • Do introduce yourself to newbies and do help them out. They won’t know they’re doing it wrong unless someone tells them.
  • Do ask questions. You don’t know everything yet.
  • Do pay attention to the instructor, especially when he’s instructing.
  • Do use good hygiene practices: trim your nails, wash your hair, wash your whole body, wash your clothes & equipment, brush your teeth, use deodorant. Wash out your sports bag, too. (At the very least, Febreeze your belt. It’s gross, too.) You don’t want to be known as The Smelly Guy.
  • Do report any skin infections to your instructor. It’s great if you get treatment, but let everyone else know that something’s loose, m’kay?
  • Do use technique over strength. Strength is all well and good and useful and can get you lots of taps right now, but it only gets you so far. You can increase in strength to a point, but you can increase in technique and skill without limits.
  • Do try different things. It’s great that you can always hit that one kimura from side control, but if the rest of your game is non-existent, what have you really learned? (I know, you may have to *gasp* tap if you leave the old familiar. But if you don’t practice new stuff, you won’t learn new stuff.)
  • Do practice moves you “don’t like.” You “don’t like” it only because you don’t know it. Practice more.
  • Do try to use an escape besides the Hulk/supernova/Captain Caveman — that is, when you know you’re going to be caught, use the opportunity to work a real escape rather than explode out to avoid getting tapped. (And do tap if you’re legitimately caught instead of trying to injure your partner just to save a little face.) Because one day, you might meet someone who can negate your explosion, and then you still have to escape.
  • Do remember that your teammates are working, too. Class isn’t always just about you. Offer feedback to your partners if you can, either during the roll, by tapping when they catch you, or afterward by commenting on areas they’re improving on (or even where they need more work).

Personal Do: Say “Sorry”

I’ve heard people advocate both sides of this one, but personally I’m very annoyed when someone kicks me in the face, elbows me in the nose, pokes a finger in my eye, bellyflops on my ribs, etc., and doesn’t at least mumble “Sorry.” I appreciate knowing that you’re paying attention to me as your partner. Otherwise, I start to think you really are injuring me on purpose — especially when it happens multiple times per roll or when you take advantage of me being momentarily stunned — and then I get ticked off and I don’t want to roll with you ever again. (Yeah, yeah, in a tournament or “street situation,” no one’s gonna say “Sorry.” But there, my ticked-off-ness just bumps up the adrenaline another notch. This, however, ain’t neither of those.) I’m not saying to stop a roll and call in the paramedics: just pause right where you are, mumble “Sorry,” let me grunt “M’okay,” and we’ll continue from the same position. Because there are times when I will need to stop because of your flailing limbs. If you want me to apologize for racking you, then you should also apologize for knocking me around. (Or, better yet, since I’m being careful not to hurt you, how about you be careful not to hurt me in the first place? Yeah, much better.)

« FAQs & Advice


25 responses to “Dos & Don’ts

  1. slideyfoot says:

    Great list. Your blog just keeps getting better and better! :)

  2. leslie says:

    Thanks, slidey :) I have a (bad) habit of writing down everything, especially lists. (I’ve created “help pages” for every online game I’ve ever played, too!)

    The best, though, is that there’s a real job that pays me to do the same thing, too.

  3. [...] with my blog some more. Added a “FAQs & Advice” page, to which I attached the “Dos & Don’ts” page and the “Resources” [...]

  4. Neil says:

    Damn.. I’m a jerk AND I suck? Harsh!

    Actually really I just suck, I can live with that for now. :)

    Great list. I’d consider adding “Do tap” in there a couple more times at various intervals, and maybe “Do remember to breathe” in the newbies list, seeing as I’ve caught myself forgetting that once or twice already.

  5. leslie says:

    I did warn that I was a little cranky when I wrote some of them ;)

    Sucking can be fixed by more mat time. Being a jerk seems to be more of a conscious choice, though I think some guys don’t realize that their behavior is actually earning them jerk points.

    Added in more “do tap” and some “do breathe”s.

  6. georgette says:

    Fantabulous list. Seriously.

  7. Jason says:

    Definitely good stuff

  8. John says:

    this is a great list, nice work, i particularly loved the donts

  9. Valerie says:

    I love this list. I’m a Muay Thai girl myself (considering adding GJJ soon) and just posted on 5 reasons why classmates should go big or stay home. At first I thought maybe I had been too harsh, then I came across your in your face blog and thought, nope, I’m right on. Thanks for that.

  10. [...] what not to do in class, advice on how to approach class,  and even pages with several links about classroom do’s and don’ts; however, there’s not quite so much advice about white belt etiquette online.  After an [...]

  11. Dan says:

    Awesome, I had my first bjj class today. I’m hooked! Slideyfoot and yourself have great information up. I plan on referencing the two blogs a lot as I train more.

  12. Dez says:

    Great list!!! Thanks for sharing!!

  13. whitedragonawa says:

    You should talk about the know it all guys who think they have to constantly instruct you every second when they earned their blue belt at a gracie garage…guys who think you are absolutely clueless about grappling even though you have done it for awhile in various intervals here and there, so when you mention a good suggestion for a technique they don’t listen but then continue instructing your ever move.

    Oh and the guys who stop in the middle of your grappling session to correct your submission, in order for them not to tap out and look bad.

  14. [...] the hang of things. For an excellent list of advice in a similar vein, see BJJ Grrl’s “Dos and Don’t“, or for another superb set of tips, Levo’s old piece on beginning grappling. Finally, [...]

  15. bob says:

    this is good stuff. I find tthe most annoying person in class is the guy who thinks he knows it all and has been there and done that… Personally I don’t know why I sometimes keep score on what’s happening llike if we doing a drill where the top person has to pas and the bottom person must try to to sweep I’ll naturally keep count in my head like ‘ok he has passed twice and I swept him 5 times’. Dno why can’t help it

    • leslie says:

      I think in a drill like that, it’s okay to keep score (mentally) — in a way, that’s the point, as you’re simulating a situation, and you can think, “Okay, I’m ‘down’ on points, so I need to step it up.” (Especially if you’re stuck on “don’t let him pass” or “don’t let him sweep” instead of actively attacking yourself.)

      On the other hand, “losing” in that drill is not an excuse to Hulk-smash your partner in order to “get even.” And once that drill is done, you obviously forget immediately who “won” or “lost” because it no longer matters.

  16. […] what not to do in class, advice on how to approach class,  and even pages with several links about classroom do’s and don’ts; however, there’s not quite so much advice about white belt etiquette online.  After an […]

  17. Josarah Roan says:

    Great list, more people should read this…. and apply them.

  18. Amy K says:

    Thank you for clear explanation of spazzing!! I didn’t realize how annoying my spazzing was until I I got spazzed on. I just couldn’t put my finger on it specifically. Your paragraph gave me something to memorize and meditate on! Thank you!!

  19. What a useful article, thank you! As a noobie female I was wondering if you could change “he” to “they” in the following sentence – or to something more gender inclusive, i.e. s/he? Our gym has 20% women and is slowly increasing that percentage.
    “Do pay attention to the instructor, especially when he’s instructing.”
    Thank you.

  20. Will Salas says:

    Awesome! def. the hygene one. I tapped out once cus I choked out from the stench of my buddys pitts. I was looking for more technical shtuff for beginners like dont cross your feet in a rear guard and dont grab the leg sleve of a black belt which I had to learn the hard way… but this!!!

  21. Jorge Gutiérrez says:

    I´m thinking about starting my journey in bjj, actually I have my first class tomorrow, thanks for all the information, it is really helpful. All I can say is thai I´m really really nervous, but your guide gives me a better perspective :D

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