This is a topic of much mystery and conversation: the unwritten rules of BJJ mat etiquette. It’s also a lesson that becomes self-evident after many years of training. However, to save a little time (and potential embarrassment), this article compiles a collection of common sense philosophies that underlie good training etiquette.
If you’re brand new to BJJ and want to get a head start on some not-so-common sense mat etiquette, check out this article written earlier.
First, why would you want to be nice to your training partners? Do you really have to ask that question? Your partners will be giving you feedback as to what works and what doesn’t, technical advice (especially if they have more experience than you), and a great experience rolling. If you have a “no quarter asked, none given” style of rolling at the gym, you are going to be missing out on an extremely valuable part of training: feedback from your partner. Further, what’s to stop your partner from being “that guy” when he rolls with you?
The “golden rule” certainly applies at the gym, but what does it mean?
Here are a few simple tips to figure out what’s appropriate at the gym when you’re training.
Be a good partner. Don’t be a limp fish when drilling with your partner. On the flip side, don’t resist every movement your partner makes when doing a technique you’re both just now learning for the first time. This time is for you to figure out the basic movement and then get it down to muscle memory. If you have feedback, use your voice to give it, not full on resistance. Your partner will thank you, and will be more likely to return the favor.
Remember that you are responsible in part for your own safety and for the safety of your training partner. If your partner is not willing to tap to a joint lock, for example, are you willing to break his arm or leg in order to “teach him a lesson”? Hopefully not.
On the other side of the coin, though, if you are caught in a submission, you should tap when trapped, not when pain starts to appear, or when you are fairly certain something is about to break. Be honest with your partners and don’t tap when a submission isn’t locked in yet, but once it’s locked in, do your duty as a good partner and tap!
Similarly, tucking one’s chin isn’t a viable defense to a choke, but is breaking their nose or orbital bone really a viable answer to someone who doesn’t want to tap to a choke and tucks their face into it?
Keep in mind that it is your responsibility to be a good training partner at your gym, and that the benefits of doing so will carry you far in your jiu jitsu career. Remember the Golden Rule, and have fun!