If we were to look up the definition of the word etiquette we would see this – “the customary code of polite behavior in society or among members of a particular profession or group.”
This is especially true in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. A customary code of conduct and polite behaviour amongst members of a gym who are literally simulating death or bodily harm on each other through strangles and joint manipulation is a must.
So what is BJJ’s code of conduct? For many BJJ veterans on the mat the code is thus:
BJJ Gym Etiquette
- No Shoes on the Mat
- Wear shoes or flip flops when going to the bathroom
- Trim your finger and toenails
- Wear clean gi or no gi attire – Wash your stuff after every workout (including your belt)
- Be clean, smell clean and brush your teeth before going to class
- Never train when sick or with skin bacterial infections
- Do we athletic undergarments to secure your private bits
- Know when to use the phrase OSSS
- Know when to bow
- Respect the tap – Always
- Know which techniques or body manipulation is off limits – especially for white belts
- Show respect for the class and instructor – Be on time, leave on time and be focused
- Sit with respect and pay attention when your Coach,Professor or Sensei is teaching
- Know when it is time to drink water and use the restroom
- Show respect for your teammates when drilling and rolling – Don’t be a spaz, Be focused
- Show respect for higher belts in the class
- For men show respect for women who are training – No Sexual innuendo, do not use 100 % force
- Use the fist bump slap to start a roll
- End a roll with a handshake and a good word
- Keep politics and other non bjj related talk off the mats
- Be Gracious in Victory and Defeat – Don’t boast about submitting someone, Do not make excuses when submitted
- Do talk to your instructor before training at another gym
- If it is your first class do bring a pineapple for the teacher! – (Joking)
No Shoes on the Mat
This is pretty straightforward do not wear shoes and sandals onto the training mats (the gymnastic looking practice mats) in the gym. Leave your shoes or sandals onto the side of the mats. Respect the mats (tatami) by not walking on them with dirty bottom of the shoes or sandals. We should always foster a clean and hygienic atmosphere on and off the mats.
Wear shoes or flip flops when going to the bathroom
Conversely do not leave the mats (tatami) with bare feet especially using the bathroom. First of all it’s gross. Second of all your teammates will notice and probably get pissed off. Don’t do it. Again this is disrespectful to the team and the mats and plain unhygienic.
Trim your finger and toenails
This is big one. Always trim your nails. Having long nails can harm your teammates and cause cuts or worse eye injuries. Everyone will notice when you nails are not trimmed its that much of a big deal. Worse case if you go to the gym and have not trimmed your nails ask your coach. They can usually lone your a pair of nail trimmers.
Wear clean gi or no gi attire
This is another customary rule you must follow to have in your BJJ journey. Staph and other bacterial infections can be a problem due to the nature of BJJ – sweaty gi/nogi apparel and mats. Do not spread bacterial infections by not regularly washing your workout gear. Also it just plain sucks if your training partner smells like funk. So wash your gear after every training session (yes after every training session).
Wash your belt too. There is a funny (and gross) BJJ myth that if you wash your belt you wash away your Jiu Jitsu experience …. it’s silly so just stop that and wash your belt too.
Be clean, smell clean and brush your teeth before going to class
BJJ is a close combat martial arts – Do not be that guy or gal with rank body odor and bad breath.
Never train when sick or infected with skin bacterial infections
Just rest and do not go to the gym. Again if there is a recurring theme here is that a lot of effort is made into making the gym and tatami as hygienic as possible. No shoes on the mats, wear shoes to the bathroom, be clean and wear clean gear.
So training when sick or with skin infections is a big NO NO. If you are not sure that your skin infection is contagious or not go see the doctor and don’t ask for advice off the internet.
Do we athletic undergarments to secure your private bits
No one really wants to feel your private parts when training, drilling or rolling. Don’t make close contact with your BJJ partners awkward!
Know when to use the phrase OSSS
Osss (Oh – sus) You will hear this phrase often and as a newcomer you may wonder what it means. Well it has various meanings and origins but essentially it can mean on the mats “Let’s go” or “Well done”. You usually hear at the end of instruction from the teacher or at the end of class.
Know when to bow
Bowing is a sign of showing respect. Know your particular gym’s customs with regards to bowing. In general you may need (want to) bow in the following situations:
- Before entering the mat or tatami
- When ever leaving the mat or tatami
- Bow to the pictures of the Gym and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu/Affiliation founders displayed on the wall
- Bow to your instructor at the beginning of class
- Bow to your instructors and teammates at the end of class
Respect the tap – Always
In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu we must have a lot of trust in our partners and teammates on the mats. Part of the trust on the tatami and for keeping everyone safe it is vitally important you must always respect your partner’s TAP (Verbal and Physical).
Conversely when we tap we must make sure our training partner knows we are tapping out by being direct and forceful with the tapping motion or the sound. This can also be frustrating for others if you do not let them know you are tapping out.
Know which techniques or body manipulation is off limits – especially for white belts
To keep people safe on the mats do not do the following
- small joint & finger manipulation – don’t grap individual fingers (typically 4 or more at a time is ok like a hand shake)
- neck cranks as a newer white belt
- body slams
- foot and ankle locks as a white belt (some gyms vary on this)
- eye pokes
- gripping inside of pants and sleeves
Show respect for the class and instructor – Be on time, leave on time and be focused
Try and arrive early before class. Don’t skip the warm ups. When the teacher is giving instruction on a technique or discussing concepts do listen and sit or stand respectively (do not talk during this time). Try not to leave the mat early unless you talk to the instructor. Wait till the class ends.
It seems rather counterintuitive that you are a paying customer and that you should have the freedom to and to go as you please but this is not will not endear you to the teachers or fellow students when training.
Sit with respect and pay attention when your Coach,Professor or Sensei is teaching
This should be self explanatory. Try to sit with focus attention to your teacher.
Know when it is time to drink water and use the restroom
This can vary by gym but to be safe wait till the instructor says it’s ok to get water. Same with using the restroom. It may seem arcane but the roots of Jiu Jitsu in Brazil, it was a sign of disrespect to not wait till the instructor has given you the permission to do so.
Of course if you need to go – GO!. Just something to keep in the back of your mind and is major or minor etiquette faux pas when training
Show respect for your teammates when drilling and rolling – Don’t be a spaz, Be focused
A couple of things here – limit the small talk with your training partners when practicing. Keep focus as everyone is there to learn.
When drilling the move do not go full force. Be deliberate with your movements and focused. When rolling do not go too hard and try and match your opponents intensity.
Remember doing something harder that you do not know how to do will not make it work. Technique above strength.
Show respect for higher belts in the class
Always try and show respect to your fellow students, especially the higher belts. This can be done in various ways
- when lining up in rank – go to your rank location in line (if white belt that mean to the back or last in line)
- when upper belts are rolling or training – give right away to them. You and your partner move
- It may not be appropriate to ask higher belts to roll or train. Rather let them choose you (as this is a sign of respect)
Again observe your training partners and gym to see how the lower belts show respect to the upper belts.
For men show respect for women who are training – No Sexual innuendo, do not use 100 % force
When going with a woman as a man, do use constraint and use technique over force. Be gentle to a degree unless you know the female’s skill and general rolling style. Don’t Grope!
Never broach or bring up topics of a topics of a sexual nature (even if you think it is funny). Focus on training and BJJ related talk and banter.
Use the fist bump slap to start a roll
Use a fit bump and slap to start a roll with your training partner. It is a sign up respect and way to signify that we are training and not “fighting” each other.
End a roll with a handshake and a good word
To show respect at the end of rolling with your partner shake their hand. Say something nice about the roll and their effort.
Be Gracious in Victory and Defeat – Don’t boast about submitting someone, Do not make excuses when submitted
Do not boast when you submit your partner. It is very disrespectful. Be humble. Also if someone submits you do not make excuses for getting submitting.
For example do not say “You are really strong”, “If I didn’t do ____ fill in the black you would not of gotten the submission.” Again if you were submitted you f&ck up a long time ago as a famous BJJ instructor is quoted as saying.
Just be humble and thank your partner and learn from the defeat. Even asking what you could do better is even better (especially when rolling with higher belts).
Do talk to your instructor before training at another gym
Some instructors will take offense if you train at another gym. Others will not care. It is better to ask before hand than to strain relations with your teacher if that is not acceptable to them. This is rooted in Brazilian BJJ culture. Some gyms prefer not letting their secrets out.
This may seem rather silly (and it most assuredly is) as a paying customer of the gym, just be safe and ask your instructor before training at another gym.