Etiquette Inside The Jiu-jitsu Academy

“In a culture, manners are the lubrication that ease the friction of social contacts.”
L Ron Hubbard

Some academies have a list pinned to the wall beside the mats listing the rules of the academy. Some stuff is pretty basic like not allowing shoes on the mats or wearing watches and jewellery. Some rules vary beta schools such as addressing the instructor as “professor” or bowing on and off the mats.

Other rules of the academy are unwritten yet are no less important to the safety and happy atmosphere of the jiu-jitsu academy.

Gather a group of jiu-jitsu students together and ask the question “What breaches of etiquette in the jiu-jitsu school bother you the most?” and a few answers are likely to come up most often.

Here are 3 items of jiu-jitsu etiquette that are important to the preserve the good environment inside the academy.

1) Stinky gi
This is by far the #1 “faux pas” that offends the sensibilities of the other students in the academy. Stinky kimonos and rash guards are unfortunately too common in many schools.

Sometimes it is a matter of neglecting to wash a kimono between classes (despite the recommendation to have a clean kimono every class) with a predictable odour resulting.

But sometimes showing up in a freshly laundered kimono or rash guard isn’t enough. The reason being is that over time bacteria colonies can establish themselves in the material of a kimono or rash guard that resist the normal laundry. Smells great when you pull it out of your laundry basket but when you get warm at the academy, that unpleasant ammonia smell comes alive.

I asked a manufacturer of kimonos about this problem and he recommended soaking the kimono in a pail of water with a generous portion of common household white vinegar. I tried it on a beloved but…we’re…fragrant kimono and it cured the bad odours. Give it a try!

2) Awareness of your surroundings
This is not only annoying, but potentially dangerous to your training partners. There are a few ways not being aware of your surroundings is negative.
A) Rolling pairs often collide during sparring. I believe 2 pairs could be rolling on a mat the size of a football field but some unknown gravitational force will pull the 2 pairs together. A foot is flailing and kicking the head of another student yet the kicker is oblivious that his foot is making contact with another human. Dial down the intensity a little and avoid potentially dangerous collisions.
* The general etiquette when 2 rolling pairs collide is that the higher ranked pair continues while the other pair resets at an open spot on the mat.

B) The wall / pillar / mirrors. I see pairs trying to pass and defend the guard. The guard player keeps shrinking back until his head is perilously close to the door or another hard surface. The responsibility is for the passer to be the eyes for his training partner to caution and reset when the bodies get too close to a foreign object.

3) Illegal techniques
I recently visited an academy with a purple belt friend who rolled with one of the more experienced students no-gi. I was taken aback when the white belt entwined his arm around the ankle of the purple belt (who was rolling in a very controlled manner) and applied a heel hook! Another student was grabbing and twisting the fingers to try to avoid a rear naked choke.

These are illegal techniques in the majority of academies and if you do them on a training partner, you are not going to make many friends. Along with these examples are neck cranking, slamming, grinding elbows into inner thighs and other manner of crude, pain compliance techniques. While these things may be a part of fighting, they are really frowned upon by most training partners.

What aspect of jiu-jitsu etiquette do you feel is important?

See also on Gracie Barra : Your Jiu-jitsu Goals

Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Saigon, Vietnam