The GB Culture of Safety

The Gracie Barra school strives to create the safest training environment for all of the GB students. In any combat sport or martial art, there is some inherent risk of physical injury. Gracie Barra recognizes this and instructors are trained in the ICP (Instructor Certification Program) in how to best run the GB school so as to minimize the potential risk to everyone.
“GB has a culture of safety first, and hold each student accountable for the responsibility of each other’s safety.” ICP
How does the Gracie Barra school run the class for the most safe environment possible?
The GB instructor can do a number of things in how the class is operated.
Students separated by levels. The new student is not immediately thrown into the deep end with much more experienced students for high intensity training before they are ready. The Fundamentals program provides new students with classes that are geared specifically for their needs. In many other Jiu-Jitsu schools, new students might immediately be in the Advanced class and find themselves overwhelmed and discouraged. Students should be working together with others of a similar experience level.
In the Gracie Barra school culture, senior students are encouraged to be role models for junior students. In too many ways to list here, newer students can observe the most experienced students in class to learn how to conduct themselves inside Jiu-Jitsu class and how to stay safe.
The instructor, when teaching a new technique, will encourage the students to pay attention to the safety tips that go along with it. Ex. If the instructor is teaching a defense to the straight arm lock from the guard, they will also point out that attempting to just pull the arm straight out exposes their elbow to strong pressure as their arm extends. These special tips are valuable in avoiding potentially injurious situations in drilling and sparring.
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Another way that the GB program limits risk of injury is to introduce full sparring at the appropriate experience level. Students in the GB Fundamentals program are introduced to sparring through “positional” sparring with a limited and well defined set of rules and objectives. That way, even if the student does not yet understand all of the positions, they are placed in a sparring situation where they are equipped to apply the technique that they just learned in class. Many Jiu-Jitsu schools allow students to roll in their very first classes – but without any idea of the positions or what to do, it is a recipe for wild instinctive movements in an attempt to survive…and unfortunately an increased chance of injury.
The GB instructor will encourage students to focus on technique over strength and practice in a smooth, controlled manner.
A less obvious aspect of safety in the GB school is the issue of contagious skin infections. The GB instructor will discuss the topic of personal hygiene and also ensure that the mats are cleaned and disinfected everyday. No street shoes allowed on the mats. Clean mats are safe.
Minor but important matters like making sure fingernails are trimmed, jewelry removed and everyone is wearing a clean, fresh smelling uniform also mitigate the potential for skin related problems.
Students need to be made aware about monitoring their own skin and other symptoms of skin problems, and the importance of seeing a doctor for any suspicious conditions. Students must know that they are not to attend class or return until the condition is completely clear.
Jiu-Jitsu is a close contact activity and the Gracie Barra guidelines are in place to ensure the best environment to train Jiu-Jitsu for everyone.
Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Asia