You get what you give!

I think that in general, Brazilian jiu-jitsu players are very nice people. It has been my experience for the most part whether I am a visitor to a new school or a veteran at my home school, that we try to make newcomers feel welcome and invited. I genuinely believe that most of us want the new people to feel welcome to stay and learn. 

At my new place, at the end of every class, all the new comers are thanked and introduced by name. Then the rest of us clap and prop them for coming. I don’t know if that’s a Gracie corporate wide thing or a Professor Montes thing, but either way I think that it is pretty cool and makes you feel good. It’s a personal touch that I think will close the class with a feeling of welcome. Unless you are really shy in which case, well, you’ll feel exposed. But at the end of the day, you’ll thank us.

At my current school, we don’t roll at white belt level so this post doesn’t really apply there. However, you are still training in a physical sport and manipulating someone’s body in drills, so despite there being no rolling, it still behooves you to be friendly to people, because in life, you get what you give. 

When at a traditional school, after the techniques are done, you move on to some free rolling. You might be rolling with a beginner or a higher belt and what you will notice is that whether or not we intend to, we are going to match your level of aggression and intensity. It may not even be intentional, but it will happen and it is necessary to survive. 

If you go 30% intensity, your partner will do the same to match you and protect their body. If you dial it up, so will they and on it goes. When I roll with a new person, I go fairly light and try to gauge their level of skill and intensity, I’ll then adjust accordingly. 

If you know that you are rolling with a person that is far more skilled than you, then just take that opportunity to play light and try to pick up tips from your partner about your mistakes and what she’s doing to catch or control you. At that point you have nothing to prove, but plenty to learn. Besides, you ain’t gonna win even if you wanted to, so best put that out of your head and take it as a learning opportunity.

If your partner is new and you are in the position of catching and controlling, then you should now take on the role of mentor and pass on to your training partner what they can do to protect themselves and learn to advance from their position. Guide their hips and tell them which way to hip escape, let them try it and work it while you offer some resistance. Encourage them to learn rather than discourage them to work. Same as before, you have nothing to prove and dominating a brand new participant does you no favors and it’s not cool.

Sometimes you roll with someone who is just about the same level as you and you can both learn from each other. That’s when you are both going to be responsible for controlling what you give and what you get. Just remember that injuries are no fun and this isn’t the Worlds bjj competition. I know it’s easier said than done, but be smart. I’ve not always been smart and I have some life long injuries to show for it.

One time one of my coaches was rolling with a new guy and the new guy was going really aggressive, so much so that he actually gave my coach a black eye. The coach told him to relax that he wasn’t going hard and neither should he because this was just practice. Instead of apologizing and humbling down, the new guy said “I’m not going hard either, I can go much harder.” My coach didn’t like that too much and I don’t blame him. That’s pride and ego and that’s just not cool. You already hurt the coach and you should be grateful he’s being okay about it. If he wanted to, he could return in kind and hurt you even worse.

Some days, (like the example above) you might have to dominate and humble someone who is being reckless and overly aggressive. My coach was nicer than I would have been for sure. So yes, I understand that this may be necessary on occasion with a bully, a spaz or someone who just doesn’t know better. But as a guiding principle, I try to keep it safe and friendly. Remember in bjj, as in life, you get what you give.

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