College and Jiu-jitsu are alike in more ways than one. There are professors and they demand attention and participation, sure, but most importantly, progression is possible when one knows how to be a better student.
But what does it mean to be a “good student?” After all, there’s always that one person who comes to class obsessively but still stalls or regresses. In truth, being a better student in jiu jitsu goes beyond attendance and the technical stuff like nutrition and S&C. It comes right down to how much a student practices and trains based on the values of the sport. These values are community, humility, and perseverance.
How can students put these values into practice in their BJJ journey? Here are five simple and actionable ways to be better students in a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class:
Academies have schedules for classes, and rarely is it advisable or polite to show up a few minutes late. One of these instances is open mat, but even we at Granite Bay Jiu-jitsu appreciate it when students show up on time for this.
Why? This is because we know that everybody is short on time and lives based on schedules. Everyone is in a rush to make it to their next commitments — which can be Jiu-jitsu, work, or a date.
People who make it a point to show up early do so on the understanding that the time of other people needs to be respected. Show up late, and it gives people the wrong impression that their time isn’t valuable and that it’s their job to adjust. It’s no wonder why people who are regularly late are commonly seen as entitled.
This is why we’re big on students showing up on time, all of the time. It’s a small and easy habit to get into, but it builds discipline and shows respect for the people around you.
A Brazilian Jiu jitsu class is a class like any other. In classes, there is a constant exchange of ideas and points for correction — or, at least, there should be. One big thing can disrupt the exchange of ideas and much-needed corrections: ego.
Ego is easy to spot. There are two signs. One is being resistant to corrections. For example, a student usually has an ego problem when the black belt corrects the student and the student takes it negatively.
Sometimes, a student will take corrections, implement them into their ground game, and not ask for feedback. This is also a sign of an ego problem and can hinder development in Jiu-jitsu (and life, for that matter).
On the other hand, being open to criticism and proactively seeking correction is a sign that all the student wants to do is improve. This is why we appreciate students asking for feedback and leaving their egos off of the mat.
And speaking of things best left off the mat…
This is something many academy owners are strict with. This is because everyone in the academy uses the mat. Students will be lying on it, rolling on it, and spending much of the class on it. The last thing anyone wants is a skin infection due to someone’s dirty flip-flops being on the mat constantly.
As a matter of health and safety, it’s important to keep anything dirty like footwear off the mats. Many academies (like ours) have areas where students can leave their shoes, which allows for easy access if the students need to pop out for the bathroom or water cooler. More importantly, it keeps the academy clean and healthy.
Now, we’ve had situations in the past where students came to class wearing flip-flops. We always require these students to clean their feet before setting foot on the mats.
Think about it: It isn’t polite walking into a house with dirty shoes. Dirty feet also have no place in a Brazilian Jiu jitsu class.
Community is an important tenet in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. One of the ways students can reinforce this principle is to extend help to other students who may be struggling. There are many ways to do this.
The first is to be good training partner. To be a good training partner, a student needs to allow other students to drill moves. When it comes to live rolls, a student who’s trying to help another student won’t treat a roll like its the final match of ADCC. In short, a good training partner treats fellow students with respect and does the utmost to keep the other person safe.
Another is to provide feedback when it’s asked. This is helpful for both the assisted student and the student who helped. For the student who got help, the technique is clearer. For the student who offered a helping hand, it’s an opportunity to slow the technique down for oneself, enough to revisit and review it.
A good student works towards improvement, and improvement doesn’t take place without failure. Trial and error is an excellent way to expand a BJJ arsenal, whether it’s in submissions, escapes, or takedowns.
Trying a move without the fear of failure enables students to experiment. This is where the true benefits of a Brazilian Jiu jitsu class come to the foreground. This is what Rener Gracie meant when he talked about “keeping it playful.”
With an experimental mindset, the student drops the ego and experiences BJJ for what it’s supposed to be — a nascent journey towards getting better.
The above-mentioned tips aren’t just for white belts. Every BJJ athlete is on a consistent journey towards getting better; these tips are for anyone who dons a Gi in a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu class.