Etiquette Of The BJJ Gym: Reprinted from White Belt Academy
If you are new to BJJ, there are customs that one should be aware of in order to have a safe and enjoyable training experience. Some are self explanatory and some aren’t so obvious. Of course every gym is different, so ask your instructor about their rules and requirements in order to train at their facility. Here are some common guidelines regarding gym etiquette that one should familiarize themselves with before you step foot on a BJJ mat.
Good hygiene is extremely important and is a form of respect; for yourself, your training partners, your instructors and your gym. An indicator of poor hygiene is body odor. Not only is body odor distracting, it is a sign of something that could be dangerous, and in some cases deadly; bacteria and fungus. By not taking the proper steps in ensuring that you have good hygiene, you are putting yourself, and the patrons of the gym at risk of skin rashes and diseases such as ringworm, MRSA, staph infection, impetigo etc. The list is endless. Here are ways you can help prevent the infliction and/or the spread of infectious bacteria and fungus:
Shower and brush your teeth daily, and shower immediately after training. I personally recommend Dr. Bonners Tea Tree Oil Castile Soap and the Dove Men +Care Body Scrubber. I have no scientific studies to show you, but my skin is in much better shape ever since I began using both products, however the soap did not prevent me from being infected by ringworm.
WASH YOUR GEAR!!!! If you find yourself wearing an item for more than one training session in between washes, you are a culprit of poor hygiene! The excuse that you only have one gi/pair of shorts/ rashguard etc is a poor one. I had one gi when I first started, I do not own a washer machine, and trained 3x a week. So every other night I was at the Laundromat washing either my gi or no gi gear. This also includes your belt. If you have never washed your belt, you are probably harboring some wicked tenants. I personally recommend washing everything in hot water with detergent and drying either in a dryer, or outside in the sun. Washing in cold water and hang drying inside, while better than nothing, is not as effective. If you use a gear bag, do not put dirty items in it if you do not plan on washing it. Bring a garbage bag and place your soiled gear in the garbage bag and leave it in there until you wash it.Also, make sure your gear is completely dry before getting on the mat. A wet gi is a dirty gi in my opinion.Bottom line is, if you or your gear smell bad, do not get on the mat until you and your gear is properly cleaned. Febreeze and Lysol are not substitutes for proper cleaning!
Do not walk on the mat with anything except bare feet (socks if you are not training). This also means, do not walk outside bare foot and then step on the mat. Either put your shoes back on, or invest in some sort of sandal. This will help keep the mats clean, and help prevent germs from finding their way on the mat.
Make sure you trim your fingernails and toenails regularly to avoid injuring yourself or your training partner. Your nails should resemble this image. Any longer could be considered hazardous.
If you find that you do have a skin rash, ask your instructor what his or her policy is regarding infection. If they follow NCAA wrestling rules, an individual must treat an infection for 3 days before returning to the mat. Some gyms do not allow a student to train until the rash is gone completely. This is for less serious infections such as ringworm.
Respect the tap! All of the submissions used in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can cause serious bodily harm. If your training partner taps, release him immediately and safely. If you find yourself in a submission and are unsure that you can defend it, tap immediately.
Do not interrupt the instructor while he or she is giving a lesson. If you have a question, save it until the instructor opens the floor for questions.
In most gyms, it is traditionally disrespectful to ask a higher ranking student or instructor to train with you. It is best that you wait until a higher ranking student or instructor asks you to train.
It is customary to shake hands to initiate a sparring round. This signifies that both you and your partner are ready to engage in the sparring round.
Remove all jewelry before you train
Before purchasing gear, find out your school’s dress code and required uniform. Some gyms may not allow certain colored gis or no-gi equipment and some schools may require that you purchase and wear their gear only.
Do not talk during a sparring round unless you and your partner have a mutual agreement to do so.
Ask your instructors if they are ok with you visiting another gym. Rivalry and competition are a part of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and you can misrepresent your gym by visiting another gym.
If your instructor is teaching a particular technique, do not deviate or improvise. Drill the move until your instructor advises otherwise. Save the technique experiments for open mat.
Try to make it a point to be at class on time dressed and ready to participate in the warm ups. If you have a scheduling conflict that is one thing, but if you show up and just hang out in the locker room to avoid warm ups, you are increasing the chance of injury for yourself. Also showing up during the lesson can be distracting and deemed disrespectful.
Try to avoid numerous trips off the mat during a lesson.
If you are injured and begin to bleed, leave the mat immediately to tend to the wound to avoid having the blood come in contact with other students and to avoid infection. If you decide to continue training, make sure the bleeding is completely stopped and the wound is covered. Also make sure that you clean up any blood on the mat as soon as possible.
Some gyms may require you to bow before you enter and leave the mat.
If you are new to BJJ, refrain from attempting leg locks. Most gyms prohibit white belts from attempting to use these techniques due to how easy it is to injure your partner.
During live sparring, lower ranked students should make way for higher ranked students in the event that 2 sets of training partners collide or come close enough to collide. If both are ranked equal, the younger group should make way for the older group.
Suggested Courtesies: Not so much etiquette as they are merely common courtesies, these aren’t a must to follow, but take these into consideration.
Do your best to not kick and flail about to avoid a position or submission. This is known as “spazzing”. While it is very hard to resist, it is not uncommon for this “technique” to injure your training partner.
If it is the first time meeting a student that you are training with, introduce yourself and show the level of respect and courtesy that you would wish to be treated with.
If you are a very hairy individual, it would be considered courteous to wear a shirt or rashguard while training. If you shave parts of your body, it is recommended that you keep up or cover those exposed areas to avoid “stubble burning” your partner.