Being Disrespectful: Top Ten

Sometimes we do things we’re unaware of. Sometimes we know what we’re doing and can’t seem to be able to stop ourselves. And sometimes there are unknown or assumed rules that, as Jiujitsu practitioners, we come to learn and follow. To make things easy I discussed with Professors and students alike, what they think constitutes actions or behavior of disrespect. Take heed people!

1. showing up late, consistently, is completely unacceptable. It’s one thing if you send a message or are coming from work or school and have talked this over with the instructor or Professor.
2. not keeping yourself or your attire clean. It’s a huge slap in the face especially to your training partners
3.  not cleaning up after yourselves! It’s a tired instructor who has to clean up after students who leave empty water bottles, clothes, etc laying around.

4.not bowing on/ off the mats or before & after a match. Show your classmates, instructors and rolling partners common courtesy & that you appreciate them, and their allowing you to train! No partners = no training.

5. speaking while the instructor is speaking or showing technique. I’m pretty sure we learned this back in kindergarten.
6.showing a different technique or not following the training guidelines as presented by the instructor. They’re the instructor for a reason.
7. outbursts of any kind. Not only are they disruptive, but they make you look foolish. It’s also disrespectful to those around you. Accept, learn, and move on.
8.belt ranking exists for a reason. The higher belts have put in the time and have acquired knowledge to reach their rank. Line up in order, move out of their way, and don’t argue semantics.
9.the instructors and professors are there for a reason. Don’t try to voiceover or side coach. If you were ready to do so, you’d have been asked. Assuming you have more knowledge than you actually do will prove to be foolhardy and frustrating.
10. everyone on the mats is there for their own reason. It’s not for you to determine if their reason is as good as or better than yours, if anyone does or doesn’t deserve promotion, or if any person on the mats shouldn’t be there. If this is your attitude, maybe you should re-evaluate your own mindset.

Everyone of us walks onto the mats as a white belt. We all learn and grow. What type of martial artist and person you become depends on you. Some academies are less formal, some are more so. Regardless, being a respectful and upstanding Jiujitsu citizen goes a long way. Have fun and train hard!

Happy Rolling!!


  1. All excellent points just on maybe the bowing and lining up according to rank though ,those aren’t really signs of disrespect it just depends on the academy, it’s not a requirement in every school ,bowing is an initially foreign concept in most of western based society most people don’t like it because it brings to their mind connotations of yielding inferiority to someone who is no different than you are as a person, though in most asian cultures and martial arts training by extension of that culture it is seen as the polite thing to do it’s not set in stone that one has to I mean BJJ is an amalgamated modern art form, most people just before rolling just high five, fist bump and go instead of bowing every time they reset as in other arts but again I suppose it depends on the academy,in other cases a few instructors discourage bowing for the aforementioned inferiority complex it raises in some people and instead in a roundabout way tell their students we show each other respect here but I don’t think anyone is allowed to believe they’re better than everybody else not me, not you not anyone we’re all equals and the mutual respect people gain from that is invaluable, by comparison if I could make another point you didn’t mention that others interpret differently the same is also true in how an instructor prefer’s to be addressed, some prefer being called Sir/Ma’am/Sensei/Master/Professor/Coach some just go with a first name basis with their students and if a school is informal about it it’s not a huge sign of disrespect ,and on outranking people some academies prefer to line up in order of who’s been practising there longer so for example if a new purple belt shows up out of town or there is a visiting club it’s not out of line if the instructor would rather they lined up after his white belts who’ve been at the school a few months longer ,then again some schools are so informal students don’t line up in any particular order at all. Just some random thoughts on those subjects , a great article with a lot of good points some people need to read over a lot more ,particularly on hygiene, no one likes rolling with someone who still uses the same old Gi without ever washing it once

  2. Yeah I think a lot of the respect stuff like bowing and titles is wide open to cultural differences in the club. Core things though like respecting everyone’s right to learn and be safe should be universal and that extends to stuff like hygiene etc.

    One personal gripe I have is checking what rules/limitations you use in free rolling. I often prefer to roll to the rules of the next belt rank up but I always confirm with rolling partners in advance. It’s not fun getting caught in a particular move when you have been avoiding them yourself out of courtesy. For example I feel sorry for the white belt who’s just been told they can’t do knee bars then get knee barred 5 minutes later when rolling with a brown belt.

  3. Nice read,
    Different style here (Aikido instructor commenting) but as an instructor I am of two minds about being on time. I have one student who is roughly 10 minutes late to every class because he comes directly from work and gets to the dojo as quickly as he can.
    He hurries to change and get on the mat as quickly as he can when he gets there and I would MUCH rather he show up late than simply not show up due to being late and changing his work schedule isn’t an option. I know YMMV and I get the point of making being on time for class a priority but I also realize there are other constraints that come into play.

    • BJJ student/former Karate instructor here: You make a good point, unavoidable lateness versus avoidable.

      I believe a good approach is to make it all about communication: If you know you will be late on a regular basis, communicate that to the instructor and get his permission. As an instructor I would rather have you train than not.

      On the other hand, showing up late to class when you could have been on time is just a manifestation of lacking discipline and/or respect for fellow students and the instructor. It might be my old school Asian martial art background talking, but I like to see respect and personal accountability be part of the training journey, and being conscious of how your actions affect others is just as much an ego-taming practice as allowing yourself to be submitted or making yourself vulnerable so your partners can try new moves (versus making each roll about winning).

      Regardless, showing up late is disruptive for the students and the instructor, and developing the habit of always being on time will pay dividends in many areas of life beyond the dojo.

      Back to the old school way of doing things — every time I see the instructor cleaning the mat I feel guilty (he gets there before me sometimes and won’t give up the mop) but I have a suspicion that since he’s 30 years old he might be looking at this grey-bearded white belt and thinking the same thing when I get the mop before the 20-something blue belts can 🙂

      Side note: That’s the great thing about starting bjj when you are over 50: when I was younger winning seemed to take precedence, now i’m just trying to beat the youngsters to that mop.

  4. I recently found out that at some academies, it is disrespectful to ask higher belts, especially brown and black to roll. That instead, we should wait until a higher belt asks us to train. Any thoughts on this?

    • I look at it as being a tourist in a different country: It’s always good to follow the local customs, what’s “right” in one country may be “wrong” in another, but when the locals know that you care enough to learn about their way of doing things the trip is smoother and friends are easier to make.

  5. Be sincere and friendly. I think that shows respect and good behavior.

    I don’t know, but I get a feeling that outer sings of respect are more important than actual respect. You should respect all training partners and even people that are not training 🙂 Yes, you need to be polite and act so that learning situation is best possible for every one. My personal take on teaching is, that leaner is more responsible for learning than a teacher. Teacher/instructor is just a facilitator. Makes a situation where learning can happen.

    Yes – it is valuable to have people who help you! Like instructors and training partners. Don’t need to bow. Maybe nodding your head or eye contact is how you acknowledge yourfriends in your “tribe”. Visiting other places, you need to act accordingly – ofcourse.


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