Getting People To Stick With BJJ Means Putting In The Extra Work

Source: Averi Clements/ Instagram

There are a lot of things that have to happen exactly the right way for someone to walk into a BJJ gym and decide they want to sign up after their first class. Many more things need to happen exactly the right way for them to stick with it until they hit blue belt. When someone keeps training long enough to earn their black belt, that’s pretty much a miracle.

To achieve any of these milestones requires a combination of luck (because how many would-be BJJ students have turned around and never looked back after walking into a bad jiu-jitsu academy?) and dedication on the part of the new student. But if you really want someone to stick around long enough to become a quality training partner, you also have to put in the work as an existing student.

Obviously, you’re under no obligation to make the extra effort to get a new student to feel comfortable and welcome at the gym. You can easily go into each class with the mindset that you are here for yourself and no one else, and many BJJ practitioners do just that. And to be fair, many brand-new students don’t need any extra attention — they’re happy to show up, get smashed, go home, and do it all again the next day. Others, however, may need a bit more support. They may feel anxious about their new hobby or simply feel out of place being the newcomer in a room full of people who have inside jokes and a shared long-term passion.

These students are the ones who are often dismissed by both coaches and teammates. It’s not that everyone wants them gone, but at the same time, no one is actively showing that they want them to stay, either. The general unspoken consensus when that student stops showing up is “Well, they were never going to last long anyway.”

Sure, this may feel inevitable when a newcomer is nervous in a new, uncomfortable environment. But if you could help them change their “destiny,” why wouldn’t you?

Imagine how that student who was “never going to last” might be inclined to stay if you came up to them after class and chatted with them. Might they want to keep showing up if you asked them if they’d be back again tomorrow? Would they feel less out-of-place if you introduced them to other people at the gym who also took a genuine interest in them? What if, instead of having to look for a drilling partner on their own, you saved them the trouble and asked if they wanted to pair up with you?

If this sounds like a lot of effort to put toward someone who you might not ever see again, stop thinking of new students as “people you may never see again.” Newbies are potential black belts, and if we’re going to keep promoting the concept that “jiu-jitsu is for everyone,” we need to make sure that everyone who walks into the gym knows that this sport and this academy is for them, and all they have to do is keep coming back.

“Sacrificing” a drilling session or roll every now and then to make sure that a new person is getting a good experience in jiu-jitsu class isn’t just a nice thing to do — it’s contributing to the development of a new training partner. It truly doesn’t matter if they’re ever going to be a competitive athlete or even a competitive roll for you in the gym. It’s just how you turn new students into returning teammates who can then help newer students feel welcome the same way that you did.

Will this work for every single person who signs a waiver at your gym? Maybe, maybe not. But for those who choose to stay, the effort is worth it. Who knows? You could be the reason someone steps on the path to becoming a BJJ black belt one day.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here