Jiu-Jitsu: When rolling with a visitor be aware of these rules of etiquette

It’s a known fact that cross training can be hugely beneficial to Jiu Jitsu practitioners. By exposing ourselves to other people’s styles we can learn what aspects of our games work against people who have different techniques in their arsenal. One thing I’ve seen happen a lot is a sort of “stranger danger” with visitors.

For starters, if a visitor is of a higher rank, always seek them out to roll with you. Make sure to do so respectfully as to not seem like you are “calling them out”, but far too often I’ve seen high ranking visitors come into a school and no one really seems to want to roll with them. There’s a sort of intimidation factor.

Here’s the thing: if you give a visitor a good spirited roll, they may want to come back again to roll with you, and better yet, if they have their own gym elsewhere, you’ll now have a different place to go train where you’ll be welcomed.

When rolling with a visitor be aware of these rules of etiquette:

  1. Not everyone follows the same rules as you.
  2. Just because someone is of a high rank doesn’t render them immune to injury.
  3. Talk to the person before rolling with them, maybe they want to focus on something specific. Make them feel welcome.

Some visitors may play by different rules than you are used to. I always make a habit of asking new people about their personal feelings on leg locks. If they are not comfortable with me going for them, I won’t out of respect for them, if they are, I should expect them to go for reaps and heel hooks.

Another thing to remember is that you are a representation of your school to that visitor. Sometimes, a visiting person may just be passing through or they may be looking for a new place to join. If you make a positive impression, they may join your gym or recommend your gym to other people.

One thing I’ve also found is that different people are used to different paces while rolling. Some visitors I’ve rolled with want to roll 100%, others are looking to slowly explore different situations and positions. Let the other person dictate the pace of the roll. They may take advantage of that and wind up submitting you, but remember it’s not a competition.

Far too often I find that some people avoid rolling with visitors. In doing this, they lose out on potential learning experiences and on building new relationships. The next time someone visits your school, go out of your way to roll with them, and when you do so, do it on their terms.

Emil Fischer is an active blue belt competitor under Pablo Angel Castro III training with Strong Style Brasa and is sponsored by Pony Club Grappling Gear and Cruz Combat. For more information, other articles, and competition videos check out his athlete pages at www.facebook.com/emilfischerbjj www.twitter.com/Emil_Fischer and https://instagram.com/emilfischerbjj


  1. Everything said in this article should apply irrespective of belt rank. Its unnecessary to even mention rank or ability when it comes to rolling with new people, you should always apply this etiquette and try and make others welcome. Courtesy / manners don’t cost anything, any situation is normally always made better for it, rarely is a situation ,if ever, made worse. White belts are people to.

  2. Hi Gavin thank you for your comment! The only reason I mentioned rank in this piece is that a visiting WHITE belt with 2 months on the mat is going to be treated completely different than a visiting purple. I agree that courtesy should always be applied, but some people gun for upper belts and act like they’re immune to injury.

  3. Absolutely, belt rank and ability will put an individual on a pedestal. People will make a value judgement on a person before even engaging with them, just like most people would make a different value judgement if the person is 100 lbs or 250lbs. But neither should impact on how you treat someone new to your gym. Christian Graugart of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Globetrotters says it well when he talks of how differently people are treated based on rank which is a shame as everyone you role with is potentially a really cool person and new friend. Jiu Jitsu should be an inclusive and positive learning environment. Anyone who has watched any of Stuart Cooper Films inspirational videos or indeed from personal experience will know that everyone does jiu jitsu for different reasons. BJJ should not be a negative experience, it should be a tool for growth, be that as a competitive athlete, casual hobby or personal journey. So going back to what you said, yes you are right… “the visiting white belt will normally be treated differently than the visiting purple belt…” but that does not mean that they should be. Both are people and both should be made to feel equally welcome, the same courtesy should be extended to both of them. In an article highlighting proper etiquette for dealing with visitors I don’t believe you should differentiate between rank. If anything a white belt who is just starting out on their BJJ journey should be supported and encouraged more so than the seasoned purple belt so that they will stick with it and grow the sport instead of being discouraged. I do completely understand where you’re coming from, people gunning for high-belt visitors is an issue. My only gripe is the mention of rank, (to me) made your article read like; ” Jiu-Jitsu: When rolling with a visitor OF A HIGHER BELT be aware of these rules of etiquette”


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