At some point in your jiu-jitsu journey, you’re going to encounter someone who tells you how that submission you just got on them could’ve been better. Or maybe they’ll interrupt the roll you’re having with them to give you a few tips. Or maybe they’ll physically grab your leg and start explaining how to do a better straight ankle lock before you have the chance to understand what’s happening. Or maybe, if you’re letting them work and they gain an advantageous position on you, they’ll say, “Let me show you how I did that.”
If you’ve rolled with this person before, they probably came to mind as you read that paragraph. If you think you give such unsolicited advice, but believe that it’s different in your case, let this be your wakeup call — no matter how good your intentions may be, it doesn’t come off well.
Even though jiu-jitsu is theoretically supposed to be a “no ego” martial art, let’s be honest — there’s a good bit of ego involved, just like any system that involves a hierarchy. In theory, everyone should be able to learn from everyone, and a white belt should be able to give a black belt advice without being scoffed at. But in reality, it comes across as a dishwasher giving the head chef advice on how to cook. Even when two people of the same rank are rolling, unsolicited advice can come across as being patronizing and disrespectful, and even though you mean well, making a habit of doing this could push some of your teammates to avoid rolling with you altogether.
There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. If your teammate is diving to roll the wrong way out of a heel hook or is exhibiting otherwise dangerous behavior, tell them for both their safety and the safety of everyone else they roll with. And of course, if it is literally your job as a coach or assistant coach to tell your students how to improve your jiu-jitsu, you should be doing that.
In almost all other cases, though, if you want to give someone advice, just ask first: “Can I show you something really quick?” They may be open to it, or they may feel as though they don’t need it. If they decline your offer, accept it gracefully and move on. If you really believe that what you could show them would benefit them, it’s their loss anyway.
“But why would someone decline tips when my advice could help them?” you may wonder. Well, maybe your teammate doesn’t want your advice on guard retention right now because they’re practicing getting out of side control and want to get their guard passed. Maybe they are in a certain headspace and just want to focus on rolling. Maybe they were letting you work to compensate for their size or experience advantage over you. And, sorry, but maybe your own application of that submission you want to show them isn’t as impressive as you think it is.
If you keep asking your teammates if they want your advice and they keep declining it, it’s time to stop offering and assume that if someone wants your help, they’ll ask for it. If you persist, you’ll 100 percent be known as That Person who tries to make themselves feel better about their own half-decent jiu-jitsu by acting like they’re more knowledgeable than all their training partners. This habit gets irritating very quickly, and your teammates are well within their rights to decline rolls with you if they feel like your need to push advice onto them is taking away from their training experience.
Over time, you will become someone that lower belts (and even equally ranked teammates) go to for help. Your training partners will start asking you how you did that cool thing, and when a new white belt comes in and feels lost, they’ll feel relieved when you ask them if they want help. Until then, let your jiu-jitsu do the talking for you.