A Reader Question: “Feeling Unwelcome At New Academy”

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Question: Hi! I have a question for you and for everyone in the BJJ community. Not too long ago, I left my first BJJ gym because I wanted a more competitive environment. I chose a tougher gym with a world-class instructor.

Unfortunately, I didn’t feel welcome by most of the students. I wasn’t coming from a rival school; I was coming from a small gym where the head instructor is a purple belt. We only have one blue belt, and the rest of us are white belts, so I didn’t see why they were acting like that.

I was looking for a BJJ family and I didn’t find it; so, I just went back to my old gym, and as soon as I came in, I felt good and welcome even though “I left them for a better gym”.

I know that in this gym, my BJJ process is going to be slower than in the world-class gym, but I’m willing to pay the price.

Do you think it is normal to feel that way in a new gym? Or do you need to feel welcome at all times?

Jiu-jitsu Times: The majority of BJJ academies are very welcoming places and it surprises me to hear that you felt unwelcome at the new academy.

As long as a student has a good attitude and treats other members of the academy with respect, it is not difficult to be assimilated in the academy.

A few possibilities come to mind regarding your question. They may or may not be applicable to your specific situation.

These are some general ideas for fitting in at a new academy.

1) You didn’t mention specifically what happened that made you feel unwelcome. Is it possible that you were reading too much into something someone said.  Maybe you interpreted an innocent comment the wrong way?

If you were hesitant about interacting with others at first, it might have been perceived as YOU who was the standoffish one, and people just left you alone!

2) It takes a little time to be accepted as one of the family, especially in a bigger academy with a lot of different faces.

Look, students come and go in academies. Some just quit, some move, and some get busy with family and work.

After so many faces pass through the academy, many of the long time members will be cordial, but they will not treat you like “family” until you prove that you are going to stick around for a while.

Until you stick around for several months and train consistently, you may be perceived as someone who is not that serious, so the senior guys won’t attach to you.

3) In any new environment, it helps to ask more questions than to talk about how much you know or the way you did things at the other place.

The best way to start building rapport with senior students is to ask them some technique questions. Sharing knowledge between students builds to training relationships, and they see that you have an open attitude to learning.

The most important thing is, of course, that you ENJOY wherever you are training. If your old club proved to be the better environment, that is probably the right spot for you!

You should also check out Jiu-jitsu Times A Reader Question: “Question about club patches”

Reader Question: “Question about etiquette on academy patches”


  1. Ehhhh, brown belt here. I dont completely agree on that response. Not all gyms are very welcoming, actually its quite the opposite. You have to be very careful what gym you choose for training. Is not just about the skills of the students or instructors, but how they make you feel and help you on this journey. Thats no an easy decision to take. Just like any other place, If you feel something’s off, it usually is.


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