Did you scare your friends away from Jiu-Jitsu?

“First impressions start the story.” – Nicholas Boothman

Jiu-Jitsu is for everyone

Jiu-Jitsu is the most effective martial art in the world. Yet, not everyone is doing it. We still have not reached the full potential or mainstream reach of the art.

I feel as an instructor and as a missionary for jiu-jitsu, my main job is to promote the art and also paint the perfect picture to new students who may have created certain mental/cognitive biases towards it.

Jiu-jitsu is for men, women, and children of all ages and sizes, but do we instructors “sell” it properly to our friends???

“When we become expert in something, our tastes grow more esoteric and complex.”         – Malcolm Gladwell

Picture this:

– You are 40 years old.
– You have not exercised in 10 years.
– You have children, a wife, a great job, but you are feeling either vulnerable physically or passionless.
– You have heard of jiu-jitsu. Maybe you watch it on YouTube. You have always had an interest, but you don’t really understand the art or what it encompasses.

One of your co-workers just began training and is feeling the amazing effects. He can’t wait to share the details of the classes!

You ask him “What is it like? I am out of shape. I have never done it before. Can I do it???”

He replies:

“Man, it is awesome. It is really TOUGH, there are CHOKES, ARM LOCKS, LEG LOCKS, and THROWS. It’s amazing! If you are OUT OF SHAPE, you MIGHT BE OKAY. Even if you haven’t done it before, you SHOULD BE OKAY. You just have to have the COURAGE to walk through the door and take some BUMPS AND BRUISES in the beginning. Just come to a class with me, SIGN A WAIVER, and hop in! Want to come tomorrow night?!?!?”

“What is the waiver for?” you ask.

“Something you sign that just says that you won’t sue or anything if you get HURT OR DIE,” he replies. “It’s a quick form.”

I don’t think your co-worker got the correct perception of the art.

When new students begin, they will suddenly have a new sense of appreciation for technique, humility, discipline, and will have realized that jiu-jitsu is truly magic!

However, the descriptive techniques listed above are powerful and are a part of what gives jiu-jitsu its strength. They do not generally sound appealing to someone who is nervous, undecided, or worried about injury. Once new students are enrolled in the class and they not only see how safe and effective it is, but develop the proper technique, they will be ready for all of the good stuff jiu-jitsu offers!

Avoid the hidden, negative, connotations in the emboldened words. Although, you said it was awesome, you may have scared them away.

After all, you said:

  • They would walk into a place where people will put them in CHOKES and be THROWING them to the ground.
  • They are out of shape, so they MIGHT BE OKAY.
  • They SHOULD BE OKAY, meaning they may or may not make it out alive.
  • They need COURAGE, to step through the door. What if this person needs jiu-jitsu because they do not have COURAGE? What do they think they will be walking into?
  • BUMPS AND BRUISES in the beginning? OUCH!
  • Finally it ends with a description of signing a waiver and describing that it is only so they won’t SUE if they get HURT or DIE!

Try this next time

When your friend, co-worker, relative, or whoever nervously asks you about jiu-jitsu and you can see that they have interest but are looking for reassurance, explain to them:

  • Jiu-jitsu is meant for SMALLER PEOPLE to defend themselves against a bigger attackers.
  • The beginner classes are designed for people with NO EXPERIENCE and it is a great place to start GETTING INTO SHAPE!
  • You can begin at YOUR OWN pace and will progress as time goes on!
  • It’s not MMA. Jiu-Jitsu is for the AVERAGE PERSON. MMA uses every martial art.
  • Everyone there is so WELCOMING and very HELPFUL. IT CHANGED MY LIFE.
  • 90% of the students do not compete and just do jiu-jitsu for FUN.

We can all agree that the above sounds far friendlier and is the absolute truth. The beginner’s enthusiasm is completely understood, but if we are to grow this art and promote it to the community and the world, we need to make people realize that a jiu-jitsu academy is not a place where they will get hurt; it is a place where they will learn how to NOT get hurt!

Word of mouth is everything

In his amazing book “The Purple Cow“, Seth Godin explains how almost every top business in the world gained notoriety and success mainly by word-of-mouth advertising.

Customers who were so blown away by the product or company could not stop telling everyone about it!  When we start to word things more effectively, we will have a better chance of the world being introduced to the magic of jiu-jitsu! What we wear, what we say, and how we act will give an instant snap judgement to people who may need or want the art desperately but are unsure of what they will enter into.

I am not trying to turn anyone reading this into a “BJJ salesperson.” I am merely trying to polish up everyone’s ability to convince their friends to come in! The more students, the more the school will grow. When the school grows, the more training levels and potential increases. When this all happens, jiu-jitsu will finally embed itself into the culture!

All jiu-jitsu representatives know the power of the art physically, mentally, and even spiritually. But as we grow and mature through training, we must not forget how we felt before we started. If you have been an athlete your whole life, you have been blessed, but you must remember that you have to treat and spread jiu-jitsu to people who do not have your attributes and gifts.

Promote the “gentle art” gently and make sure people are reassured they can do it.

This will help bring the next wave of mainstream popularity in our area!


  1. I agree with the majority of this but, when you talk about humility and then say it is the most effective art in the world I have a hard time seeing the humility in that statement and in most of the bjj practitioners (but not all) that I have met. And I know its effectiveness very well. I want to believe it but just about every bjj stylist I have met, or have seen on youtube is trying to prove they are the best or the art is so effective to show you I am going to hurt you. Even though you have to use those arms to feed your family I’m going to hyper extend your elbow for my moment of self glory to further advance the art. I always felt that the superior warrior has nothing to prove. In my twenty three years of martial arts I have seen this time and again. I have also seen the brotherly love you get once you are in the jiu jitsu family after you stick around through the “lets beat down the white belt” initiations. However, to receive a families love we are simply born. We don’t crank flying armbars on infants and see if they stick around awhile before we love them. We nourish them, we guide them, we teach them to grow up into decent people. When a jiu jitsu white belt steps on the mat for the first time or first year he is an infant. I agree jiu jitsu is superior in many but not all ways. I see guys like Renato Laranja and it makes me sick and you keep seeing more and more of these clowns making an ass out of the art wearing their uniforms and black belts in public, photobombing/interviewbombing, calling out anybody from any style and truthfully they are badasses and can beat the majority of anyone from any style but, these bjj bullies are a black eye to the martial arts community. people hate bjj before they ever try it. We see bjj blue belts cranking armbars on people weaker than them with out any control and its because that’s what they are taught and is encouraged with the ideology that they have to defend their rank and better not loose to a white belt. I guess I got off topic here. BJJ is a great martial art but more and more it is becoming just a sport with a UFC competitive attitude. A great Jiu jitsu master once created a martial Way or DO, a sport version of his martial ART or JITSU. The purpose was to popularise the art after the Japanese government lifted the ban on training martial arts. By creating a sport version of it that was safe while keeping true to the martial art spirit. Jigoro Kano had created Judo (gentle or soft way) the sport of the militant art jiujitsu (gentle or soft art). Is sport bjj still a real martial art as it is becoming more tournament oriented? True Jiujitsu in nature is militant so I have to ask is bjj even a true martial art anymore as it was when the gracies refined it to be an effective self defence art in our time? Or is it A Martial Way (Sport)? What ever it has been becoming there are still a lot of great bjj schools and teachers out there. A lot of them you don’t hear about,they are from small gyms, in small towns and they don’t compete they just train. they are the ones still upholding humility and respect but, if “so and so” wasn’t their instructor and if they are not competing than the majority of the bjj world questions their legitimacy. They call out their instructors and these people just want to be left alone so they can train. Big Business BJJ = Bully BJJ. BJJ schools are turning inward on themselves devouring the weaker schools. Sorry if anyone is offended by my observation of what the martial arts has become. That was not my intentions I just want to know where is the humility of bjj?


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