The New Guy

A packed class of new students at Ocean County BJJ--photo courtesy of Tom DeBlass

Do you remember your first BJJ class?

You were most likely accompanied by butterflies in the stomach and some nervousness about an intimidating academy full of experts and meatheads.

“What is going to happen?”

“Is my arm going to be broken?

“Will everyone laugh at me if I can’t tie my belt?

These are just some of the questions you may have asked yourself when you first walked through your school’s doors.

Fortunately, most BJJ academies are very welcoming places, as they typically have a steady stream of visitors looking to take their first class.

Not all gyms are so welcoming, though. I once visited a judo dojo and did not have a single person make eye contact with me the first 30 minutes I was there.  Needless to say, my first visit was my last.

As a senior student (yes, even if you boast a few stripes on your white belt!) you have some responsibility to make the academy a welcoming place and help spread the art of jiu-jitsu.

Here are three ways to make new students feel welcome.

Smile and Be The First to Introduce Yourself

That new student may see you as a mat monster who can’t wait to tear her arm off! Just going over and saying “hello” and “welcome to the class” can mitigate a new student’s feelings of nervousness.

Help The Student Understand the Rules and Protocols

When many students walk into a martial arts school, they are afraid of embarrassing themselves by breaking some unwritten rules of etiquette.

A new student will be relieved if you give him a helping hand in understanding some of the customs of the BJJ academy. These can include where to line up, how to address the instructor, and how classes are usually run.

And yes, showing him how to tie his belt will be part of your help.

Share Your Experience With The Student

At the end of class, when people are rolling and you are watching, start a conversation.

You may want to try these conversation starters:

“What made you decide to try to jiu-jitsu?”

“How did you find out about our academy?”

Tell them how you got started, how you struggled at first, and how you have progressed since you started. Explain what got you addicted and share your enthusiasm for the art.

Many new students won’t sign up and you won’t see them again. But your efforts to welcome them could mean the difference between them never returning and becoming the next Andre or Angelica Galvao.

Read also on Jiu-jitsu Times – Go Hard Or Go Home…or Keep It Playful?


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