So maybe you've watched enough UFC fights - or maybe you gave in to your cousin/friend/coworker/grandma's relentless pestering - and you've finally signed up at your local jiu jitsu academy. Welcome to a whole new world, complete with its own cultural norms...
Here are several of the most basic rules of etiquette to keep you from looking like the newbie that you are:
No Shoes on the Mat
This is at the top of the list for a reason. Think about it: you walk around all day, stepping on God-knows-what, so the bottom of your shoes are disgusting ecosystems of bacteria. Now, because of the nature of jiu jitsu, being a grappling-based martial art, you're going to be spending a lot of time on the floor, with other parts of your body - including your FACE - pressed against the mat. And because you're active and sweating, your pores are open, as well. You might as well be cuddling with a dumpster. Likewise, when you step off the mat - to get a drink of water or, especially, if you go to the restroom - put your shoes back on to avoid bringing anything funky back on to the mat via the bare soles of your feet.
Always Respect the Upper-Belts
Jiu jitsu isn't karate. It takes a long time to transition from belt to belt (unless you go to some McDojo academy where belts are handed out for good attendance and behavior... or a fat wallet). So if someone is sporting a higher belt than you, know that they've served their time on the mat, are full of insight and knowledge, and deserve your respect. Yes, even if they look like they might be the same age as your son or daughter. How that respect manifests can vary from academy to academy, but it typically consists of: bowing and greeting the professor when you enter, letting the higher-belt request you as a training partner (as opposed to the other way around), and moving when a higher-belt and his/her partner are rolling too close to you.
Keep Yourself and Your Gi Clean
In jiu jitsu, you get really close to your training partners. I'm not talking about emotionally close - although that happens, too - but physically close. You will find yourself in some really intimate positions with your training partner, which, in any other context, might be a little awkward to explain to your significant other. As such, it is really important to be as clean as possible when you step on the mat. It's a respect thing. You might not mind the smell of your own personal body odor, but if you are assaulting your partner's olfactories with stench of unwashed body or funky gi, that's not cool.
Leave the Drama Off the Mat
For nearly every practitioner of the gentle art, the jiu jitsu academy is his or her personal sanctuary. It's the one - and for some, only - place to escape from the stress and drama of regular everyday life. For that hour or two that you're on the mat, you don't have to do or think about anything else except learning, training, and becoming better at jiu jitsu. Don't ruin the vibe for your teammates by bringing your work/relationship drama onto the mat. That includes "taking it out" on your training partners when you've had a crummy day.
Don't Hit on the Ladies (Or Men)
Your jiu jitsu academy is not like some meat-market self-service weight gym. For the most part, the women you encounter in the jiu jitsu academy are there to train. It's not appropriate to waste their time on the mat trying to ask them out on a date. I emphasize not hitting on the ladies only because jiu jitsu is still a male-dominated sport. But the reverse - or any other combination - applies, too. Yeah, we're human, so it's only natural that sparks might fly, but if you're going to try to ignite them, do so off the mat and preferably outside the academy entirely.
These are just some of the most basic rules of etiquette, according to us. Click here to find a great list of more specific rules that generally apply to any jiu jitsu academy you might find yourself in.
Train on. Oss.