Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a martial art where respect plays a big part. You have to respect your instructor, sparring partners and the art itself. Because of the importance of respect of BJJ, a belt ranking system was included. The downside of this is that it in a way separates training partners, but it also sets up a hierarchy based on merit and achievements similar to the army. The colour of the belt shows somebody’s dedication, persistence, years spent on the mat, contribution to the team, knowledge of techniques, strength of will… Even though you should never forget that a belt covers only two inches of your waist and you have to cover the rest, it’s good that something like belt colour acknowledges previously mentioned qualities and puts the respect to the equation.
The list written below refers to the behaviour of beginners/ lower belts who are new to the sport and still don’t know the do’s and don’ts. Sometimes it’s funny, but in most cases it can be very annoying.
6. “Correcting” the instructor or a higher belt because they do a technique differently that what they saw on Youtube.
One of the most disrespectful things a lower belt can do is to tell a higher belt or more experienced training partner or even the instructor that the way they do a certain technique is not as good as what they saw on Youtube. The thing that lower belts don’t realise (since they are new to Jiu-Jitsu) is that at at higher level, there is no right or wrong in Grappling. Everybody has their own way of doing something. Carlson Gracie Sr said “If your opponent is tapping, your technique is good. If he is not tapping, your technique sucks.” Rickson Gracie will do the technique different than Pedro Sauer or Roger Gracie and so on…It doesn’t mean that it’s the right way or the only way.
Advice: If you think that what the higher belt is doing is inferior, you should just keep it to yourself, as you are not yet in a position to give advice, and the higher belt will probably get offended. You should just focus on yourself and to getting better at Jiu-Jitsu.
5. “How much do you weigh?/You’re really strong”
So the lower belt is getting completely dominated by the higher belt is doing a great job of using technique and pressure to submit them. The beginner will not understand the technicality of pressure and will mis-interpret that for strength or weight. If you’re getting beaten up in training by a higher belt, please do not say either ““How much do you weigh/You’re really strong” as that is actually a big backhanded compliment in Jiu-Jitsu. You can read more about that here.
Advice: The best thing to say is ‘thank you’, or ‘wow, you destroyed me…” or even better “Can you please show me that after class?” etc…
4. Avoiding rolling with a higher belt partner because it’s hard
This is truly disrespectful because out of that roll the lower belt can gain much more than the higher belt. Also, when you show to your team mate that you don’t want to roll with them only because it’s hard for you, they won’t appreciate you anymore.
Advice: Never refuse a roll with a higher belt (unless you are injured or because they are too rough). You can always learn something new.
3. Too much apologising by lower belt or interrupting them non stop during a roll
Non stop apologising because of an accidental hit or because they think that they’re putting too much pressure or because they gas out during a roll can be really annoying. The higher belt is used to having pressure and to having hits on the body or face. They know it was unintentional. Nobody likes to see when somebody is undermining themselves, especially in martial arts. Also when they start talking in the middle of the roll, asking you how you did that. There is always time for that after the class.
Advice: Just a quick “sorry” is good enough when an accidental hit happens and get on with the roll.
2. “Can you teach me the Worm Guard/Flying Triangle etc..”
Beginners need to build a strong base before learning the cool, flashy techniques. The higher belt can of course teach them that but would rather help them with their mount escape or side control escape. If you can’t escape closed guard, side control, mount, back or can’t pull off a simple tripod sweep why are you even attempting these advanced techniques?
Advice: The lower belt will have all the time in the world to learn those techniques. They should instead ask them to help them out with defending attacks and getting out of positions.
1. Giving up during a roll
By this, I’m relating to situations when lower belt is losing while rolling and in one moment they starts to sulk and stop putting any effort, like the higher belt is guilty of them not winning. Another example is when they tap when you mount them. This is disrespectful. For me this is the most annoying and disrespectful thing to do.
Advice: You have to embrace the grind. Jiu-Jitsu is not easy. You may be weak or have no technique or cardio but you should always show heart and keep training hard.
Lower belts should understand that only hard work can get them respect in the academy, all other things are nonsense and sometimes they can even be annoying. Of course that friendship, sense of humour, politeness and generosity are very important qualities, but if we are considering gaining respect on the mat – hard work will be enough.