1. You will be friends with everyone in your gym like a big happy family.
There are so many different personalities on the mat so there is a good chance someone will not like you, just like you don’t like certain people for whatever reason. It is normal that you develop stronger bonds with some people and others get a nod and a mumble of a hi, how are you. Same hobby will not guarantee immediate and lasting friendships. You will avoid training with people who have hurt you, give you creepy vibes, don’t click with you or are generally terrible training partners. It is possible that you are the annoying person to someone and they avoid you. There is no need to worry too much about it and go out of your way to make someone like you. If it happens naturally, great. If it does not, don’t force it. Gym, like workplace, will have some conflict and some camaraderie. Some people simply dislike you. You cannot change your personality to please someone, but you can always try to be a good training partner and not roll like a bonehead.
2. People outside of the gym want to hear about your training all the time.
No! Please, no! Not every birthday party, wedding, baby shower or family dinner night wants to hear about your awesome, incredible, amazing omoplata. Yes, we know you train. It’s your hobby. Don’t be that person who has nothing else to talk about at a social event. What was the last interesting article you read? Tried out a new recipe you saw on Instagram? Won a BBQ competition? Please spare other people from your constant BJJ euphoria, we see it daily on your FB page.
3. Everyone will be great at jiu-jitsu.
That’s a tough one. It is a struggle for anyone to admit that they are average or a slow learner. Training can be fun even if you are not a world champion caliber athlete. It’s a hobby, enjoy it. Learn and accept that you are getting better at your own pace. Some people compete, never win anything and it’s fine. Some people never compete and are happy if they can finally do a backward roll. Comparing yourself to someone else on the mat and having unrealistic goals is a guaranteed path to negative thoughts, resentment, frustration, and general dissatisfaction.
4. When you start training you must only wear BJJ related clothing and accessories. Everywhere.
Remember before you started training jiu-jitsu? You had clothing that didn’t have BJJ, jits, jitz printed on them and they weren’t white-blue-purple-brown-black-belt design? Yes, find that clothing again. It is great to wear them every now and then.
5. Black belts in BJJ are also black belts in life, and they are qualified to give advice about everything and anything.
Some BJJ black belts are great motivational speakers with a huge social media following. Some. A lot of black belts are not that great at teaching, finances, relationships or time management. Be careful what advice you are seeking. Again, BJJ black belt does not mean they are black belts in all aspects of life.
6. Expensive gis are the best.
No gi brand that has their gis made in Pakistan or China owns a textile factory or a manufacturing facility. All men’s and women’s gis come from the same source of fabric. All brands have their gis made in a factory that someone else owns. If only we could tell you how many brands are made in the same facility, by the same workers, using the same fabric… but we can’t. If you like the design and the fit of the gi, buy it, but don’t assume automatically that it is better because of the price.
7. You must train a lot, even when injured and observe class by taking notes when not training.
Oh dear, how many times have you seen this? Someone posting online: I broke my wrist last week, and the doctor said to stay off the mat until it heals. Majority of advice given is total opposite to the doctor’s: Oh no, just tape your hand to your chest and roll. I had 5 broken ribs and a dislocated jaw and still went to class 8 days a week. Why would you not listen to your doctor who has spent years in medical school and instead follow a group of strangers’ advice? What’s the rush anyway? Heal the damn injuries. It’s your body, the one and only you have. They are not giving out medals for bravery. Taking notes while injured? Well, if you must. If you have nothing else to do, then by all means, go sit and take notes. You won’t remember any of it later anyway.
8. Every black belt is a great instructor.
Some black belts are great competitors, some are great instructors, some are both and some are none. It doesn’t take much to open a gym these days. As long as you have a small space, mats and sign on the door, you are in business. No teaching experience or certification is required. Warning signs of a not so great instructor: holds back information, punishes students by holding back belt promotions if student has asked about a belt promotion, ridicules students, makes crude jokes, intimidates students who want to leave, is vague or lies about his own black belt lineage, doesn’t allow cross training or going to open mats. You are not married to the gym you start at, you can always change and find an instructor you really enjoy learning from.
9. You must take private lessons.
If your instructor tells you that he has some secret techniques he only reserves for private lessons, stop and think. Wait a minute, I pay my monthly dues to learn, why is the instructor holding back information, and why is he making me pay extra to learn those special secret techniques? Does it make sense? Not at all. If you want to take private lessons to work out some snags in your game and have one-on-one time with the instructor, that’s fine. But don’t ever be coerced into taking private lessons with the promise of a quicker promotion or a special secret technique. It is shady and fueled by greed.
10. You must roll with everyone.
This is troublesome especially for brand new students who think they have no voice, and must accept any rolling partner no matter what size or shape. They believe they are not allowed to say no. Always remember, it is your training, your body, and you will be paying the medical bills (not the gym, not the person who injures you) when you get hurt. You can and should choose your training partners. A great instructor will never let brand white belts roll with each other anyway. They do more harm to each other than anything else. Be vocal and if you are being forced to roll with people who are reckless, you may want to reconsider if this place really is for you. Lots of injuries, few familiar faces, and a huge turnover of new white belts is a sign of a gym that does not take good care of its students.
11. Women must always be paired up with another woman when there are even number of women on the mat.
Just because you two are both females, doesn’t mean you should be training together. A 120 lb and a 190 lb woman paired up is not a good match. You are better off pairing up with a male of a similar size. You don’t see a rooster and super heavy males paired up for drilling so you should not either. Find someone who benefits your training the most. Training with women is great but don’t let yourself become the “female white belt sitter”. It sucks being paired up with new females all the time while guys are improving their game by rolling with higher belts. Speak up!
12. Quitting is never an option.
This has to be the crown jewel of all BJJ myths. If you promote the slogan that there is no quitting in BJJ, why do so many people quit? Why do we not see a waiting list on the door of each gym because they are at max capacity? Try to remember the names of the people who started training at the same time with you. Look at the gym group pictures from years ago. Ah, there is this dude, I remember him. He always wore a gi one size too small. I wonder what happened to him. Oh, and this girl, she was so good. Right when she got her blue belt, she got married, had a baby and we never saw her again.
Lots and lots of people quit for all sorts of reasons. Quitting is always an option, you can do whatever you want in your life. It is your time, your money, and your body. Jiu-jitsu is for everyone but not everyone will like it. If BJJ no longer interests you, choose something else to do. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad or inferior because you decide to move onto something different.