The Top 15 Things That Drive Your Jiu-jitsu Instructor Crazy!

This month, I want to talk about a few of the top things that are likely to drive your Jiu-jitsu instructor crazy!  This is not by any means a comprehensive list, and while some of these may be more personal pet-peeves, many of these are very consistent in most Jiu-jitsu academies. Most comes down to just plain common sense and respecting the rules and environment of the academy that you are training in.  Every Jiu-jitsu academy has its own culture, and its own set of rules or protocols, and whether you realize it or not, these are things that your instructor has likely put a lot of thought into and there is a very good reason for each of them.  As a student, your job is to do your best to get the most out of your training, and make sure that you are trying to follow the guidance of your instructor.  So, by avoiding some of the things on this list, you will make sure to maximize the benefit you receive from training Jiu-jitsu, become a positive influence within the team, and also help your instructor to maintain a little bit of their sanity!  Here are some of the top 15 things to avoid:

1.  Showing up without your gi/belt/rashguard, or with a dirty gi
This one is pretty simple and easy to avoid.  Plan ahead and bring your uniform and equipment with you when come to class, and don't be the stinky guy/girl.  If you're training regularly, it helps to have an extra gi.  You might even want to keep a clean gi in your car just in case.  Some academies, such as ours, even offer rental gis in case you didn't get a chance to wash yours yet.  But please, make sure that you clean your gi and equipment (including sanitizing your gear bag) as soon as possible after every class. By the way, gis and rash guards have a shelf life.  Don't expect to have one gi from white belt to black belt.  If you are training consistently, you will go through some gis.  When that white gi starts to get gray and dingy, it is time to replace it.  Hygiene is something that is vitally important in Jiu-jitsu.  Don't be the guy or girl that nobody wants to train with!  Things such as ringworm, staph, impetigo, etc can be very common in Jiu-jitsu, but are generally easily avoidable with proper hygienic measures.   If you have any suspect areas, please make your instructor/training partners aware and DO NOT TRAIN until you get it cleared up!  It is not fair to your training partners.  Do your part to keep the funky stuff out of the academy!

2.  Showing up consistently late
Everyone gets stuck in traffic or has things come up from time to time.  However, showing up late consistently to class without a good reason shows a disregard for the class and your teammates.  Plus, you are potentially missing out on important technical details.  If your training is important, make it a priority to make it in on time!  If you find yourself consistently coming in late, try leaving a little earlier.  It is a good idea to try to show up 10-15 minutes early to give yourself a little buffer.  Also, you may even be able to grab a training partner and get some extra reps in before class starts!  Most instructors are very understanding if you are going to be late.  I would much rather a student show up late than not at all.  But, a quick call or text giving your instructor a heads up goes a long way, and is greatly appreciated.  If you do come in late, make sure that you follow your academy's protocol as far as coming out on the mat after class has started.  Most instructors prefer for you to wait until you are acknowledged and invited out on the mat.

3.  Not saying hello or goodbye
Often, we talk about the Jiu-jitsu academy as being like a "family", and there is a lot of truth to that.  So, if enjoy this type of training environment, treat it as such.  You wouldn't come into someone's house without saying hello, or leave without saying goodbye.  You should treat the academy the same way.  Make sure greet your instructor and teammates when you arrive, and when it's time to leave, don't just pack up and walk out the door.  This simple gesture goes a very long way towards keeping a positive atmosphere in the academy.

4.  Not cleaning up after yourself 
Most reputable instructors go to great lengths to keep their academies clean and neat.  Please take ownership of where you train, and do your part to help keep it that way!  Most academies have a designated area for shoes, gear bags, and personal items.  Please utilize these available areas and don't leave your personal items lying around in the floor.   Make sure that you also take everything with you when you leave.  Don't leave your empty water bottles or trash lying around the academy.  If you came on the mat with athletic tape on some body part, make sure it doesn't get left on the mat or the floor.  Also, if it is the culture at your academy as it is in many, help out with cleaning the mats after class.  It is never something that is demanded of students, but is a simple gesture to help show that you are taking some personal accountability for the environment where you train. 

5.  Leaving the mat during class
As much as possible, try to stay on the mat during class.  Everyone has a limited amount of time to train, so make the most of the time that you are there.  If you do feel that you need to leave the mat to go to the restroom, or get water, or deal with a cut, etc. please let the instructor in charge know first before you just walk out in the middle of class.  Leaving the mat during class means that you are leaving your training partner with nobody to train with, and you are potentially missing important instruction and details. 

6.  Drilling or teaching moves other than what the instructor is showing
We know that you are excited about the new move that you saw on YouTube last night.  But please, save your advanced variations for your open mat time.  Focus on what is being shown in class.  Even if you think you already know the move, follow what your instructor is showing, and make sure to perform each repetition with a maximum level of focus and attention to detail.  If you are more experienced, don't try to teach your training partner the "next step" in the technique as you perceive it.  Follow the class format and work on what your instructor is showing. 

7.  Giving too much/too little resistance during drilling
Please....don't be that guy/girl.  Your job in drilling is to help your training partner to best perform the move being shown and get reps.  Your job is not to give full resistance and stop them from being able to do the move.  You can't learn Jiu-jitsu with full resistance.  Resistance can be slowly added as you have more experience with the position, but not in the learning phase.  Help your partner to perform the move as correctly as possible.  On the other hand, don't be a limp noodle either.  If you are too relaxed, or don't react in a realistic way, it can be equally hard for your partner to practice the technique.  In general, you should maintain proper posture/structure, and react in a realistic manner, but not to an extent that you are preventing your partner from performing the technique. 

8.  Not repping the technique
We know that you think you already know the move.  However, the point of drilling is not to learn the move.  That is only the first step.  Once you can perform the move mostly correctly, you need to start developing your timing and reflex, and the only way to do that is through repetition.  Too often, the instructor will show the move, and then students will perform 3-4 reps and then sit around idly waiting for the next step, or start practicing some other technique or variation (see #6 above).  Take advantage of your training time, and get in as many correct reps as you can.  If you want to get good at Jiu-jitsu, you have to get reps.  There is no other way.  Don't just do the move until you get it right. Do the move until you can't get it wrong!

9.  Not paying attention
When you are on the mat, focus on Jiu-jitsu.  One of the best things about Jiu-jitsu training is that it lets you leave the rest of your daily concerns behind, at least for an hour or two.  When your instructor is explaining/teaching a technique, try to be a sponge and soak up every detail!  If you have seen the move before, it is even more important to pay attention.  You may just pick up on that one detail that you have been missing out on that changes the whole position completely!  Try to remain attentive and engaged, and have a beginners mindset, and you will get the most out of the class.  Definitely, don't talk or otherwise become a distraction to the rest of the class while your instructor is teaching a technique. 

10.  Not asking questions when appropriate
Most instructors love questions.  It shows that a student is genuinely interested and engaged in improving and better understanding the techniques, rather than just going through the motions.  Please, when your instructor asks if there are questions, take advantage of the opportunity.  However, avoid asking questions about something completely unrelated to what is being shown, or asking a lot of questions BEFORE even attempting the technique.  Many times, you will figure out the answer to your own question by simply trying to do the move.  If you've made a few legitimate attempts at performing the technique and still can't figure it out, then, by all means, ask your instructor for help. 

11.  Going too hard in sparring
Don't be a spaz!  Live sparring is a crucial element in learning Jiu-jitsu, and, when done correctly, is both fun and challenging.  But, keep in mind that training in the academy is NOT a competition.  Don't treat every roll as a fight to the death.  This is usually more of a problem for newer students who haven't learned yet how to train at a controlled pace.  If you are using too much strength and athleticism when you are rolling, you are greatly increasing your chances of injuring yourself or your training partner, and you are definitely not getting the most out of your training.  Jiu-jitsu is about efficiency, not strength and athleticism, so if you are having to use too much power to perform the move, chances are, something is a little off in your technique anyway.  Don't focus on winning.  Focus on learning and getting better!

12.  Not knowing when to tap
The tap in Jiu-jitsu is sacred.  It is a way of acknowledging that you got caught in a submission hold from which you couldn't readily escape, and a way of safely training with full resistance without taking injuries.  The point of Jiu-jitsu isn't to get caught in a submission and then to is not to get caught to begin with.  So, if you are caught in a submission hold and you're not able to escape, just tap.  Don't be stubborn and wait until you get hurt.  Tap early and often, and you will prolong your time on the mat and avoid unnecessary injuries.  If you get hurt because you waited too late to tap, that is your fault.  It is totally avoidable.  There is also such a thing as tapping too early.  Don't tap in anticipation before your partner even is able to apply the submission.  You are cheating them out of the practice of repping out that position.  And please, don't be a pre-tapper.  It drives me crazy to see a student with their hand just hovering over their partner for 3-4 seconds just waiting to tap.  Just go ahead and tap already if you are going to do that.  Otherwise, you have time to use that hand that is just hanging out to try to effectively defend the position.

13.  Skipping out on sparring time
You don't need to (and shouldn't) jump into live sparring right away when you first start training Jiu-jitsu.  But once you've started to figure out your way around the mat and get some good fundamentals under your belt, it's time to test the waters in live training.  Just go into it with the right mindset and don't focus on winning as previously stated (because trust me, in the beginning, you are not going to win anyway).  Live training is one of the most important things that makes Jiu-jitsu as effective as it is.  So, the more sparring time you get, the quicker you are going to learn.  In the beginning, plan to tap a lot and just have fun, and it will be a great experience!  You don't necessarily have to spar every single class, but if you start skipping out on sparring time consistently, you are cheating yourself from getting the most out of your training, and missing out on the most fun part of Jiu-jitsu!

14.  Asking about promotions
Promotions in Jiu-jitsu are few and far between.  This is how it should be.  The belt is just a representation of your progress, it is not a reason to train.  What ultimately matters most is your actual performance on the mat.  It is way better to be the best blue belt than the worst purple belt.  Don't ask your instructor about promotions, just trust in their judgement.  One of the biggest disservices an instructor can do to a student is to promote them before they are ready.  Promotions are not personal.  If you're not getting promoted when you think you should, it is not because your instructor doesn't like you.  It is actually quite the opposite.  It means that they care enough about your development to hold you back when necessary.  It means that they expect more from you than you do.  Don't train for the belts, just train to get better, and the promotions will come in due time.

15.  Comparing yourself to others
This is one of the biggest traps in Jiu-jitsu, and it is something that will ultimately only lead to frustration, and likely will lead you to eventually quit training altogether.  Jiu-jitsu is an individual journey.  Accept now that, no matter how long you train, there will always be people better than you. Don't compare your progress to others.  Just strive to be a little bit better than you were the day before.  If you are showing up and training consistently, you ARE getting better, even if you don't always realize it.  Walk your own path, accept that you are where you are, and just work on getting better.  Keep Jiu-jitsu fun and enjoy the journey!

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