We all want to see the BJJ community grow and prosper. That means we need to all be good ambassadors for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
And sometimes, this means inviting new people to class in the hopes that they will find Jiu Jitsu as fascinating and addictive as you do. But when we try to bring a new teammate into the fold, there are ways we can increase the chances that our guests will become regulars.
Define Your Terms. As ambassadors for BJJ, we should make sure to explain what Jiu Jitsu is and what it isn’t. We all have friends who make “karate hands” and yell “HI-YAH!” when we mention Jiu Jitsu. We have to, first of all, refrain from snapping at them for this mistake. Instead, we need to explain what Jiu Jitsu actually is, that it’s not about striking or kicking but about using chokes and joint locks to submit an adversary without necessarily doing permanent damage.
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It’s also a good idea to explain the difference between MMA and Jiu Jitsu. A lot of people may veer away from that first class because they’re worried that they’ll get kicked, punched, and end up with a face that looks like ground hamburger. By patiently outlining the differences between MMA and Jiu Jitsu, you can reassure them that they aren’t about to get beaten to a pulp.
Invite, but Don’t Nag. This is the most important part. When a friend seems interested, we should definitely invite them to come to class as a guest. Let them know that, whenever they are ready, they have a standing invitation from you to give Jiu Jitsu a try. Tell them where and when classes take place.
Remind them of the invitation when the subject comes up. But don’t nag them about it. Don’t bring it up out of nowhere every time you see them. Nagging them won’t make Jiu Jitsu seem more appealing. Instead, it’ll become an annoyance to them if you harass them about it constantly, and they’ll start to resent both you and Jiu Jitsu.
Explain the Lay of the Land. If your friend is interested in giving Jiu Jitsu a try and plans to attend class, take some time to explain what will happen. Explain what they need to do when the class lines up. Explain who the Gracie family is and the belt ranks. Tell them that the class will start with warm-ups before students circle up for the day’s lesson. If classes often end with live rolling, discuss what rolling is, and re-assure them that they will not be thrown into full-bore rolling on the first day.
Give Your Coach a Heads-Up. If your friend has committed to attending class on a certain day, give your coach a heads-up that a guest is coming. They may want to arrange for a different lesson on that day or pull aside an upper belt to help the new guest through warm-ups and drills. Letting your coach know a guest is coming can only pave the way for a smoother introduction to the world of BJJ.
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Go With Your Guest. It’s intimidating enough to walk in to any new place full of strangers for the first time, but it’s even more nerve-wracking when those strangers are ready to choke you unconscious. That’s why you should make sure to go with your guest on their first few days of class. Adjust your schedule to make sure you’re there. Doing so will put them at ease while also holding them to their commitment to give Jiu Jitsu a fair shake. Once you arrive, be sure to introduce them to your teammates. You know your teammates and your friend, so you can probably anticipate which teammates will get along best with your new guest.
Offer to Answer Questions Afterward. Finally, check in with your guest after the first class, and be ready to answer any questions they may have. It’s more than likely that they have questions but were too nervous to ask them in class. Be sure to be there to answer those questions and help them start their own BJJ journey on a solid footing.
Ultimately, the decision to commit to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu will be your friend’s, not yours. But taking the time and effort to make their introduction to BJJ as smooth as possible can only help their chances of staying. If they decide to stay, you’ve got a new teammate. But if they decide that BJJ is not for them, respect that decision. After all, we all know that BJJ practitioners are a rare breed; it’s okay if your friend isn’t one of them.
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