For The New White Belts: Safety, Trust, and Understanding

First and foremost, congratulations. When you begin randori (live training), you truly begin your practice of Jiu Jitsu: learning to use the techniques you have acquired against a resisting opponent. This is when the real education begins, the lab which accompanies the lecture.

This transition often seems overwhelming at first. Here we are, “sparring,” and we really haven’t learned all that much and everyone we train with has experience which far surpasses our own. We naturally enter a fight or flight state, tense up, and we look and move as though we were in an actual fight.

It is this intuitive response which we must supplant with a purposeful assessment of the situation.

Here is something that is weird but true:

When you are the new student in randori, there is high likelihood that you are the most dangerous person on the mat.

In general, the higher the rank, the safer you are training with that person. Senior students have developed the skill of bodily control, of both themselves and their partners, and so move with purpose and avoid inflicting damage upon their partners. These are the kinds of guys who can whoop you and not hurt you. The beginning student, in contrast, has not yet developed the skills to technically surpass you, but often will hurt their partners due to lack of motor skills and unnecessary physical intensity. This is what we must avoid.

So, where do we start?

The metaphor that serves our purposes is a scavenger hunt. Imagine we are driving down the road looking for various items. Who will see more: the seeker who drives 60 mph or the one that coasts slowly down the road, scanning for their treasure?

Jiu Jitsu is the same. The slower we go, the more we see. And in the beginning, we would all benefit from learning to slow down on the mat (maybe then we can do it in our lives).

The Senior Student

Profundity is to be found in most of the major religions and philosophies, and a great lesson from Buddhism is the concept of the Bodhisattva: he or she who becomes enlightened, but stays in the world of suffering until all sentient beings have achieved the same end. This is the Bodhisattva vow. It is also the vow of the senior most students and instructors.

When training with new students, we understand that they will offer minimum variability to illicit our technical growth (for the sake of this conversation). We also understand that their is a high likelihood we will get elbowed, kneed, or kicked during training, as our new teammate learns how to perform Jiu Jitsu in a live setting. We understand and accept this because we know that when we started, we were no different. And it was the kindness and patience of our mentors that brought us to the point of being mentors ourselves.

The Beginning Student

Certainly within our academy, it is my hopes that the beginning student will keep this in mind:

  1. Our senior students are here to help you. The higher their belt, the safer you are.

  2. We may have higher belts, but we share the same bodies. We don’t want to get kicked in the head, elbowed, or scratched anymore than you do.

  3. We understand that accidents happen. We made them. We sometimes still make them. And you will probably make a lot of them. We just hope that you learn from each one, slow down, and take care of your partner as you would yourself.

In Closing

The culture of a Jiu Jitsu academy is the most determining factor of the success of the individuals and the group. At Matakas Jiu Jitsu, we are here to pursue individual goals as a collective. We are here for each other. Myself, our coaches, and our senior most students will do our best to create a culture in which you feel safe, welcomed, and can develop your abilities in this art.

We simply ask that you be as concerned for our safety and enjoyment as we are for yours.

Slow down. Move with purpose. Trust in your partners.

Jiu Jitsu is the vehicle. Drive safely.

Want to read more about Jiu Jitsu? Check out Chris’s new book, On Jiu Jitsu. Want to try Jiu Jitsu for yourself in the Florence/Burlington, NJ area? Sign up for our Introductory Special now!
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