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  • Writer's pictureJess D

Basic Jiu-jitsu Etiquette for White Belts

Updated: May 31

When you're new to jiu-jitsu, there are a lot of rules and things you gotta think about when you train. Here is some basic jiu-jitsu etiquette for bjj newbies.

We all know that Martial Arts teaches you respect and discipline. It goes back to ancient times of the master and student relationship, where the student’s goal was to be as good as the master. In the newest century, the same principles apply, but with a modern twist of course. Although there are people who eat, sleep, breath, and dream martial arts with the aim of competing at a professional level or becoming a master in their own right, most of us have normal jobs and do jiu-jitsu as a means of exercise, to compete, and/or for stress relieve. That doesn’t mean that there isn't a level of respect for the instructors and for your training partners that comes with going to a martial arts gym. Every martial arts gym has their own rules but because jiu-jitsu is what I mostly do. I decided to come up with a list of rules and etiquette that you have to have as a white belt.

Every gym has their own rules and regulations about what to do when you’re on and off the mats. But, this list is everything I’ve learned while training in China, the US, Panama and other places.

Before you even get to the gym:

Make sure your gi and your clothing is clean!

If you’re just starting to train and you’re SO passionate about jiu-jitsu that you want to train every day, make sure you have two gis: one is in the wash, and one is dry and ready to go. In some places without dryers and is cold and wet, you might need three. (Panama never had this problem, minus rainy seasons)

Cut your fingernails and toenails.

This one is rough for women, but you know what messes up a nice manicure? Blood and skin.

If you’re sick, don’t train.

Would you want someone sneezing in your mouth? Didn’t think so.

If you have unidentified rashes, don’t train.

Need I say more? #eww

Arriving to the gym:

If you’re new, make sure you get there early to make sure you meet the instructors or gym managers.

They can give you an overview of class policies and give you an opportunity to ask questions.

If you’re late, don’t just go on the mats, wait for the instructor to see you and ask them if you can enter.

Some gyms have a lateness policy, again for safety reasons. If you arrive wayyyy past the warmup, then you risk injuring yourself

Remove your shoes, depending on the style of the gym.

Just ask whoever’s there where you should or shouldn’t have shoes. Your face ends up on the mat from time to time. You would want your face to end up where a dirty shoe that potential stepped in pee, poop, or God knows what else.

Don’t be shy. Greet people!

Make sure you greet whoever’s around you. If you’re visiting or new to the gym, people will be more than happy to help you.

On the mat:

Line up in belt order

For those of you that don’t know the order goes:

white, blue, purple, brown, and then black. You usually line up from highest belt (black) to lowest belt (white) Then after that it goes by number of stripes, 4 being the highest amount. If you look behind you or next to you and you’re ahead of someone you shouldn’t be, adjust.

Don’t talk while the jiu-jitsu instructor is talking

Self-explanatory. You need to know what you’re going to do and other people need to know too.

Let the higher belt do the move first.

This just goes along with respect as well as them maybe understanding a movement a bit better. Sometimes if they offer to let you go first, then by all means go ahead. But, keep in mind the instructor/professor/coach might have a problem with it (I’ve had this happen but it really depends)

If the higher BJJ belt is doing the move wrong or with some variation, don’t tell them that they’re doing it wrong.

There’s nothing more annoying than hearing:

We’re all learning and even if that person has been training for their whole life, sometimes they’ll make a mistake or have a little bit of a different way of doing it. Instead, just ask them if there’s a reason why or maybe politely ask if that the way they’re suppose to it.

If you’re stronger than your partner, don’t go crazy or H.A.M. on them. Respect their size and know better than to use all your strength on them.

This should goes without saying. If you’re 120 kg/ 265 lbs and pure muscle, there’s no reason for you to go full super saiyin on a person who is 65 kg/143 lbs. You should roll with everyone! It doesn’t matter if they’re a woman or a first day white belt. Just be mindful and or more technical when you’re rolling with someone smaller and less experienced that you. You’re not winning anything by beating up at the gym. Save it for competition.

When it’s time to roll, don’t directly ask a higher belt to roll.

Wait to be asked to roll with or if they’re just sitting around phrase asking them to roll in a way that shows them respect. For example: “Can you teach me something in a roll?” Or “Care to beat me up a little bit?”

Make sure Gi is straight and belt is tied before rolling and before the class ends.

I’m not 100% sure of why this is but it’s respectful and you look neat and whatnot. Also, if your belt is untied and your gi is opened, some people are super skilled in using lapels for getting better positions and ultimately submissions.

Try your very hardest not to curse

This one is particularly difficult for me because I’ve trained with dudes who curse ALL The TIME. After training we’re always chatting and we curse when we talk. So naturally, because of the comfort level, we’re going to curse when rolling. This is especially true when you’re getting frustrated. Especially watch your mouth when rolling with your coach or any higher belt. I’ve gotten yelled at for this and I’m trying to be mindful now.

After class or a roll:

Make sure you say thank you to everyone you trained or roll with and to the coach.

Every person in the gym is there to to help you and you are there to help them. End each class or session by saying thanks. Of course, thank the coach for the class and feel free to ask them questions.

Wait for the coach to formally dismiss the class before moving or talking to a friend.

The coach might have something he wants to recap or some general announcements or whatnot. Just make sure the class is over so you don't miss anything. Usually a good indication of this is applause.

This is just some of the etiquette that I’ve learned but of course there are gyms that are more or less strict when it comes to the rules of their gym. It seems like a lot but I promise it gets easier once you get into training. Everything is in place for you to have a safe, hygienic and great time on the mats! I really hope this helps some newbies that walk into their first jiu jitsu gym to not feel as nervous or feel that they're misstepping anywhere.

What are some of the rules or mat etiquette you’ve have learned? Let's chat on Instagram @blackgirlwhitegi_bjj


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