Updated: Aug 4, 2022
This is the second part in a three part series on unwanted behaviors in a BJJ Academy and how to manage them. In the first post I discuss the problems gym owners face with holding their highest ranked students accountable for bad behavior, in the second post I outline the behaviors that gyms owners should try to eliminate, and in the third post I go over how Groundworks addresses behaviors we don't want.
There are 8 major problems that a gym should not tolerate:
Using the gym for hookups
A BJJ gym is a community. I've been with my gym for over 20 years and highly value the relationships I've built over that time. I'm genuinely happy when two students find that they connect and start a romantic relationship. Whether the relationship works out or not, the longer term intention around it forwards our sense of community.
This is distinct from using the gym as a personal dating pool, trying to sleep with every new person that walks through the door, or trying to date your way up the belt hierarchy. Doing so takes from the community by causing people to leave it rather than deal with the drama or unwanted attention.
There's an inherent hierarchy in Jiu-Jitsu. Sexual harassment is almost always directed towards someone of a lower rank by someone of a higher rank. Therefore, in he said / she said scenarios, the lower ranking student's account of the situation should always be given more weight than the higher ranking student's.
I'm not saying higher ranking students can't ask someone out. I'm saying if the student doing the asking is told 'no,' he should say thank you and not ask again — even if he thinks they've changed their mind. I'm saying don't make sexual innuendos, especially while sparring. Don't "accidently" grope someone. Don't attempt to flirt with age inappropriate people, especially if they're under 18. Don’t offer to “help” a new student just so you can slide into their DM’s later.
Bullying can happen on or off the mat. Like sexual harassment it's almost always directed toward someone of a lower rank by someone of a higher rank. The tell tale sign of bullying is that the bully can't handle the behaviors that they direct toward others when those same behaviors are directed at the bully.
Self-promoting to professor
It helps the gym when more experienced students provide constructive corrections to students who are struggling or repeatedly making the same mistake. However, it's not ok for a student to start teaching when he wasn't asked to or when he is supposed to be drilling or sparring. Doing so disrupts the flow of the class and makes it harder for other students to participate. If students want to teach they should talk to their instructor after class about how to best get started helping out with classes.
Disruption / distracting others from class
Some people love to be the center of attention. There’s nothing wrong with that in a social setting but in a class setting it just diminishes everyone else’s ability to learn. Students should not interrupt class with jokes or off topic conversations and shouldn't stop their partner from drilling to have a side conversation about what happened on the latest Daisy Fresh episode. There’s plenty of time after class and during open mats for attention loving students to get the recognition they want.
Taking and never contributing
Some students mistakenly think they're the main character. They think their training partners are just there for them to practice on. They don't see any benefit to helping their teammates develop. They might refuse to roll with anyone who they deem "not good enough." If we don't help our teammates develop, especially our newer teammates, eventually we won't many people to train with.
This is more of a safety thing than an smell thing;) If a student's gear is dirty enough to stink, it's dirty enough to spread skin infections. If a student is repeatedly walking on the floor in bare feet, especially if he's going to the bathroom, and then walking on the mat, he's putting everyone at risk for ringworm, staph, and MRSA.
Sometimes we find ourselves at a gym that’s just a bad fit for us — maybe the gym is too competitive or too relaxed. If a student changes gyms twice, maybe he was just unlucky or needs to reevaluate how he assess a school and instructor he's going to train with. If the student changes gyms three times, it's not the gyms that are the problem, it's the student.
So how does Groundworks handle these behaviors when they come up? We'll cover that in the next post...