We can all remember the first time we stepped foot onto a Jiu Jitsu mat for our first class. For most of us, we had butterflies in our stomach, a nervousness tick, and awkward feeling of staring at a bunch of tough guys with colored belts and cauliflower ears. Taking the first step in signing up for your first BJJ class is the biggest step one can take in their journey, but it can also be a very nerve wracking one. In addition to trying a martial arts like BJJ, which has violent connotations due to its history and ties to the UFC and MMA, will strike fear and anxiety into many laymen. Combine that feeling with the anxiety of being the new kid at school during lunch time and you might need to pop a Xanax or two before class starts.
One of the best steps we can take to help new students is to say hello to them and get to know them on their first day. It will help make new students feel more comfortable and ease their nerves as they are about to use muscles they never knew they had before, while their heart rates go from 60 to 180, as another human being pull and tug on their bodies for an hour.
Here are 5 reasons you should take the initiative to be friendly to the new guy or gal on the mats.
You were once the new guy or gal: When I first stepped onto the BJJ mats for the first time it was nerve wracking. Everybody seemed to know each other and long-time students were sitting in their own small social circles on the mat talking to each other. I sat off, alone and by myself wondering what I had just made a huge mistake. My story probably isn’t too different from your experience attending your first class. It would have meant the world to me to have somebody come by and say hello and include me in their conversation. It would have helped me feel way more comfortable in what at that time felt like a strange and foreign environment where people were trying to choke each other out.
Being nice helps to sell your school: The role of ambassador isn’t limited just a school’s coaches and staff. As a BJJ student, you are an ambassador for your school and how you treat a first-time student trying out a class or an experienced guest visiting a school can leave a lasting positive or negative impression on that person. If you want to have a positive and friendly culture at your school, you will need to help contribute to building the culture by being friendly to regular training partners, as well as new students, and guests.
You might be meet a lifelong friend: Think about how you first became friends with some of your closest friends in life. It all starts with an introduction and conversation. You never know how the people you meet in life and BJJ will eventually impact your life. The new student you are saying hello to on his or her first day at your BJJ school might wind up being your favorite drinking buddy or the best man or maid of honor in your wedding. Even if it never gets to that level, you can never have too many friends in your life.
You just might be entertained: Most people you will come across in life will be friendly, especially in a BJJ environment. By introducing yourself and striking up a conversation with questions such as “have you trained before” and “what made you decide to try out BJJ” will provide you with insightful and entertaining conversation pieces with a new student.
Extended beyond your usual social circle: Putting yourself out there is an essential life skill and we all fear rejection when we introduce ourselves to an unfamiliar face. If you have trained at a school for a while, you will already know most regular students in our class, so why not expand your social circle by getting to know somebody new and seeing if you have anything in common besides the gentle art.
So basically, be kind to the new student trying out a class today at your school by saying “hello” before class starts. A small gesture can make a lasting positive impact on the start of their BJJ journey.