Nobody said jiu-jitsu would be easy. It’s common knowledge that after you train, your body is going to be a mass of aches and bruises, and you don’t have to do a lot of asking around to find someone who owes a hospital visit or five to this sport.
While accidents can always happen – especially in a martial art that involves trying to submit another person – you should be able to go to the majority of your classes without having to worry about one of your teammates trying to hurt you. These guys and gals are supposed to be your friends . . . or perhaps more accurately, your family. Each time you slap and bump, you’re trusting each other to take care of each other, to at least be conscientious of the fact that you have a lot of potential to hurt the other person if you’re not careful.
Despite this, there is always at least one person in every academy who seems to give zero bothers about his teammates’ health as long as he’s not the one tapping out. He goes beyond rolling hard, and instead of working technique and going slow when he tries for submissions, he uses all his strength to jerk limbs around, sometimes making it impossible for the other person to tap out before they get injured.
This is the guy whose worst nightmare is getting tapped out by someone smaller or lower ranked than him, and he’ll do whatever it takes to prevent that from happening . . . even if it means taking his teammate out of training for weeks or even months at a time. His ego is massive and fragile, and he’s willing to put others in harm’s way in order to protect it. And if you’re him (or her), you’re soon going to find yourself without training partners or friends.
This kind of behavior is fairly common in new white belts. The good news is that most of the egomaniac newbies are easy enough to out-technique, and soon enough, their pride starts to break down and you don’t have to worry about limping away when you roll with them. The bigger issue comes in when these guys start getting better while their egos start getting worse. After a while, the new kid you could armbar five times in five minutes is able to armbar you . . . and he likes yanking your arm back as hard and fast as possible when he does it.
I’m not a fan of whining in jiu-jitsu. My most common reaction to getting elbowed in the nose or kneed in the crotch during practice is, “Don’t worry about it,” and in most cases, I think people should take that same route. This may be the arte suave, but it’s still dangerous, and getting hurt is just part of the game.
However, that changes when you’re dealing with someone who injures you every time you roll. Here, I have no problem with telling someone to cool their jets, and a few times, I’ve had to be “that person” who straight-up refused to roll with someone because of their behavior. Although I’m willing to take the risks that come with training as often as I do, I’m not willing to do the martial arts equivalent of skydiving without a parachute just to spare someone’s feelings. Training when there’s a risk of getting injured is one thing, but training with someone who is almost guaranteed to hurt you is just stupid.
If you’ve realized that you might actually be the person who puts the state of your ego before the well-being of your teammates, congratulations! The first step is admitting you have a problem, right? Jiu-jitsu is frustrating, and getting tapped out can be annoying. But it’s all part of the art. You’re going to get tapped by people who are smaller, bigger, worse, and better than you are, and you can use those moments to improve if you let yourself.
But by becoming the academy bully, you’re only going to make things worse for yourself and everyone around you. Your teammates will go out of their way to avoid working with you, not because they’re wusses, but because they enjoy training and don’t want to be sitting on the sidelines with their arm in a sling. The people who do subject themselves to the risks of rolling with you will eventually get hurt. It’s only a matter of time before you have to struggle to find people to practice with, and while you may think it’s because they’re afraid of getting beaten by you, it’s actually going to be because they’re afraid of being seriously injured by you.
The point of jiu-jitsu class is to learn. While using all your strength and doing anything possible to “win” during live rolling might make you feel good about yourself in the short-term, it’s only going to hold you back as time progresses and you realize you’ve been ignoring technique in favor of brute strength. But regardless of where your personal journey takes you, you don’t deserve to be doing jiu-jitsu if you’re actively trying to hurt your teammates. They’re rolling to both give and receive a good experience, and by willingly putting them at risk, you’re taking that away from them. Roll with someone the way you want to be rolled with, and for the love of all that is holy, leave your damn ego at the door.