Have you ever had a guest on your mats that decided to get a little too aggressive while rolling with smaller white belts? Has your dojo ever been stormed? Ever wonder why there are no mat bullies at your academy? Love them or hate them, every gym needs an enforcer to regulate and hold down the laws of the mat. The term enforcer sounds extreme and violent, but the enforcer is actually the person that protects us and maintains a safe training environment in the gym.
A few weeks ago, a stranger from a flyover state in the Midwest showed up for a sparsely attended open mat at our academy. He was a thick, athletic, young, corn-fed purple belt who looked like he ate his fair share of steaks and spent a decent amount of time on the mats and hitting the weights. He was a bit cocky and full of himself as he mentioned that the BJJ instruction in his home area wasn’t very strong and he was thinking of relocating for better instruction and competition. The open mat that night had only 8 people in attendance and was made up of white and blue belts that ranged from rooster to lightweight.
As the guest stepped on the mat, he quickly scoped out the room and proceeded to use his skill, weight, speed, and athletic advantages to rough up his less experienced and smaller training partners. He went hard and fast while continually hunting for subs on his weaker training partners in order to quickly assert his position as the dominant Alpha Male on the mats. At one point he lifted up his 125 lbs training partner up into the air and appeared to be looking for a slam before the instructor supervising the roll intervened.
Unfortunately, there was no enforcer present that night to help restore order. If one of our large, skilled, Brown or Black Belt enforcers were on the mats, he would have asked our unruly guest to roll the next round. During that round, the enforcer would then continually submit and smash the unruly guest to let him know in a non-verbal fashion that you can’t step into our house and bully our smaller lower belts without getting your ego checked.
Sounds harsh? As Colonel Nathan Jesup said In A Few Good Men:
“Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.”
If you ever wondered why your school doesn’t have mat bullies or training partners that disregard the health of others, you can thank the enforcer. The enforcer does the dirty work to create a safe, fun, and light-hearted training environment free of bullies and big egos. In most cases, the gym enforcer is the friendliest, and most giving person on the mat with a heart of gold. The owner or head coach of a school doesn’t assign the role of enforcer to one of his students or coaches, it is almost like the enforcer organically grows into the role. At times, the coach will signal to the enforcer that it is time to regulate,but in most cases the enforcer will already have a sense that there is a disturbance in the force and is already prepared to step into action.
Does your school have an enforcer on the mats to deal with the unruly visitors and mat bullies at your school?