This is a question that I often ask my students. When we're training and we're about to spar, I ask,
Who's the most important person here?
They know what the answer is. The answer is,
This is an important question because often in training we end up with people who go too hard or too aggressive, who maybe have a bad attitude, or are selfish. That's unacceptable within my gym.
I try to say that,
When you're training here, the most important person here is your training partner. You need to take care of that person and treat them with respect. You need to recognize that you could not train without that person. You're basically in a scenario where even though we're training safely, there's a potential for injury. There's a potential for all sorts of things happening. You need to have a mind frame of 'I'm going to protect you and in turn, I trust that you're going to protect me, so we're going to get better together'.
This is the whole concept of 'the rising tide raises all ships' and vice versa. If a guy is too aggressive we say that,
If you go too hard and hurt somebody, you break your toys, and you don't have toys to play with. The most important person in the gym is your training partner.
If I decide to train with you, then I need to ask,"How much Jiu-Jitsu have you done?" None. So, what's my job? My job is to take care of you and vice versa. If we start rolling and you're flailing around, I get whacked in the nose. It's also your job to take care of me.
It doesn't matter who it is. We need a training environment that's fun, safe, and productive. That's very important, but it doesn't just magically happen. It's a mindset, a culture that we have to constantly work on and be constantly reminded of.
Jiu-Jitsu is a really fun martial art involving a lot of people (And I'm talking just about Jiu-Jitsu, but it doesn't matter: it can be kickboxing, wrestling, or any of the martial arts that we do). They're really fun combative sports, which means we're able to spar against resisting opponents, which is very effective.
Why is it so effective? It's because you can actually learn techniques with a resisting opponent. You complete the techniques and that gives you the confidence to understand how they work. In turn, there's a risk of potential injury or even just negativity.
If somebody acts mean to you, or they lose it, or they have a bad attitude, how do you react? That culture has to constantly be talked about. Each person needs to be safe and respected.
We have different levels of classes. When people first come in, they're in a foundations class. In a foundations class, you're learning some fundamental things, including basic terminology, movements, and some techniques. That class is also when you're first being introduced to the concept,
This is how we train. This is our culture.
A good example that I will show them is a handshake: put your hand out, clap, and then do a fist bump. That's our handshake. What does that mean? It means,
I respect you; you respect me. You're going to take care of me; I'm going to take care you. We're ready to go.
That's an example of what I teach the class all the time. I show that handshake, with one of my high-level instructors, to the new guy. Right from the very beginning, I start to instill in their mind, this is what we do here.
Also, I use the concept of 'the old monkeys teach new monkeys'. If I have 30 guys in the gym who are trained and who understand that culture, it's not just me having to constantly remind somebody. If a new guy comes in and he starts going too hard, I might not even see it, but more senior people are going to be like,
Hey, hey, you have to relax. In this gym, this is how we do things. We don't want to hurt each other.
The same things I said, they pass on to the next generation as well. Older monkeys teach the new monkeys.
Absolutely. Even more so with the kids. We have a thing called a mat chat. Basically, after the Kids' Program, we sit down with the kids, and we have a discussion about things like that. We would say,
Ok guys, what does respect mean?
Then they put up their hands and they give examples. Often, the interesting thing is that some of the kids who are the worst have the best examples. It's kind of funny because later when they're doing something wrong, you go,
Hey, what did you say respect was?
These moments can actually be funny, but it's a good positive way to teach them. Instead of us saying, "This is what you do," they tell us what they're supposed to do. They become the teacher. This way, it's easier to get that message to stick with them. This way we say,
You know what's right; you know what's wrong. We trust you and we believe in you. He's already said it, so let's do it.
“Best gym I've ever been to. Knowledgeable instructors, great members! Really supportive environment. The classes are always interesting and never boring.” -Eric Pranger