The New Student is the Most Important Person On the Mats
It can be argued that the most important promotion that someone can attain in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is not the promotion to the coveted black belt, but instead is the promotion someone can give themselves when they trade in their own belt and put on the white belt for the first time. There are a wide variety of reasons why someone comes to an academy for the first time, from a desire to get in shape, learn some new skills, or build their self confidence, but the reasons, excuses, or even fears that keep someone off the mats can be overwhelming. That's why when a new student walks into your academy, they should be treated with the utmost respect, because they are the most important person on the mats.
Welcome the New Student with a Smile
Walking into a martial arts school or BJJ academy for the first time can be very intimidating. Left to their own devices, some students can be a little shy about introducing themselves to new students. This can be interpreted negatively by the new student, so it's important if you are a student at the academy, to go out of your way to make everyone feel welcome. This is your home academy and its important to make someone new feel comfortable.
Show the New Student Around
One of the worst things that can happen with a brand new student is that they walk on the mats, unacknowledged and get absorbed into the normal class with no real introduction. There they will be running amongst strange faces, doing BJJ warm up exercises that they have no idea how to do, all the while wondering why they even decided to come. Then when regular class begins, they will sit in silence trying to pay attention to every detail, their anxiety growing as the minutes pass. If they are lucky, they will be partnered with someone who introduces themselves, but if not, they will awkwardly attempt the moves and then class will end. This student will most likely never be seen again.
Instead, the new student should be welcomed onto the mats and given a tour and an explanation of how class is set up. Expectations should be made clear and they should be partnered up with another Coach or higher ranked student who can work with them and make them feel comfortable in those early classes.
No matter what your belt level, there will always be frustrating days, when nothing seems to work and every match is filled with endless taps, but it is crucial to remember what it felt like to be a brand new student and always work to help those folks make the transition from the outside world to the amazing world of BJJ. It's also important to have a sense of humor as a BJJ practitioner, especially in the beginning. For some ideas on how to keep laughing as you learn, check out this article from BJJ Fanatics.
In the video below, BJJ black belt world champion Bernardo Faria gives his thoughts on how everyone should approach lower belt or newer students who have not been training as long as you.
The new student represents the growth of your academy and the art of jiu jitsu. By welcoming and encouraging people, you will soon have another person who can do the same to the next white belt walking onto the mats for the first time.
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