Visiting Open Mat Etiquette
Like the saying goes, “Sometimes common sense isn’t so common…” totally applies to Jiu-Jitsu and etiquette. This goes not just for within your academy, but when visiting other schools (of your own affiliation or not) also.
Previously coming from a small island with limited Jiu-Jitsu resources, I sought a lot of pleasure in traveling and dropping in at every academy I had a chance to. I’ve trained at academies in Brazil, Australia, California, Oregon, and Washington (to name a few) at all of my belt stages. With that being said, I’ve been very appreciative of every single experience that I’ve had training outside of my own academy because I have always felt welcome wherever I’ve gone. This type of hospitality is synonymous through Jiu-Jitsu, primarily because those who train and love Jiu-Jitsu are excited about sharing it with others.
While I’ve had mostly positive experiences as a visitor, others have not. The major complaint about being on both ends of the open mat spectrum – whether you are a student at the hosting school or if you’re a visitor to the hosting school – is people treating the open mat as a way to “test” themselves against others. This, to some extent, is very natural, as we are curious to see if our game and techniques learned at our academy will work elsewhere. On the flip side, taking it to the extent of treating it like competing against someone in a competition, is where the line gets drawn.
As a visitor, I am well aware that I am going into someone else’s territory and for the most part, I will be treated as such by those who have no idea who I am. I am also cognizant that as a visitor, students at that academy will try to test themselves on me and go a little harder since they are on their home territory and feel the need to “keep me in my place.” I would probably do the same… actually, I HAVE done the same in the past. With this in mind, it helps me keep my composure (and pace) when rolling with others trying to turn up with me, in hopes that it will end in a friendly, fun, safe, and technical roll.
I have seen others (other visitors, I may add) at the same open mat take the opposite strategy. I’ve seen them treat every roll as an opportunity to try to go as hard as they can (regardless of whether or not the other person is on that same wavelength). Subsequently, I’ve seen their ass get handed to them over and over by the black belts of the academy. After all, if you’re gonna go to someone else’s school and try to beat every single person that you roll with at that academy – you’re gonna have a bad time. Someone (black and higher belts) will show you that: 1) you don’t disrespect their students in THEIR house and 2) you probably won’t feel welcome there again.
So what’s the moral of the story? Don’t be a dick going into someone else’s house. The Jiu-Jitsu community is a small one, so the more people you rub the wrong way, the more you will end up paying for it in the long run. And just remember, the more you try to “prove” yourself, the less you actually IMPROVE.