new to BJJ

So you’re new? Stop apologising for that.

Recently I partnered a fairly new white belt in class, the lesson was uneventful and my new partners comments were predictable.

At the end of the lesson she apologised because I got “stuck with” her, before adding that I would have been better off with another coloured belt. This happens as regular as clockwork with newer white belts.

Let me be clear;


Let me explain why.

New starters are a gift and new training partners are something to be welcomed with open arms (arms which will later, be squeezed in some unpleasant fashion!). Just by walking into the gym you have paid a huge compliment to all those training there – you are interested in learning something they are passionate about, which provides a certain validation.

I still remember how nervous I felt during my first lessons and how I too apologised to the “kind” blue belt who looked after me. I felt embarrassed at my lack of coordination and guilty for “ruining” her training, (even when she assured me that this was not the case). Hopefully, one day, my new partner will be helping newer white belts herself. I hope that she also remembers what it takes just to walk into the gym and the misplaced gratitude at being “picked”.

That’s the first reason not to apologise – one day it’ll be you helping, and how you treat a new starter will determine whether or not they stick with jiujitsu and fall in love with it, the way you did. I guarantee that once you get the jiujitsu bug you will be excited to show a newbie the sport. Play your cards right and you’ve just secured a new teammate, which if you are female and outnumbered, another girl on the mats is genuinely exciting!.

A coloured belt (me included) is often at a point where they are considering getting involved in coaching and training others. Having a new starter walk into the gym is a fantastic opportunity. A blank canvass to work with and test their own ability to pass on knowledge – that’s a rare and special thing.

In the class I mentioned I grabbed the new lady before someone else did! What would benefit me more, knocking out extra reps of a technique I know, with a partner who knows it too, or having to nail it and explain every little detail for someone who has never even seen it? – It’s a no brainer and not entirely altruistic.

That’s another reason not to apologise – if a coloured belt is working with you it will be benefiting them just as much as you.

In my personal opinion, if the more experienced team members are not welcoming new starters and actively looking to work with them, you are probably in the wrong gym! Next time a coloured belt offers to work with you in class, don’t just think they are being kind.

You are an important and valuable part of the team.

Angela Coole
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