Well, this is awkward.
You’d be surprised who you run into on the mats. If you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of students training in a small town, there is probably only a couple jiu -jitsu schools to choose from. Since jiu-jitsu attracts all sorts of people, it’s not uncommon for a familiar face to sometimes appear. This face could be a pleasant surprise, like the nice guy from the grocery store. But other times it’s a much more delicate situation.
Other times, you’re the one who invited someone you see on the daily into your gym. Maybe you’re the person who can’t stop talking about your love of jiu-jitsu, and now you’ve finally attracted a prospect. You may have even twisted an arm (metaphorically, of course) to cajole someone into your evening class.
Hey, I get it. Years ago, I told anyone and everyone about my love of martial arts. Training made such an impact in my life, I felt obligated to get others to enjoy it. And if they didn’t, I would take it personally. After all, if you don’t like martial arts, you must not like me.
I don’t do that anymore.
It’s not that I don’t want new people to experience BJJ, but rather I’m more aware of potential consequences of training with someone you work with. But of course, it happens all the time. If you’re considering inviting a friend to the academy, here’s some things to ask yourself:
What’s the power dynamic?
There is a very real undercurrent of dominance in BJJ. Some people are simply better than you, and always will be unless you make serious changes in your training. The dominance is physical, and it’s primal.
If that sounds weird to you, consider this: a workplace also has an undercurrent of dominance. Most of us have bosses, some of us have employees. Bosses have some degree of power over us. They can fire us, dock our pay, give us bad reviews. There’s often a pecking order of senior to junior employees. Of course, it’s never put in those stark terms. But it’s there.
So before you invite someone onto the mats, think about your power dynamic at work. Chances are, you will be much more experienced than them at BJJ. If you roll with this person on their first night, choke them within an inch of their life and throw the shoulder-of-justice on them, could that affect your working relationship?
Pro tip: It’s best to try and make the power dynamic the same at work and the gym. I wouldn’t invite your boss, who tells you what to do all day, to a place where you will manhandle them. They probably won’t come, and it’s even less likely they’ll stay.
Are you okay with them not coming back?
They say jiu-jitsu is for everyone. But I disagree. Golf is for everyone. Bowling is for everyone. A very small portion of the population will try jiu-jitsu, and most of them won’t stay.
If you’ve been bugging your coworker about trying a class, it’s quite possible they are their primarily out of obligation. People will try a class to get you to leave them alone. What they won’t do is pay a gym to beat them up night after night, unless they genuinely like it.
If you invite a co-worker to try a class, you need to detach yourself from any particular outcome, and hopefully you can communicate that to them. Remember, very few people will confess to not liking something that you obviously love. They’ll always make an excuse. The drive, the class times, the money. If this happens, just be gracious. It’s cool dude, no sweat. I’m glad you came, you’re always welcome back. Let them down easy, and let yourself down easy.
Are you okay with them falling in love with it?
This might seem like a silly question. Of course I’ll be happy if they end of loving BJJ! That’s the whole point! But really think about this.
Are you ready to discuss BJJ at work more? Will your new training partner annoy everyone else by talking endlessly about how he and his new best friend are doing jiu-jitsu together? Are you okay with the training leading to carpooling, weekend gym sessions, or him trying to set you up with his sister?
Maybe this is all great to you. Maybe you’re cool if this person ends of loving BJJ more than you do. Just be careful what you wish for.
Attraction, not Promotion
I find that the best results come from the mantra “attraction, not promotion.” If you wear the occasional BJJ shirt or mention it in an offhand watercooler moment, no problem. The people who are really interested will find you. Everyone else will just act interested, which is what polite people do.
When you let people approach you about training. You take the burden off of yourself to prove something or live up to someone’s expectation. If they enjoy it and want to sign up, great. If they don’t, fine. After all, they came to you. It’s not like you strong armed them or anything.
Don’t think this get’s you out of your TPS reports though.
Happy New Year Everybody! I really think we are living in the best time ever to be practicing the gentle art, so I hope 2019 is a great year for your training.