If you have been training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for any amount of time, I can almost guarantee that you have had this conversation with a friend. In fact, I’d even venture to guess that you have had this conversation numerous times with several friends. And you may have even had this same conversation multiple times with the same friend. It usually goes something like this.
Friend: Hey! How’s that martial arts stuff going?
BJJ Student: It’s going really great. I’m learning some good techniques, my instructor is very knowledgeable, and the other students there are really helpful and willing to help me learn.
Friend: That’s awesome. It sounds like fun. I’d really like to try something like that.
BJJ Student: You should definitely stop in! Classes are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00pm, and you can even try your first class for free!
Friend: Cool! Yea I should stop in sometime!
BJJ Student: Well how about Monday?
Friend: Well, i don’t know about this Monday. I have a test Wednesday night that I need to study for.
BJJ Student: It’s not until Wednesday, you can study Tuesday night, right?
Friend: Well it’s a big test. Besides, I really like to watch the Walking Dead on Tuesday nights.
BJJ Student: Oh, ok. Well You want to come on Wednesday then?
Friend: Idk, Maybe. But I was thinking about asking another friend of mine to hang out on Wednesday, but we’ll see.
BJJ Student: No Problem, come check us out on Friday.
Friend: Dude, that’s friday night. I’m going out. But I’ll stop in maybe next week or the week after or something.
Of course we all know how this situation ends. The next week comes and goes. And now the week after has come and gone, and naturally the friend never showed up. Sure you will still bring up BJJ in conversation because you’ve developed a passion for the art. And yes, you’ll make some attempts here and there to bring your friend in so they can see how great it is for them, but you know that the odds of your friend actually showing up is probably about 5%. Why is that? Why does your friend insist on telling you that they are interested about trying it, but never actually come in to try a class even when there is no financial risk involved. I have some theories, and I’m certainly interested to know what you think! My theories are listed below.
1. They have no interest in BJJ, but want to be polite.
There is no hope of getting this person in the door. The thing is they are not interested in learning martial arts at all; however, this person likely grew up in the midwest or in a home where turning down an invitation was a sin as egregious as murder itself.
2. They only want BJJ and MMA Status
This person attaches their self-worth to how others view them. They want to tell you, tell others, and tell the world that they are definitely going to train one day and become a great MMA Fighter. You actually may get this person into the gym, but the odds of this person staying for any length of time is very low. The thing is, when someone does things for a positive public opinion or for the approval of others, it won’t last. Eventually, probably much sooner rather than later, the person will burn out and hate the activity. This person will either never make it into the gym, or if they do, they won’t last more than a few months. They realize that the amount of work that goes into martial arts and BJJ is not worth the very little attention you get from others for doing it. The only way you’ll last in BJJ is if you are doing it for yourself.
3. They merely think of themselves as a BJJ or MMA Fighter.
This person is convinced that they could or would be a successful fighter or Jiu Jitsu competitor, and maybe they would be! This person truly believes, at least on the surface, that they are tough and will “definitely start training one day.” But they never do! Based on their words, combined with their actions, I believe that this person tells themselves that they are a good fighter or strong; however, subconsciously they may not truly believe. This individual, just like the others, will often have a laundry list of excuses describing why they can’t start training quite yet. By making excuses and really believing in them, this person saves themselves from having to admit to himself that maybe, just maybe, he isn’t as tough as he thinks he is. He is able to attribute his absence from martial arts training to a lack of time, a lack of money, and everything else under the sun that doesn’t bring his own confidence or abilities into question. This individual will do whatever it takes to continue to be able to live in his delusion that he could be the best fighter in the world. Oh, and believe him! He would too, if it wasn’t to his prior commitment to attend his beer league soft-ball games on Monday and Thursday nights.
4. They’re interested in BJJ, but they’re nervous
Out of these 4 groups of people, this is the person that we really hope we are talking to. This person is genuinely curious about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and other parts of the martial arts world. Regardless of their own reasons, whether it’s to become a fighter or competitor, lose weight, get into shape, develop an interest in a new hobby, or whatever, this person has a very real interest in what you’re offering. However, martial arts can be a scary thing to get into, especially for an adult with no martial arts experience or combat training. They don’t know what to expect. Is the coach going to expect them to already be in really good shape? Are the other students going to really give it to the new guys as though they are hazing freshman at a fraternity? Are they going to get a bunch of black eyes that they have to explain to coworkers? Are they going to get injured? Are they going to get suckered into buying something that isn’t really going to work? There are a ton of worries for the new person that, as experience practitioners, we don’t even think twice about anymore. But you have to try to remember what it was like for you when you first started BJJ and joined a gym. It’s nerve-racking picking up the phone and calling the gym for the first time. That first time you walk into the gym door can be a very surreal and eerie feeling. There’s a lot of anxiety. They are curious, but they just don’t have the courage or all of the knowledge they need in order to help them make the decision to dive in and give it a shot.
As a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner, it’s your job to be an ambassador of the art. You have to dispel the myths out there that we are a bunch of meat heads who want nothing more than to feast of the flesh and bones of new people. It is also your responsibility to be an example of the art. Show how BJJ allows you to control yourself in tense situations. Show how it has helped you learn to be part of a team and willing to help your partners. And answer any questions or address any concerns which someone might have about the art and sport in a courteous and polite manner. That is how we can convince these truly interested friends to come check out a BJJ class and potentially become part of your team and improve themselves for the better.
What do you guys think? Do you agree with this analysis? Do you have any categories or types to add?