Respect in BJJ

Sometimes you have an experience that triggers you to write a blog but you’re not always sure exactly how it will turn out. This is one of these blogs! The phrase “Respect” gets thrown around a lot in BJJ and I have to say that during one day at the World Masters I saw the most beautiful aspects of it in our sport as well as some of the less respectful and ugly sides. Now respect is a huge topic but a couple of thoughts from my experiences in competition.

Respecting your competitor
No other competition shows the level of respect between competitors than the world masters. Watching the emotions from team mates through to essentially legends of the sport showed how much winning meant to them. But there was a genuine warmth and respect from everyone I saw. Although done in jest Rafael Lovato Jr.did a great video on his perception of the World Masters V’s the Adult Worlds which really sums this up.

Respecting the Referee and Staff
Respecting the referee is pretty much embedded into the rules of the sport (p27of the IBJJF rule book number 6.3.3 ). Yes they can be annoying, inconsistent with scoring and generally make mistakes that cost you matches but being disrespectful or getting angry at them will never do you any favours! I always make an effort to thank the referees, table staff and runner at the end of my category (I’ll be honest it is much easier after a win!). Try not to be offended though if the referee doesn’t always shake your hand. It’s happened to me and I thought it was odd and wondered if I’d made a cultural mistake but I’ve now realised that it’s sometimes a hygiene thing. Shaking hands with a few 100 grapplers a day especially if their sweaty just isn’t that nice! Its also why you’ll see a lot of refs with hand sanitizer.

Coaches – Leading by Example
I haven’t put respecting coaches as I’ve never seen athletes being that disrespectful to coaches but I have seen a lot of coaches not leading by example. Disrespectful coaches don’t give a good impression of a club or affiliation. Plus if there is an athlete who is disrespectful or has a bad attitude then there is usually a similarly minded coach not too far away! I totally understand how easy it is to get taken away in the emotion of a competition especially when it’s an athlete who may also be a friend or someone who you have really invested time and effort. But it’s not an excuse to be an idiot! You may disagree with the referee or your opposing coach on a whole host of things but being rude, having a shouting match or generally being an idiot doesn’t help anyone least of all your athlete. This probably one of the worst examples I’ve found on YouTube where allegedly a coach chokes and jerks child. There is a YouTube rebuttal of this video but that fact it went viral and need a rebuttal probably speaks for itself!

Gender shouldn’t Matter
I’ve added gender at the bottom as realistically it shouldn’t play a role in any of those discussions but unfortunately that’s not always the case. Just because it’s a female competition doesn’t mean that it’s all sunshine and rainbows between us and I’ve seen some women just be nasty to each other. Similarly as a ref I’ve had a fabulous case of a competitor not realising I was one of the referees before a competition and being really rude (despite being in uniform) because I was a female. Even coaches aren’t free from sexist behaviour and views. I’ll probably do another blog on another day on some of this but for now Valerie Worthington has done an interesting article on the topic focusing more on participants experiences.

Feel free to let me know your thoughts on Respect in BJJ. As the sport grows it is something that may increasingly pop up. Does BJJ need clearer messages or a campaign similar to ones from larger governing bodies? Or is it a case of a few idiots and we should continue just to showcase the amazing behaviour of some our athletes?


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