Tuesday, February 10, 2015

What is your grappling pet peeve?

If you are reading my blog, you probably love to train jiu jitsu. And if you love to train jiu jitsu, you probably love your training partners (at least most of them). But admit it - ours is a brutal, sweaty, gnarly, smelly, hideous, intimate sport. And sometimes we just need to bitch. 

So I posed the above question - "What is your grappling pet peeve?" - to both my personal Facebook page and to the Women's Grappling Network page. Turns out, grapplers have a lot to complain about - between the two sources, my question garnered about 150 responses!

We all enjoyed a cathartic bitch-fest, sharing our most irksome training issues. There's not time or room to list all of them, but I broke the most common responses into 5 categories:

Ickiness and hygiene:

Of course, we have the usual hygiene party fouls - long nails, smelly, unwashed gis, body odor, people who train when they are contagious. Girls who wear makeup and leave lipstick stains on your gi. Guys who drip sweat on your face or, worse, in your mouth.

Sweaty, hairy man-belly was another big one here. Turns out, no one likes to find their face smothered in the fleshy midsection of their training partner.  

Photo courtesy of Anilom Assenav

Believe it or not, folks don't enjoy finding their training partner's balls in their faces either. North/south position and kimuras so often come along with this extra, uninvited treat. But what IS up for debate is whether people prefer their training partners to wear cups or not. Some appreciate the extra inch of protection between your boys and their faces. Others are willing to sacrifice this barrier, claiming that balls in face > steel cup in spine.

Here are some additional complaints:

"My own fucking hair irritates me to no end...Speaking of hair, when new people (including some long haired guys) don't do something at least somewhat practical with their hair. They put it in the loosest low ponytail you can imagine or just leave it all down." - Elizabeth Chastain

"Clothing....ladies this isn't the beach, it's no place for a tube top or low cut tank top. Keep your girls under control." -Valeria Covey

Stalling and chit chat:

One of my personal pet peeves falls into this category. Picture this: You ask someone if they'd like to roll. They say yes. You prepare to slap five. Then, to your dismay, your training partner stands up and WALKS ACROSS THE MATS for a drink of water. Your blood pressure rises. The timer beeps. You start foaming at the mouth. Your training partner takes his sweet time sipping. Finally, he walks back toward you, with nary an apology. By the time he is ready to commence the roll, 30-60 seconds have ticked by and you are losing your shit.

Folks, if someone asks you to roll, say yes only if you are prepared to start the roll in a timely fashion. Otherwise, say "I'll get you next round" and go take care of business while preserving your compulsive training partner's sanity.

Here's more on the subject of stalling and chit chat:

"Any type of stalling whatsoever but especially stopping to talk during a roll. Shut up and roll." - Jacob Whitfield

"Stopping me literally every ten seconds in the roll to explain what I was doing wrong so that by the time the roll is up all I've learned is how much you like to listen to yourself talk." - Beverly Huang

"When you're rolling with someone and they start talking to someone else." - Al Bee

Attitude and ego

Along with training consistency, good attitude is probably the biggest predictor of long term jiu jitsu success. It keeps you sane and well-adjusted and maintains your good rapport with your training partners. Respondents had a lot to say about annoying attitudes and over-inflated egos, so I will let them do the talking on this topic:

"I dislike mat bullies that target smaller, less experienced people and duck anybody that might challenge them." - Jeff Shaw

"People who won't stop talking about all the other people they have submitted." - Mary Holmes
"Qualifications in general. Like 'Man he tapped me, that guy is strong.' 'Dude she's a girl but man is she good at that choke.' 'I can never beat this guy he's just too flexible.' 'His hands are this big, he wristlocks me all the time'." - Chris Crawford 

"Excuses for tapping that devalue the other person's skill or experience. 'How much do you weigh?' 'Wow, you're strong.' 'Yeah, I'm just out of shape.' 'I had a big lunch.' 'I hurt my medulla oblagata yesterday and couldn't push off so you got that, normally I never get caught there'." - Tim Hufford

"Belt color entitlement." - Brandon Brown 

Maladaptive rolling style

I kept reading a lot of the same complaints here, because these guys are at every single gym: Finger grabbers. Crotch knee-ers. Face chokers. Douche bags who resist while drilling. White belts who take up the whole damn mat while rolling, knocking everyone else out of the way. Folks who can't open your closed guard, so they dig their elbows into your thighs or squeeze the crap out of your ribs.

We all know that person who rolls hard with you, right until you are about to get something good. Then she stops resisting and talks you through how you could tap her better. Or the guy who asks you to roll light and then comes at you like it's the finals of the mundials. The spaz who rolls in an out of control manner, kneeing, kicking, and elbowing her partners "by accident" but never slowing down for fear of getting tapped.

Anges Gall has another issue: "People who aren't having any fun, especially if they can't just laugh. If you're taking it so seriously that you can't giggle at the fact that we're rolling around on the ground hugging each other, at least try not to spoil anyone else's fun?"

Another major gripe: "I truly hate the douche move. If I was in competition, okay knee on face or shake my neck/lapel or flick my nose to expose my neck...In practice.. F.U!" - Ariella Nathanson


I posted my question to the Women's Grappling Network, because I wanted to get input from lots of women. And that I did! For the most part, the pet peeves of women who train are indistinguishable from humans who train, and those responses have been counted and reported above.

For me, the topic of "how to train with women" has always seemed overly simplistic and patronizing. Women are a heterogeneous group - we come in a variety of sizes, shapes, strengths, and body types. We stem from varied backgrounds and have myriad athletic and personal goals. What is productive and appropriate in training with one woman, may not be so training with another. The only way to accurately determine how any given woman wants to train is to ask her.

It's not surprising to me that some women have conflicting pet peeves. Some complain that men roll too delicately with them and are afraid to move properly for fear of "breaking" them. Others dislike it when men rely too heavily on strength and weight and choose to smash them instead of relying more heavily their technique.

There are some pet peeves, however, that would bug any of us:

"Walking into a new gym for the first time and being mistaken for A) someone's girlfriend or B) a beginner student. If I walk in with a gym bag and I'm already wearing gi pants why must you assume either of these things?" - Diane Bankhead 

"That backhanded compliment where guys say you're tough, good etc ... for a girl." - Katie Egan

"Grappling with brand new guys...once you submit them, they think 'omg I just got submitted by a girl' then they do whatever they can to win which might include trying to break your arm!!!" - Nidia Sacagawea 

"When dudes try to 'avenge' me because someone rolled hard with me or rolled with me in a way that THEY did not like. It's my roll. Not yours." - Chelsea Kurtzman 

"If someone calls me 'sweetie'." - Isa Bruno

So there we have it! This isn't the exhaustive list, but it's the Cliff's Notes version of what is bugging your fellow grappler. I know that I'm guilty of at least a few of these...are you?


  1. Great post. I could identify with so many of those!

  2. these are all great! I do have to say I am so grateful for the training partners both men and women. it takes two to tango it also takes two To Roll! I try to worry less about my partners and more about my own consideration. I want people to want to roll with me.

  3. I struggle with when partners just smash you, or they go for pain submissions. For six months I was working overtime, exhausted all the time, and sometimes I just wanted to have fun rolling at jiu jitsu. Inevitably I would get stuck under the smashy guy who just put all his weight on my solar plexus and rib cage. I couldn't escape, and he wasn't moving, so it was literally either tap or endure. It wasn't really even a situation of NEEDING to tap, but it was pissing me off. I would think to myself "really? I'm PAYING to let someone do this to me??"

    I'd only have that thinking when I felt really exhausted. Normally, not really that big of a deal, but when it happened more than once in a class I'd get really irritable. :(

  4. (I forgot to check "Notify Me". You can delete this - I'm just commenting to get the notifications. :)

  5. I gotta admit I do the "avenge" roll thing when someone goes too hard on a small chick or small new guy in the gym especially if its a new big strong male.