You know the phrase, “a stranger is a friend you haven’t met yet”?
I don’t usually adhere to this phrase: I’m polite and respectful to people, but I don’t go particularly out of my way to introduce myself or strike up a conversation. It’s a habit that has cultivated from decades of living in urban, and not always the safest areas (my hometown was recently named the most dangerous small city in the US…yay :-/)
Anyway, there is one place where for the most part I will make an exception to this rule: our academy. If a stranger comes in for a visit, or there’s a new student on the mat, I do try to walk up and introduce myself before class. I’m not saying I get every new person that walks on, but I do make an attempt.
Jiu jitsu people can sometimes be a clique-y bunch. Not intentionally, but the way the whole system works a person can become very prone to being wary of outsiders. You have, for the most part, the same people you train with every day in a sport that’s not that terribly common, and for some academies even within the group there are separations- higher belts not getting too involved with the white and lower blues, to avoid investing a large amount of time and energy into someone that may decide one day to quit. I’m not saying this is right, but I imagine it totally happens in some academies. But, remember that a stranger, a newcomer to your class or team is really a potential teammate you haven’t gotten to know yet. They may be just as dedicated as you, just as hard working and just looking for a smile and a place to feel welcome, but you won’t know that unless you put yourself out there.
And think of it from the other person’s perspective. It’s difficult to put yourself out there and stick yourself in the middle of a bunch of strangers, even if it’s to do something familiar to you. And even then familiarity in the beginning is not guaranteed: warm ups can differ between academies, particular drills, etc. So while someone may be a master at the drills they perform in their own academy, now they are forced into different drills, and may be all knees and elbows. It can be a nerve-wracking experience, and I imagine a huge relief when someone walks up to them to introduce themselves.
So, if there’s someone new in your academy, visiting or just a new person, definitely make and effort to introduce yourself. Who knows, they may be a teammate you just haven’t gotten to know yet.