Newcomers and Visitors: Just Teammates You Haven’t Met Yet

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.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Newcomers and Visitors: Just Teammates You Haven’t Met Yet

  1. I agree! I felt kind of weird my first day. The instructors were awesome so I decided that was all that really mattered, and I figured that once I put some time in people would warm up to me eventually. It’s true. About two months in and I’m getting to know more peers.

  2. I wanted to post about it XD
    When I started I had a quite warm welcome from some people, while others were less kind and clearly didn’t want to get involved with me in any way (yes, it was because I was a newbie).
    I had nice fellows drilling techniques with me and explaining me a lot of stuff and I loved it.
    So I tried doing the same with new people showing up, especially girls. I was kind and polite and asked them to drill techniques with me and tried to help them as best as I could.
    They quit. In the short time usually (1-4 months). It made me wonder I could have used that time better, by partnering with people that have been there for a while and could teach me stuff, or at least wouldn’t have needed me to help much.

    Now, new classes start in september. We’ll have lots of white belts and I still wanna attend the beginners class. I’m split. I’d like to help newbies and make them feel comfortable, but I also don’t wanna get upset if/when they’ll leave (statistically, a lot of them will)

    • Katie

      Hm, if you are comfortable talking with your coach or instructor about this dilemma, I would say do so and see what they say in terms of not only what is best for the class, but also for your own personal development. That or continue with these beginner classes since you enjoy them, with the understanding that these students may not stay, and that’s a risk you have to take.

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