Creating a Psychological Safe Space on the Mats

I think there are some lower ranks who are sometimes afraid to ask for help- I sincerely hope that it’s more of an internal struggle than some sort of impression that they have received from an instructor.

It could be that you are feeling a little awkward because you have SO MANY questions about different techniques and their applications. and ok, that’s fair. There’s only so much time in a day and after class. But say there’s something that stumped you while you were training, I definitely think it’s ok to ask for help at the end of class. I’ve rolled with teammates who ask about something in the middle of rolls before too- if I can give a very short answer I will, but if it takes a little longer to respond, I usually ask if we can wait to talk about it after class.

Admittedly, sometimes I give unsolicited advice at the end of a class- “Hey, I noticed you were doing this- if you do that instead you should be able to successfully do x,y, and z” and even sometimes if I keep catching someone a number of times in the same submission, I’ll tell them a way to defend it or to how to shut it down.

I’m weird, I know, but I also want my training partner to feel like they are getting something out of the roll, and not hitting the same roadblock over and over again.

This kind of touches on the idea of creating a psychological safe space in the gym. The term I’m referring to comes from a book called “Smarter, Faster, Better”

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While the book is geared toward someone in a management position, covering how to have a more productive team in the professional world, the underlying principle sort of remains the same. In order for people to learn and for there to be progress, people need to feel that they are in an environment that allows them to ask questions, to come up with a hypothesis and then test it out, and make mistakes without fear of being reprimanded. Ideas and questions naturally lead to more ideas and questions, and the group then moves forward in their knowledge.

Understandably this can be a tricky balance to maintain: on the one hand you want people to ask questions, be curious, test theories. On the other hand you also want lower ranks to focus on and master the basics and preferably stick to the whatever you guys are working on at that moment, but at the same time not stifling curiosity or someone’s desire to learn and experiment. Ultimately, much like dealing with a team atmosphere in a professional setting, a higher needs to not discourage that spirit of curiosity and learning, but instead remind the lower rank of the steps and fundamentals needed to get there.

So for the lower belts, don’t be afraid to ask questions after class, and for the higher ranks, encourage questions and working with lower ranks on certain issues- if the technique is a little off the rails or above that students’ skill set, then go over different, more basic elements that will help them get to that final destination. We are all here to support and help one another as we all grow and evolve through jiu jitsu.

Have a great day everyone!

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3 Comments

Filed under bjj, jiu jitsu, women's bjj

3 responses to “Creating a Psychological Safe Space on the Mats

  1. Good post and great points. I feel that at my school most upper belts and experience individuals are always encouraging and helpful. They have the philosophy that helping each other get better and improve makes everyone else get better which is encouraging. They usually don’t mind helping you work through something after class and I find that open mats are especially helpful when it comes to working through problems or asking questions. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and encouraging a safe space on the mats.

  2. Pingback: July Catch-Up Part 2 | BJJ Minion

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