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  • Writer's pictureBJJ Report | Matthew Tropp

BJJ Class Etiquette: Disruptive Behavior or Respectful Learning?

What happens when a student works on techniques different from the ones being taught in class? Is it a sign of initiative or a lapse in etiquette?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is more than just a martial art—it's a community built on respect, discipline, and continuous learning. For BJJ students, the dojo is a sanctuary where they hone their skills under the guidance of their professors.

In this article, we'll explore the delicate balance between respectful learning and potentially disruptive behavior in BJJ classes. Both may be open to interpretation. From understanding the instructor's point of view to examining proper dojo protocol as well as learning culture, we'll provide insights on how to tackle the desire to work on different techniques without stepping out of line.

The Significance of Respecting the Curriculum

Some instructors invest significant time in developing a curriculum that caters to the collective progression of their students. Others may simply come up with technique on the fly (I'm not naming anyone in particular). Straying from the designated lesson plan can create a ripple effect, impacting not just the student deviating from the plan but also their classmates. When one student shifts focus, it can distract or even hinder others who are trying to grasp the concepts being taught.

Balancing Personal Growth and Guidance

BJJ encourages personal growth. Students choose paths within the art that best align with their physical capabilities and interests. However, the structured environment of a BJJ class is there for a reason. It ensures that all students have a solid grasp on fundamental principles before branching into more complex techniques. Personal exploration should enhance, not replace, the progression through the BJJ belt system that your professor has designed. As time passes its know you rely less on your professor and more on your experience and time on the mat.

Open Mat Sessions: A Time for Exploration

One of the best times for students to work on different techniques is during open mat sessions. Unlike structured classes where a curriculum is followed, open mats lack formal instruction, offering practitioners the freedom to drill or spar as they see fit. These sessions are perfect opportunities for students to exchange knowledge and try out moves that intrigue them, without disrupting the structured teaching environment.

Seeking Permission and Feedback

If you're eager to explore different techniques, consider discussing this with your instructor if you are going to do this during the technique portion of class. Asking for permission shows respect and opens the door for constructive feedback. Instructors can provide guidance or even adjust future lessons to incorporate other techniques the class has shown interest in.

Impact on the Learning Environment

In- Jiujitsu classes should foster an environment that supports learning and improvement for all students. When an individual diverges from the class focus, it potentially disrupts the harmony of the group learning dynamic. Following the class plan ensures that everyone moves forward together, which could be undermined if multiple students are working on different techniques.

Incorporating Alternate Techniques Respectfully

Students should seek strategies to integrate alternative techniques that do not disregard the class structure or the instructor's efforts. This could mean practicing those techniques outside regular class hours, studying them in private lessons, or patiently waiting to see if they're covered in future lessons. Another way is to try variations of the technique being practiced during class. This is common with higher ranking belts such as purple and brown belts. If your shown a half guard pass to armbar, you may also try the pass to a choke or other submission.

Instructor's Insight

Understanding the Instructor's Perspective

BJJ professors don't just impart technique; they instill discipline and structure to help students grow in every aspect of their martial arts journey. When students prioritize their personal preferences over the class's curriculum, they may inadvertently disrespect the thoughtful planning that goes into each session. Again, every academy and its learning culture are different. It is always better to follow the instruction for a variety of reasons. This helps mold you into a better leader who is an example for the rest of the class.

The Foundation First Approach

A solid foundation is key in B.J.J. Mastery of the fundamentals takes precedence because advanced or alternative techniques are often built upon these basic principles. Professors emphasize mastery of core skills before pursuing the complexity of a BJJ repertoire's other aspects.

Encouraging Open Communication

A professor's ultimate goal is to foster a nurturing learning atmosphere. Clear and open communication allows students to express their interests, which instructors can consider when planning classes. This dialogue creates a more tailored learning experience for the entire class.


In B.J.J., etiquette and respect lie at the core of the discipline. While the quest for mastering new techniques is commendable, working on something different during class might not be the most appropriate time. Respect for the curriculum, the professor, and your training peers is pivotal. If you're eager to broaden your technique repertoire, remember that timing and context are everything. Utilize open mats, communicate with your instructor, and focus on mastery during class to truly honor the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Train safe and train often,

Matthew Tropp | BJJ Report

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