Your days of long, elegant fingernails and intricate pedis are over. Or they should be. Do yourself and your grappling buddies a favor and keep a set of nail clippers in your gym bag. Finding yourself in the half guard of someone with an impressive set of talons is no fun at all, and getting a fingernail bent backward when you’re trying to get a good grip of a gi isn’t either. In my humble opinion, closely trimmed nails should be a rule of the mat.
Technically jiujitsu isn’t a team sport. Whether you’re competing in a tournament, fighting in the ring, or defending yourself on the street, you’re going it alone. One of the most valuable keys to learning jiujitsu, though, is having a great buddy with whom to learn, and to get a good buddy, you need to be a good buddy.
First and foremost, don’t be the stinky kid. Take a shower as close to class as possible. Wash your gi after EVERY class. (Even if you don’t sweat that much, you spend the class rolling around with other people who might or might not be sweaty on mats where people have walked and sweated.) And brush your teeth…regularly. You might even consider chewing gum during class.
Over time, you’ll notice some people in class who have a knack for smelling great all the time. I think maybe Shower-to-Shower has something to do with that, but I’m not sure exactly. You’ll also notice some people are always stinky, and it’s usually the people who wear the same rash guard and gi to every class. I suspect a fair number of these folks don’t wash their gear but once a week or so. One thing to understand, though, is that sweaty stink accumulates, especially in synthetic cloths. If you let it sit, it just builds up. Washing after each wear, though, prolongs the amount of unstinky time you have with that garment.
Over time, people have developed some tricks to combat sport stink. Some people add a cup of white vinegar to the wash. Others use a bit of Simple Green and let the garments soak. If you have a good scuba shop nearby, they just might carry a product called “Sink the Stink” which gets rid of the pee smell in sour wet suits, so stinky gis are small game for it. And drying your gear outside in the sun helps some since the sunlight has an antibacterial effect.
Use care when drying your gi in the dryer. They have a tendency to shrink.
Smelling good is a great start, but it’s only one factor in the “good buddy” equation. Next comes having a great attitude. Pay attention to the instructor and be ready to drill. Your partner might have missed some nuances, and you can help her along with the details. In jiujitsu, the details make all the difference. And when you drill, be willing to drill, and drill and drill some more. I like doing three or four reps then switching places and doing that over and over, but not everyone likes to do that. For me, it allows acquisition of some details and muscle memory before breaking the rhythm of the drill. Be sure everyone is getting equal time running the move, though.
As you’re going through those moves, be sure to try to find that balance between going easy and drilling seriously enough that when you roll, you know how to apply the technique. Every person has a speed and pressure they’re comfortable with. As you practice with different people, you’ll get more accustomed to their preferences.
Some people like to gradually advance their techniques as they practice in class, slowly getting some resistance from their partners. I happen to be one of these people, but you’ll have to try it for yourself. Everyone likes a different level of aggression in the drills, but remember to always use care. Hurting your training buddy rarely wins you any friends and has a way of running people off.
Finally, be grateful and show it. The quality of your learning is dependent upon others who graciously allow you to contort and abuse them for your edification. Remember to say thank you and show them some love.