Grapplers Graveyard

How to Build Camaraderie in Your BJJ Gym

how to build camaraderie in your bjj gym

Table of Contents

Comradery is the line that sets sports apart from exercise. This is especially true with martial arts, in particular jujitsu. This can be seen when a jiu-jitsu practitioner gets injured, and instead of staying home because he or she can’t train, they show up, watch the classes, and talk with their training partners.

In years of training, I have seen this happen time and time again, it doesn’t matter if someone pulled a hamstring, tore an ACL, or had a concussion… They showed up.

This unique draw of a jiu-jitsu gym is imperative and must be nurtured. Without it, a jiu-jitsu gym can feel like a McDojo.

how to build camaraderie in your bjj gym, team members matter

The Building Block to a Good BJJ Business

While BJJ is far from becoming ubiquitous with exercise it is becoming increasingly more commonplace. BJJ gyms are popping up more and more frequently. Especially in major city centers like New York, Chicago, or Phoenix, there are many neighborhoods with 2 or even 3 gyms.

In these neighborhoods, people have a choice of which gym to choose. The potential members will even try out each gym and decide where to train based on the environment and vibe of the gym.

Why Does Camaraderie Even Matter?

With a higher saturation of gyms, it is critical to give people a reason to join yours (and give them a real reason to stick around). While great coaching is important it is no longer enough. People want to feel at home when they come to train.

This is achieved with camaraderie. Just like a good business needs a strong company culture, a jiu-jitsu gym needs a strong sense of team camaraderie. Nothing pushes people to keep coming back to train like having training partners cheering them on and building their confidence.

When deciding between gyms a sense of team bonding and positive relationships goes a long way in setting one gym apart from another.

Making People Feel Welcomed and Giving People The Attention They Need

It’s hard to get started at a new gym. I know that when I moved from Tucson to Chicago, there was a sense of anxiety in getting started at a new gym, even though I had already been training for 5 years.

I chose my current gym because the owner worked hard to foster a sense of camaraderie and make sure that everyone felt welcome the second that they stepped in the door. Even though training BJJ is physically demanding and at times comes with physical risk, it is important that people feel a sense of psychological safety.

This matters because training jiu-jitsu is a creative endeavor and requires that people take risks with confidence that they will have a supportive team around them. Just like an office where creativity is key, people need to check their egos and anxieties at the door. This unity and collective humility will almost certainly boost camaraderie and make sure that your teammates feel connected.

how to build camaraderie in your bjj gym, team members, creating a good culture

Building a Good Culture Inside Your Gym

Building a strong sense of team camaraderie will not happen overnight. Instead, it is a deliberate effort that starts with the newest member and goes all the way to the owner.

4 Key Elements to Focus On to Build Team Camaraderie

The best place and time to start building team camaraderie is here and now. The best part of most of these elements is that they are already a part of good BJJ culture in the first place.

1. Humility

Humility is a key skill in all aspects of jiu jitsu. It makes us better teachers, better learners, and better training partners. It also makes it easy to build a sense of community with your students and teammates.

Checking your ego at the door allows you to accomplish goals that you set for yourself while helping your training partners accomplish their goals. Applauding your partner for getting a good submission on you with a new technique is far more important than getting upset that you were submitted. This sort of teamwork will build team camaraderie and ensure that your gym does better in competition.

2. Healthy Competition

Having friendly competition will ensure that your gym can build a positive environment as well as encourage people to train harder. This means that your gym can have both a positive impact physically and mentally.

When people have healthy competition with their peers while training, they want to come back more often and train harder. This ensures that people will make space for their training and encourage team members to perform at their best.

3. Compassion

Compassion between one team member to another isn’t merely a soft sentiment; it’s a powerful force that binds practitioners together, creating an environment where everyone feels valued and supported. When we extend empathy and understanding towards our training partners, we build trust that can foster team building.

In a jiu-jitsu gym, compassion lays the foundation for a thriving community. It’s about more than just executing flawless submissions; it’s about recognizing the humanity in each person we train with. Whether it’s lending a helping hand to a struggling beginner or offering words of encouragement during grueling drills, acts of compassion forge connections that endure beyond the confines of the gym. When we approach our training with kindness and empathy, we not only elevate our own practice but also uplift those around us, creating a supportive network where everyone can flourish.

4. Inclusiveness

Lastly, and possibly most importantly, inclusiveness is key to building team camaraderie. In a BJJ gym, one of the key elements of team building is that everyone has a place. Not everyone needs to be in competition classes or get promoted at every turn, but everyone needs to understand that they belong.

Once this is incorporated into the minds of the owner(s), coaches, and students everything will fall into place.

how to build camaraderie in your bjj gym

Being a Team Member

Members of a BJJ gym have just as much of a responsibility to the openness of a gym as the coaches and owners. A key element to fostering camaraderie as a gym member is to apply the four tenets listed above.

A few ideas for how to engage in this area would be to create a group chat on either Snapchat or Instagram, to plan activities outside of the gym such as trail running, and of course to send YouTube videos of new submissions that you have found while going down niche rabbit holes. All of these things can help to build camaraderie.

There’s no need for team-building exercises within a BJJ gym because the daunting drills and high-intensity rolling foster camaraderie from the day someone walks into their first class. This sets up jiu-jitsu to be incredibly welcoming from the start as long as everyone buys in.

Making it Memorable

Welcoming new members into a BJJ gym isn’t just a gesture of hospitality; it’s a powerful catalyst for building camaraderie within the community. You, as an existing member of a BJJ gym can take the initiative to mentor and support newcomers, it creates a culture of inclusivity and solidarity that strengthens bonds. By extending a helping hand to those who are just starting their journey in BJJ, you can not only impart valuable knowledge and skills but also foster a sense of belonging that goes beyond the boundaries of the mat.

As seasoned practitioners guide novices through the details of technique and strategy, they not only impart valuable insights but also reinforce their understanding of the art. In this way, it helps both the newbie and the more advanced team members by improving everyone’s skills.

This then raises the overall success of the gym in competition and in retaining a new team member. By investing in the growth of new members, we contribute to the collective advancement of the entire community, forging connections that endure long after the training session ends.

The process of building up a new member cultivates a spirit of teamwork and collaboration that is essential to success in Jujitsu. In a discipline where individual progress is intertwined with the collective advancement of the team, the support and encouragement of fellow practitioners are invaluable. By fostering camaraderie, we create a culture of mutual respect. When we lift others, we not only strengthen the bonds of camaraderie but also create a foundation of support upon which everyone can thrive.

Bringing it all Together

As a gym owner in this increasingly competitive space, it can be challenging to understand how to set your gym apart. Of course, it is incredibly important that you be incredibly knowledgeable about BJJ, but the real best way to set yourself apart is through a concept of building team camaraderie.

Similarly, as a jujitsu trainee, you must understand that what sets BJJ apart from other exercises is the sense of community that you can gain from it. As a member of a jujitsu gym, it is your responsibility to engage in team building and ensure that you engage in building camaraderie.

In the gym, fostering camaraderie isn’t solely the responsibility of the gym owners or the members—it’s a collaborative effort that requires both parties to work together. The owners and coaches play a pivotal role in setting the tone and culture of the gym, providing the framework within which camaraderie can flourish.

By creating a welcoming and inclusive environment, implementing policies that promote teamwork and mutual respect, and organizing community-building events, gym owners lay the groundwork for camaraderie to thrive.

However, the onus doesn’t solely fall on gym owners. Members themselves play an equally important role in fostering camaraderie within the BJJ gym. By actively participating in gym activities, offering support and encouragement to fellow members, and embodying the values of respect and sportsmanship both on and off the mat, members contribute to the creation of a positive and supportive community.

Ultimately, it’s the collaboration between gym owners, coaches, and members that allows camaraderie to flourish in a BJJ gym. When both parties are committed to upholding the values of respect, teamwork, and mutual support, they create an atmosphere where everyone can grow and train together. By working hand in hand, gym owners and members can cultivate a sense of belonging and camaraderie that extends far beyond the mat, enriching the lives of all who are part of the BJJ community.

This will keep team members coming back. I know that the camaraderie is what keeps me training day, after week, after month, after year.

  • Denali Keefe

    Denali Keefe is a mental health writer, focused on the intersection of science and experience. He is currently perusing graduate studies in psychology, regularly trains Jiu Jitsu and currently holds a Blue Belt.

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