Go Hug A Newbie

For some reason I have spent an awful lot of time this week in Facebook conversations with martial artists. Perhaps it is due to my month long "nobody is allowed to touch my neck" BJJ hiatus, or maybe its the whole Miss USA scandal, but whatever the reason, I have been particularly verbal lately. 

The Internet is full of people who have no idea what they are talking about. Particularly when the subject of the martial arts comes up. Everyone has trained in something "when they were a kid" and everyone has watched a UFC match and EVERYONE has an opinion about EVERYTHING. So JoeMMA posts a comment about his training and there are 30 responses and at least three of them say "Joe you are douche.", while four others say "Joe, you rock!" and then there are the rest of us attempting to have an intelligent debate about belt whipping or kata practice or what color rash guard we prefer or whatever.

But, after 25 years of karate and 3 plus years of BJJ, there is one thing that I can say with certainty and that is this. New martial artists just don't get it. 

And it is not because they are idiots. Or misogynists. Or aggro asshats who only train to beat up their teammates. 

No, newbie's don't get it because they can't. Their martial arts brain is not developed enough yet. It is like trying to get a baby to read War & Peace. It just is not possible yet. 

Everyone comes into their training with a few preconceived notions; some of us, more than others. And the only thing that changes those beliefs is mat time. Experience. No amount of internet hashtagging is going to do it. 

Don't believe me? Fine. But just in case you are looking to save your breath (and your typing fingers), here are a few concepts that that new white belt is just not going to get yet.
  1. How to "go light". It does not matter if it is BJJ, karate or naked mud wrestling, a brand new person is always far too amped up and nervous in the beginning to notice how hard they are sparring, let alone control it. I cannot tell you how many conversations I have had that went like this" "Can you slow down, you are going a bit too hard." "OMG I am?? I am so sorry, I had no idea!!" Unless they have had prior experience, the new guy (or gal) is always going to be spazzy, aggressive and exhausted after two minutes. And no matter how much you think they "just hate women", they probably did not elbow you in the nose on purpose. It is ok. They will get better. For now, just keep your hands up.
  2. How to train "long term". Most people are not thinking about black belt in their first month. They are not thinking about being 40 and running a string of dojos across the USA. They cannot possibly be expected to understand things like patience and pacing themselves and preventing injury and a slow learning curve and a calm mind and all the other things that those of us who have been around awhile are privy to. They also are unlikely to get exactly how their martial arts training is supposed to help them in the rest of their lives. (Hell, I am still working on that one.) Most of the deeper benefits of training do not come for years. For now, it is enough that she just comes to class. 
  3. How to train with women. Or children. Or tiny men. Or anyone else who does not look and act exactly like them. This is an advanced skill. It requires nuance. And discipline. And time. Most of all, it requires paying attention to your partners, which is an acquired skill. (See number 1.) 
  4. That there is no "best style." Although if you are planning on getting in a lot of street fights, I recommend some kind of weapon. I hear guns are pretty popular nowadays. If your goal is the Octagon you need to train in BJJ and wrestling and some kind of stand-up art like kickboxing or karate. And be 25. With multiple tattoos.  But otherwise it does not matter if you are doing katas or armbars. There is benefit to ALL training. But do not try to explain this to newbies. Like religion, everyone just wants to believe  that they picked the right one. So go ahead, let them feel proud that they chose jiu- jitsu. They can learn tai chi later.

There is more. Much more. But my typing fingers are already fatigued from all that Facebooking.

So go hug a newbie. Shower them with love and understanding. Do not mock them. You were them once. I know it is hard to remember, but you too were spazzy and scared once.

Some of us still are sometimes.
I mean you. Some of you.
Not me, I'm perfect.