BJJ practitioners often talk about a gym’s ‘mat culture’ which can refer to anything from formal protocols such as bowing before stepping on and off the mats to general attitude of the members. We have been talking with those that have spent some time training in Brazil and here are some of the big differences between training in Australian schools and Brazilian ones. If you’re thinking of visiting and training in Brazil be sure to read on and get an idea of the differences you might encounter in the home of Jiu Jitsu.

Shaking hands at the beginning of class: Many of the top instructors may have left Brazil but Brazil still has the best depth of training partners around. Many gyms have whole classes that are ‘Black Belts only’ and at any given class you will find a number of black and brown belts on the mats training. When it comes to showing respect, students of a lower belt should shake the hand of each of the higher belts (beginning with the highest ranked belt first- your instructor and working down in rank) before settling in to stretch on the mats or before they join class. The same goes for the ending of class.

Proper uniform composure: Your gi must be worn throughout the whole class and should never be removed during or after class. Composing your gi between rolls, exercises and when you leave the mat. The idea is to look fresh at all times. Failure to do so will most likely result in pushups or a similar reprimand!

Asking permission: Always ask the instructor before exiting the mats to use the bathroom or to get a drink of water.

Keeping the mat clean: There is absolutely no eating or drinking on the mats! Just as you wouldn’t walk on the mats with your shoes, don’t take any food onto them.

Calling out higher belts:  When it comes to rolling you can ask people to roll who are of the same level as you or less but you can not ask higher belts. Wait for them to invite you to roll.

End of class: Lining up is done strictly in belt order at the end of class. Make sure to fix your gi and don’t succumb to the desire to hang forward and breath hard!

Cleanliness: Nails trimmed and gi washed (find a good Laundromat as soon as you land!), and use all the standard care you would take with yourself and your equipment.

Observing these ‘Mat Culture’ norms will help insure you have a good experience at whatever gyms you train at, OSS!