How to Get Your Friends and Family to Start BJJ
If you’re reading this, odds are you’ve already experienced the power of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Somehow, somewhere, your interest was sparked, you took that first, intimidating step onto the mat... and you never left. Now your life is irreversibly changed.
You’ve also probably already tried to convince every friend and family member you have to try it out, too… and have been disappointed by their “it’s not for me” response, despite never having tried it. You are not alone. We’ve all done it, and we’ve all met with the same result.
But 2024 will be the year it all changes, because we’re here to give you a few tips on getting your friends and family to start BJJ.
Remember Your First Day
The most important thing you need to remember is how you felt the first day you stepped on the mat. Whether it took you a long time to come around to trying it, or you acted on a whim after listening to a Joe Rogan podcast, I guarantee you felt some degree of fear or anxiety.
It’s completely normal to feel that stomach twisting apprehension when starting something new. Your mind races with thoughts of “What do I do with my hands?” “How should I behave?” “What do I call the instructor?” and “I hope I don’t embarrass myself.” This anxiety poses a huge hurdle for many people. It’s the reason the vast majority of people rarely step out of their comfort zone to try something new.
The best way to counteract this impediment is to provide a bit of familiarity within the unfamiliar. Introduce them to some cool jiu-jitsu moves in the comfort of their own home or at a family gathering (preferably where there might be some social lubricant). Offer to join them on their very first class. Assure them that you’ll be their partner, and that you'll help them every step of the way.
Anticipate the Excuses
I’ve heard all the excuses in the book. Many times over. The problem with excuses – good or bad ones - is that people like to hold on to them. The longer they hold on to them, the stronger they become, until in their eyes, it is their truth.
The best way to combat an excuse is with a two-pronged approach. One, you need to acknowledge their excuse in a way that doesn’t put them down; i.e. don’t lead with “that’s a stupid excuse.” No matter how much you might feel that way; once they’re on the defensive about their excuse, they’ll be less receptive to your counter. Instead, start with: “I can see how you might feel that way, but…” or “You’re not alone in thinking that, but…” You’ll get much farther.
Two, you need a good reason their excuse holds little real value, or how it can be easily overcome. This is your counter. You can brainstorm some of your own, or here are some options:
- “I’m too out-of-shape to start” – Jiu-jitsu is the best way to get into shape. It’s the perfect mix of cardio and strength training, with the added bonus of meeting cool new people.
- “I don’t have time” – Most gyms have early morning, afternoon and evening classes. If they can find just an hour out of their day, a couple times a week, they will quickly start reaping the benefits.
- “I don’t feel comfortable with people touching me” – Yes, that’s a tough one, considering the very nature of jiu-jitsu. Once someone gets on that mat, however, they'll find that they're focused less on someone touching them and more about what they're learning.
- “I can’t afford to get hurt” – Jiu-jitsu is one of the safest martial arts that one can practice. If things start to go outside of they're comfort zone, or if things start to hurt, they can always tap.
Give Them a Role Model
One of the biggest impediments to trying new things – especially a physical activity – is someone's inability to imagine him or herself doing that thing. This feeds into the above-mentioned excuses.
Being able to actually see – and not just be told about – people who look like, live like, or are at the same juncture in their lives as your friends or family members will allow them to “see” themselves doing it, too. It completely takes the wheels off of any excuse that begins with “I can’t do that because of [insert personal life challenge here].” Say you have a friend who is on the bigger side. Show them a video of a heavyweight who moves like a ballerina on the mat. Say you have a family member over 50. Show them a video of the vintage rockstars in the Masters divisions. Say you have a co-worker with a handicap. Show them videos of the paraplegic athletes who are easily holding their own against their able-bodied opponents.
Being able to see that Brazilian jiu-jitsu not only provides a welcoming space for people from all walks of life, but offers them a platform for the achievement of personal excellence, is really powerful thing.
The decision to start jiu-jitsu – the decision to start a sport or hobby of any kind – doesn’t happen overnight for most people. For some gung-ho adventure-seekers it might, but that is not the type of people this blog is targeting. Too much pressure, too fast or too soon, will cause your friend or family member to balk.
Plant the seed, then let it grow at its own pace. Between knowing a person who does it (you), seeing jiu-jitsu in movies and favorite television series, hearing about it on podcasts and in the local coffee shop… their interest will grow. One day, with careful cultivation, it will grow enough that he or she will eventually take that first step onto the mat.
And remember: upon trying it, most people either like it or they don’t. As long as they have tried it, and have discovered for certain where their interest lies, you’ve done your job.
Enjoy your holidays, and remember to welcome anyone you meet who steps on the mat for the first time in 2024. Their seed was likely planted long ago.