Ten Ways to Win Over Your Grappler Friend

Have a friend who's become obsessed with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or grappling? Not sure how to communicate with them anymore? Read these 10 tips to win over your martial arts friend!

I’ve heard it said that anyone who trains long enough to earn a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is bat-guano crazy. So, imagine how nutso the brown, black, and red belts are. People who grapple frequently let their training take over larger and larger proportions of their lives, as grappling becomes for them more of a life philosophy than a hobby. Given this tendency toward preoccupation – and, dare I say, obsession – the layperson might find him/herself confused about how to interact with a grappler, particularly one s/he knows and loves. Below are 10 ways to make sure your relationship with your grappler stays happy and relatively sane.

1. Don’t karate chop your hands in the air at an invisible opponent.

Grapplers get cranky when people who don’t understand grappling try to chop them, because, with apologies to Dana Carvey, chopping is for broccoli. I actually have a friend who will turn around and walk away from anyone who busts out the karate chop hands. No explanation, no nothing. He just walks away. I’m not saying that’s the right thing to do, but if it happens to you, now you know why.

2. Do be aware grapplers are grappling all the time.

Do grasp that for many practitioners, it’s not enough to train 2-3 times per week; it’s got to be more of a 5-6 times per week thing. Sometimes twice a day. And when grapplers aren’t training, they are frequently thinking about training. They may rear naked choke a pillow in their sleep. They may watch instructionals or YouTube competition footage incessantly. Again, I’m not saying this is the right thing to do, but it is common, and understanding it may make it easier to put up with.

3. Don’t pronounce all Rs like Rs.

In Portuguese, the R at the beginning of a word is pronounced like an H. So if you are talking about Royce, Rickson, or Rorion Gracie, three of the best known grappling practitioners, you should be saying Hoyce, Hickson, or Horion. Otherwise, you will be falling prey to what’s basically a grappling shibboleth, a way for insiders to tell who is part of the clan – and who is not.

4. Do take proper medical care of your grappler.

Do stock your medicine cabinet with ibuprofen, bandages, and Epsom salts, and do keep lots of ice in the freezer. Grapplers get achy, bloody, and otherwise broken. If you want to ingratiate yourself to your grappling buddy/loved one – and keep your house clean – palliative tools such as the above go a long way.

5. Don’t pick fights and expect your grappling friends to step up for you.

This actually happened to me once, where a friend I was out with accidentally on purpose spilled a drink on an admittedly annoying and over-served young woman who had been acting belligerent to us at a bar. My friend then told the angry woman I was a grappler and that I could kick her butt. Fortunately, the woman backed down, but other grapplers in similar situations may not always as lucky. And these situations can have legal ramifications, even if your grappler friend is morally in the right. Far better to walk away. Your grappler has nothing to prove, and if you do, you should take care of it yourself.

6. Do say your friend grapples or trains Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship is a mixed martial arts outlet, not something to train. But a surprising number of people claim to “train UFC” or ask mixed martial artists if they do. Hint: Anybody who says he trains UFC likely doesn’t train anything.

7. Don’t flirt with a female grappler by joking about how she can tap you out or how you wouldn’t try to pass her guard.

Any woman who takes grappling halfway seriously is likely to feel uncomfortable or annoyed that you have tried to sexualize a context that can already be challenging for women because there are relatively few of them. Further, any woman who takes grappling halfway seriously has already had to deflect such comments eleventy-umpteen times. Thus, making this joke means you are either creepy or unoriginal – or both. It also means you are most definitely undateable.

havaianas, havaiana brazilian, brazilian flip flops8. Do avail yourself of the many awesome aspects of Brazilian culture your grappler is likely to embrace.

Buy yourself a pair of Havaianas flip-flops. Fast for two days and then join your grappler at a churrascaria, or Brazilian barbecue. Or enjoy some acai, a berry native to the Amazon that tastes delicious when crushed with ice and served with bananas and granola. And, of course, if your grappler decides s/he wants to go to Brazil to train and wants you to come along, pack your skimpy beach clothes and bring an extra suitcase for souvenirs!

9. Don’t discuss “choke holds” or “legbars” or other imprecise terms.

These act as shibboleths in the same way the R at the beginning of Portuguese words does. Brush up on your terminology – your grappler will be only too happy to bore you with the finer points of the difference between the kimura and the Americana or the D’Arce, also known as the brabo, compared to the anaconda.

10. Do try grappling yourself!

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I’m evangelical about grappling. I believe it has benefits for everyone. If you try it, you might like it and become one of those people who needs the proper care and feeding discussed in this piece. And even if you don’t, your grappler will love that you gave it a shot.