BJJ: There is No ‘Sorry’ in Jiu Jitsu

OK, so technically there can be sorry in Jiu Jitsu. Just not nearly as often as it gets said. Did you inflict major damage? Say sorry. Did you have a moment and act like a complete dick? Say sorry. But minor bumps and innocent mistakes? STFU and keep training.

And there’s a reason I modified a line from a League of Their Own – women are usually** the worst offenders. Even in life in general, we say sorry too often. We’ll say sorry for things that need no apology. Sorry when someone else bumps into us. Sorry because we needed to ask a question. Add in a male dominated sport and you get ridiculous situations like a 140# female apologizing to a 220# military enlisted blue belt male for an accidental elbow to the head. And we’re talking about a hit that wasn’t even hard enough to make him pause. Or saying sorry to our partner because we didn’t remember all the steps to a move we were just shown.

I was the partner for one woman in the gym on her first night on the big mats. We were doing fan sweep and you could tell she really enjoyed the power and physicality. But she could not stop apologizing. She was, from my perspective, apologizing both for the roughness AND for the fact she was enjoying it. She’d block my arm, bump me with her hips, and as soon as I hit the mat, she’d sheepishly say “Sorry” and laugh self-consciously. Women aren’t supposed to like fighting, aren’t supposed to like being rough with one another. I encouraged her to just rip it – stop apologizing and have fun. She couldn’t stop herself from saying sorry entirely, but she said it less often and enjoyed herself more.

In contrast, I had a chance to train with a woman from another gym (funny enough, the woman from my first match in my one and only tournament) and she didn’t say sorry once. It was so different, it was striking. So much so that I reached out to her to ask her how that came to be. She couldn’t explain it, she said lucked out that she never got into the habit. She said sometimes she’d excuse herself in advance if something was going to be particularly uncomfortable, let them know she’d try her best not to maim them or pull hair. I wish I knew how she’s managed to avoid the habit that so many of us are stuck in, so I could spread more of that around.

So ladies, to paraphrase a dog training friend, let’s stop mousing around out there and get to work! It’s a complex sport that takes a lifetime to master, don’t apologize for not executing it correctly when you’re learning. It’s a combat sport, don’t apologize because you aren’t being gentle – that’s the point. To quote the aforementioned blue belt “It’s a fighting sport. If you do it right, it’ll hurt.”

In the words of singer and fellow jiujiteria, Demi Lovato…

Sorry, not sorry.

** I said usually, boys, I know we don’t “own” being overly apologetic. Don’t get your panties in a bunch.

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