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Being the new guy in the club can be intimidating. You’re stepping into a world where everyone knows each other and where everyone is probably more experienced than you. While this is difficult in any setting, being the new guy on the mat presents a unique set of challenges. After all, most guys will dominate you. Losing matches repeatedly can be disheartening, but don’t get discouraged. This is perfectly normal. Grappling and MMA are difficult sports. So whether you’re a new student putting on a stiff white gi for the first time or a veteran fighter returning to the mat here are some tips that can make your time at the gym more enjoyable and more productive.
Respect your Training Partners
While a challenging training partner is important, a safe training partner is even more important. The best person to train with is someone who cares about your well being as well as your development. Since combat sports are highly competitive, establish mutual, friendly respect for your training partners. So, shake hands with everyone in the room, at least twice.
Showing respect will earn you respect, regardless of your skill level. When you spar or roll with someone, shake their hand before, and shake their hand after. Thank them for them for the sparring session. You don’t need to be creepy about it, a simple “Hey man, thanks for the roll” will do. When class is over, shake hands goodbye. Thank your partners for working with you, and thank your instructor for the class. Being kind and respectful will make your life at the gym much more pleasant. People will return the favor, and eventually, you’ll have friends as sparring partners.
Learn to Lose
Being a good sport is just as vital as being friendly. Very rarely will you be the best person one the mat, especially if you’re just starting out. You will lose, and you will lose a lot. Tapping out and eating a few punches is an important part of learning. Each mistake is an opportunity to learn. If the same submission or same combination keeps catching you, ask your partner what you’re doing wrong, either right then or after training. If you’ve been friendly and respectful, chances are that they’ll be more than happy to give you a few pointers.
Losing is actually a good thing. Now, when you’re getting submitted 20 times a night, that statement will seem like a load of hogwash, and that’s fine. A losing streak can be frustrating, and frustration is the enemy of progress. Try rolling with someone less experienced than you. Even if you have only been training for a few weeks, you will likely be able to find someone even greener than you. I’m not suggesting demolish them; I mean to take it slow and control them. Against a less experienced opponent, you will find it easier to secure positions and find submissions. This is good for both your development and your confidence.
Having the time to think about attacking instead of constantly defending advances your mental game, letting you see openings and opportunities that you may have missed while running from the triangle choke for 5 rounds straight. Finishing an opponent lets you know that even though you’re losing against stiff competition, you are still progressing and can actually do the things you have been learning.
Try rolling with someone way above your experience level. While this advice may seem counter-productive, entering a match where you’re “supposed” to lose gives you the freedom to experiment. Of course a purple belt is going to trounce a white belt, but when the white belt taps, it’s no big deal because it was expected. A quality upper-level training partner won’t just spank you up down the mat. He should be relaxed and methodical, letting you work your game while he himself experiments. Instructors are best for this, and it might be a good idea to get to know the people you train with before approaching a high level grappler (some people are still mean).
Do Your Homework
With many grappling classes teaching a range of skill levels simultaneously, an instructor may not be able to cover core fundamentals with every new student. Also, class sizes may prevent an instructor from addressing the particular position that’s giving you the most trouble. These are not signs of a bad instructor; these are the realities of grappling instruction.
Reading books and watching videos outside of class is a great way to patch up your game. If you’re looking for a video of grappling fundamentals, you may want to first ask your instructor what material he recommends. For the more advanced student that finds himself in a rut, do some research on the position that you have trouble escape or the submission that you have trouble finishing. If you can’t think of a specific area that you would like to improve, read about grappling for the sake of reading. With the amount of material available in books, videos, and online, you are bound to find something relevant and interesting.
Time spent studying off the mat will enhance your time on the mat. Fighting is a thinking man’s game, and doing your homework will make you more critical and more aware of what’s going on during training.
Change Things up

A skilled painter will often-times stop adding paint to his canvas and step back to view his work at a distance. This allows him to view his art work in its entirety. When he is within brushing distance, he cannot see the big picture and may find it difficult to make progress because he cannot properly assess the interaction of each element in the piece.Fighting is no different.

If you have been training hard for months and feel as though you’ve hit a wall, or plateaued as some fighters call it, it may be time to change things up. Taking a day off lets you rest and escape the day to day frustration that may be hindering your progress. Taking some private classes or changing your strategy when you spar will help you tovercome the plateau and help you get moving again. The key is to step outside of the box long enough to clear your mind and return revitalized.


Improving yourself is no easy task, but if you approach the challenges with a positive attitude and a constructive mind, you can overcome the road blocks that may slow your journey through the fighting world. Be friendly, be respectful, be a good sport, be a good student, and learn to change things up once in a while. If you’re proactive about the obstacles you are likely to encounter, your training will be more productive and more pleasant.

Based on an article by Marshal Carper
  1. Always control your submissions.
  2. Always take all your injuries seriously.
  3. Always follow all instructions carefully.
  4. Always tap if you feel any pain or discomfort.
  5. Always ask questions if you don’t understand something.
  6. Always come to class clean with clean gear and short nails.
  7. Always watch your language and avoid making disrespectful comments.And most importantly:
  8. Always relax and leave your ego off the mat.


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