Is Safety Is Priority #1 at the Jiu Jitsu Gym?

imgres-2I hope it is! If it, didn’t there’s something wrong with you. Safety is a core need as human beings. If that little voice in our head wasn’t warning us of potential threats, we would have been eaten by predators long ago. 

f you’ve never trained before, BJJ can look brutal from the outside sometimes. If you look at what we’re doing, the whole idea behind it might seem a bit intimidating. Maybe you think you’d love to train, but you just can’t afford to get injured because of your work, or because you have a family to take care of?
Maybe you actually have trained before or know somebody who has. Maybe you had a bad experience with somebody who was out of control, and injured you or freaked you out. It’s very common to have an experience like this at gyms. It can leave an awful taste in your mouth, and make training unenjoyable. It’s not fair to have to have to worry about other students that don’t know how to be a good training partner. I don’t blame them however, I blame the instructor or the owners of the gym. People need to be taught how to be good training partners, and it has to come from the top down.
Did you know injuries is one of the leading causes for people to stop training? Some people just don’t like getting injured and quit. Others get injured and it interrupts their momentum. I constantly preach how important having a training schedule is. Routine is one of the main keys to succeeding in BJJ. Building a routine is similar to having a job or going to school regularly. Monday – Friday I wake up at 7am, get to work at 8:30am and leave at 6pm. I don’t have to think about it, once my body and mind gets used to the schedule, I just automatically get up and go. If you get injured, it can mess up your routine. Once its ruin, sometimes its hard to get back on track, and that’s where a person can quit.
Sometimes injuries are unavoidable, we are exercising, we’re not just laying on the couch playing it safe. Other times it can be due to instructor neglect, that’s where I get upset. I get mad at lazy gyms that can prevent injuries, but choose not to take the time to go through some simple safety procedures during class. Ultimately, it’s the instructors job to keep everybody as safe as he or she can. If I’m not doing everything in my power to look out for my student’s safety, I’d be an incompetent instructor.
When you come to 10th Planet Van Nuys you’ll notice how clean we keep it. This is the first line of defense against getting sick! Yes, getting sick is just like getting injured! A dirty gym breeds diseases like Staph, Impetigo, Ring Worm and mold. These things can be dangerous if neglected. We educate our students and we use only the best cleaning supplies money can buy. Most gyms are cheap and lazy. They don’t tell students how to avoid getting sick. They’ll also want to save a few bucks on buying the cheap junk cleaning supplies. That’s horrible! If somebody gets sick and has to go to the hospital because I didn’t do everything I could, I feel like a failure. My reputation is important to me, and if I’m known as the instructor that allows his students to get sick, I’ll lose more than I would have if I’d just had spent the extra money buying the good cleaners! 

To minimize injuries, we have to have a culture that is mindful of how we train. Our number one rule at our school is: “Take care of your training partners.” Your priority as a student is not to win, to tap out your partner, dominate positions etc, it’s to make sure your partner stays safe! If you let them get hurt, you’ve got nobody to help you out. If you injure people, your reputation will spread quickly and soon people will avoid training with you.

The next thing I do is make sure everybody is paired up with the proper training partners. Big guys go with big guys, competitors go with competitors, new guys with new guys etc. You have to know who can handle who, a new guy going with a competitor might not be the safest thing for the new guy. Making sure people are pair correctly allows people to feel comfortable. If they’re comfortable, they’re more relaxed, leading to less injuries.

We always do a quick injury check before training. I’ll ask who has any injuries, which helps people remember that some people can’t go super hard because they are hurt. It also lets the class know the instructors are paying attention, and we care about safety. The more we stress safety, the more it stays a priority in the front of students minds.

The Next thing I do puts how hard you should go in perspective. I preface how hard the training should be by breaking it down like this:

If you are going to go…

  1. 100% it’s only if you’re fighting for your life against war criminals, murderers and serial killers. You’ll never train that hard in the gym, this is a life or death situation.
  2. 80% is for fighting for the UFC championship belt. You’re not fighting for your life, but it’s really intense. Again, you’ll never train this hard at the gym.
  3. 70% competing at a Jiu Jitsu tournament. This is a step under an MMA fight. It’s still highly competitive, but it’s a bit more controlled. Unless we actually throw a tournament at the gym, this doesn’t usually happen at the gym.
  4. 60% solid training for a competition or fight. This is reserved for people who understand the risks of training hard and accept the them. I keep this in separate classes, away from regular training.
  5. 50% is good old competitive everyday training. This is for 90% of the people who train at the gym. Under most circumstances training at this rate, you should be able to get up and go to work the next day, and train again tomorrow. It’s competitive, it’s challenging, yet it’s good natured, and enjoyable.


We also all look out for one other as a team on the mats. The head instructor is always roaming, watching the training session, and they will prevent any potential problems before they can happen. If things do get out of control, the instructor is right there to calm the situation down, and reset the students. Safety is a group project, and the instructor is not the only one making sure everything is ok. The whole team is policing the mat. We have a “Mat Check” policy, where the lower belts are required to make way during training for the higher belts. This creates awareness of the lower belts surroundings, because they are usually the ones that are the most out of controlled due to their inexperience.

We have had an amazing track record since we’ve implemented these simple policies. It works extremely well at our gym. Injuries almost never never now at 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu now days. It’s not the good old days of MMA/BJJ, we’re much smarter now. Therefore we have to be more responsible with our health.

If injuries were one of the reasons you didn’t want to sign up with us, we promise you it is a high priority of ours to make sure you feel safe in your gym. If you haven’t come in for your free class yet, here’s one more reason we are the gym for you! We care about your success! CALL us today for your free class, and let’s start achieving your goals now.
Have you or a friend of yours had any bad training experiences where safety was an issue? If so, tell me about what happened. The more I know what people are concerned with, the better I can make my gym.
Coach Alder

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