Averi Clements


Picture this: You get a DM from a white belt woman on Instagram. She introduces herself, says that she’s trying to be more involved in the online BJJ community, and has found inspiration in your posts. It’s a little forward, maybe, but hey, who are you to discourage someone from pursuing friendships in the jiu-jitsu world? 

When you first start jiu-jitsu, every little win feels like a big victory. So, feeling lost and having everyone dominate you on the mats makes moments like passing someone’s guard or landing an almost-submission on an upper belt (even if they were letting you work) feel like monumental achievements. And to be fair, they are tremendous achievements. These moments are markers of your progress, and even though they may look like “just” a sweep or “just” a takedown, they’re the result of the culmination of time, effort, and knowledge that you’ve accumulated over the weeks or months that you’ve been training.

We hear it all the time: “‘No’ is a complete sentence.” In other words, if you don’t want to do something, you don’t need to explain why or defend your decision — simply declining is enough. The premise helps set boundaries in our personal and professional lives, but for some reason, many of us struggle to apply it to life on the mats.

One of the most commonly used phrases in jiu-jitsu is, “Leave your ego at the door.” You don’t need to spend a ton of time on the mats to understand why, either. An overabundance of ego can lead to injuries from refusing to tap. At a minimum, it can lead to intense feelings of discouragement when you don’t achieve the results you want in the gym or at competitions. 

Over the weekend, Elisabeth Clay took home double gold at the 2021 IBJJF No-Gi Pans Championship. First submitting Bridget McEliece to win gold at medium-heavyweight, Clay then moved on to the absolute division and submitted all of her opponents on the way to the finals. She finally won by armbar against Kendall Reusing to win open weight gold, marking her sixth submission in as many matches for the day.

No matter how much you love BJJ, having the occasional “bad” jiu-jitsu class is inevitable. Sometimes, you might feel like it was a bad training session because everyone tapped you, and you tapped no one. Other times, you may have felt like it was impossible to understand the technique being taught like you were a day-one white belt all over again who didn’t know an armbar from a kimura. Maybe you suffered ten minor injuries — just enough to throw you off and make you cranky — or one big injury that will keep you off the mats for a few months. Perhaps you can’t pinpoint what went wrong, and it just felt like you weren’t performing at your best.

Some people sign up for BJJ because they were wrestling or judo champions in high school and want to continue their combat sports careers into adulthood. Others have no martial arts experience at all but are athletic and competitive enough to feel comfortably challenged right from their first class. These people tend to fit right in with the other students, happy to partner up with anyone who looks in their direction and at ease with the idea that they’ll get better eventually, even if they’re struggling at the beginning.