Yes, you probably do. But convincing them is not always easy.
I was a hard sell myself. My coworkers had found a place in the late 90s, and enthusiastically told me I needed to train. But it was eight years later that I finally gave in. Why did it take me so long? I understood BJJ as fighting, and was totally confident that I didn’t need it. Honestly, most men go through their entire lives with this false sense of security. And there is nothing wrong with that. BJJ is not for everyone, and fighting should be avoided anyway. But I’m glad to have been convinced. There were many steps on the way, but actually getting on the mats with serious players is what hooked me.
It’s worth asking how our friends learned about BJJ. My generation clearly remembered the shock of watching UFC 1. After the fourth tournament, we had to recalibrate everything we thought we knew about fighting. Striking could actually lose to grappling, pressure points don’t work, and you can actually win fighting off your back. The rules were eventually changed to make MMA both safer and more exciting, but BJJ had more than proven its effectiveness. I didn’t realize that time had passed until I met a young man at a bar who thought Forrest Griffin was in UFC 1. Now, we encounter our next hurdle.
Our friend needs to know that nobody will intentionally hurt them.
At first, I chose not to join my coworkers because I worked with my body. If I got hurt, nobody would pay my bills. Later, my coworkers quit when they started getting their ankles twisted. I felt confident that I had made the correct decision to avoid training. Years later, I learned how important it is to be in a place with good instruction and careful training partners. We all know that nobody will train with us if we hurt everyone. People on the outside don’t know that. However, they do see what we say and post on social media. As a community, we should avoid whining about minor injuries. To us, a minor sprain is usually a joke. Outsiders imagine that we’re mindlessly wrecking our bodies. Many people actually don’t know that most of us don’t want to take MMA fights. Everyone should Train For Sustainability and get better in the long term.
Also, we all know that politics, race, and religion don’t matter on the mats. Nobody should ever feel unwelcome because of these things, period.
Understand how they see themselves.
As I’m writing this, a young man came into the gym with his friends. He went out of his way to share two or three stories about kicking ass. I get this a lot, thankfully everyone who tells me these stories always wins. Often these heroes knock out several people, disarm guns and knives, and get the girl. Guys like this want us to know that nobody messes with them. I also meet several equally confident dudes who are proud to always have a gun on them. Arguing with either of these types is pointless. Both obviously know they can’t fight, and hope that threatening talk will stop them from being tested.
A better candidate is a secure individual who is confident in his/her ability to learn. If our friend has learned a musical instrument, mastered a trade, or played chess; they know how to learn. Casual know it alls are more difficult. We all love to show nonbelievers good Jiu Jitsu, but getting them in the door can be delicate because of ego. If they really doubted us, why would they be so hesitant to come in?
Catch them when they’re looking for something to do.
What surprised me the most about bjj? Everyone was relaxed and having fun. This is a sharp contrast to the early ideas of MMA training. I was honestly expecting a crazy effort like I remembered from high school sports. Instead, it was an everyday workout and an in depth education. Getting in shape first was a tremendous waste of my time. We train like this for years, and enjoy it.
Our friend needs to be in a place to attend at least one class (two hours) per week. More is better, but everyone has different needs. Many of our friends waste time on tv, video games, drinking, or other dead end activities. These are all fine in moderation, but an environment where other adults are working to improve themselves will bring more positive results for anyone. Try to find a time when they are ready to make steps towards a better life.
Encourage your friend to train, even if it means sending them to a rival gym.
Bring your friend to a class so they can see what it’s about. But if they have to drive 45 minutes or more, I will personally recommend trying a gym closer to home. We all want our friends to visit when the time works out. However, training has to fit in our schedules for the long term. Sometimes a nearby rival is a better fit, and that’s good too. They will still be our friends who train.