Jiu-Jitsu Traditions

In Jiu-Jitsu, we have a few traditions that we do to show respect to our instructors, our partners, our opponents, and our founders. We call ourselves jiu-jiteiros, by the way. Something antiquated that most schools no longer do is hang a picture up of Helio Gracie, who founded the sport as we know it today with his brotReher. Rather, he popularized the form that we know and laid down the ground for the sport to grow as it has. Students will bow to his portrait, then their instructor, before a class. They must bow before they enter and exit the mat, too.

I find that this hanging up of the portrait is done only in Gracie Barra schools, though. Others, Americans that start their own schools, usually do not honor the Brazilian like this because they’ve evolved their own system or whatever. I’m not sure what the deal really is, but it feels old to me. They do all the other stuff, though, maybe except for bowing before they get on and off the mat. That varies, depending on the school.

We shake hands or bow before we roll, which is our term for sparring. I’m from the South, and we would only slap hands before, but this West Coast thing is to slap and then fist bump. I would sometimes also clasp both my hands around theirs, which is a very Asian thing to do. One more handshake we do is clasping each other’s wrists, which is supposedly how the Spartans greeted each other. I guess that invokes some sort of warrior spirit. Anyway, I don’t know how common that is.

Finally, we all bow to our sensei at the end of class and everyone shakes hands with everyone. Jiu-jitsu is all about respect – of yourself and of others.


My reaction:

In soccer, we high-five after the games as a sign of respect, so I can understand these traditions.