How to Deal with a Mat Bully in BJJ

Every gym has one at some point. That guy that has no chill, the one who treats every match like it’s the ADCC finals – the one who causes injuries, and no one wants to roll with.

Well, the timer has rung and everyone partnered up before you, and it’s just you and him.

Do you roll with him?

Or do you sit this one out?


Etiquette will vary from place to place. A lot of people wonder: can I sit out a match because I don’t want to roll with someone?

Answer: YES. Always yes.

Your safety is paramount. There is nothing to be gained from a tough guy act – that will only end up with you spiked on your head and nursing neck pain for the next month. If you don’t feel safe rolling with someone, you are under no obligation to do so.

Now, that said, some instructors won’t understand until you explain why. So, if you need to have that conversation, have that conversation before or after class, and they can tell you how to proceed.

I’m only a white belt! I don’t want to cause trouble!

Sure, okay, it’s not ideal when you’re new to call out an upper belt as being rough. But if you roll with everyone else no problem, it’s likely that it’s not just you being weak. If it’s a problem with one person specifically, talk to your coach discreetly, or ask the other upper belts directly.

It’s a simple solution, but you have to resist the temptation to try to “tough it out” or handle it on your own. Your coach should always want to know what’s going on, and a candid conversation may go a long way.

I’m a brown belt. I feel like I should be able to handle this on my own.

Check out the Chewjitsu video above for some experienced advice. I’d still say talk to your coach and come up with something that works for everyone. But, at the end of the day, overly aggressive people aren’t good training partners. If they’re dangerous for you to roll with, they’re extremely dangerous to the newer guys, who might be turned off from BJJ entirely.

Long story short: talk to your coach, have a conversation, and try to use your words before crushing someone. Mat bullies have a negative impact on everyone around them.

Rachel Dows

Rachel is a 20-something year old writer and martial arts enthusiast. She works at a desk job all day to afford to be able to spend the majority of her free time at the gym, where she is a blue belt in BJJ. She also sometimes goes outside to run, hike, and enjoy living in small town USA.

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