Tonight I observed (and semi-participated) in some events which probably happen all the time anywhere in any jiu jitsu academy around the world. But it was the FIRST time for me!
Forgive me for possibly telling too many details, in advance.
I arrived at the academy early because I wanted to do some little things around the place (hanging a corkboard for announcements etc). There were 3 people waiting outside already, early-- a girl and two guys. My instructor arrived at the same time I did and we greeted everyone. She was just watching, one guy brought a gi. White belts. I cleaned the mats and got dressed while my instructor chatted with the guys and got a waiver etc.
One, I'll call Nick, attended last night's class and borrowed a gi, and this was his second day with us. His friend, Dick, seemed kind of cocky, but that's not uncommon. He trained with a local guy mostly nogi, a few years ago, had two fights, pretty ordinary story. While my instructor got dressed and stretched out his back with a foam roller, Nick and Dick rolled a bit to warm up. Dick had a nice gi,so I figured he'd at least done some gi training too.
After Nick and Dick got done with their roll, my instructor invited Dick to roll. Meanwhile, a black belt under the other head instructor came in (I'll call him X) and was getting dressed, and another white belt arrived. So I invited Nick to roll... I explained my neck injury, and he seemed nice enough, and so we rolled a bit. I pulled guard, played nice and mellow, got passed, got back to guard, swept, mounted. While I was mounted on him, he kept pushing with straight arms, so we talked about arm bars a bit. "I'm impossible to arm bar" is I believe a direct quote, which X overheard. X invited Nick to roll next, and I turned to watch my instructor and Dick.
Just in time to see Dick sit back, wrap up a perfect heelhook, and slam himself over bellydown 180 degrees in the nastiest heelhook I've ever seen in real live sparring. My instructor started tapping when Dick's wrist cupped the heel but that didn't stop Dick. I even yelled "No heelhooks!" My instructor was slapping Dick's shin and then the mat really hard as he tried to roll with the sub.
Dick bounded up angrily and yelled that it wasn't a heelhook. Then he backtracked and said something about "but you're a blackbelt." Dick yelled a few other things and was visibly out of control. It was pretty scary. My instructor invited Dick to leave. Dick stormed around gathering his clothes while his girlfriend apologized to us. My instructor was unhurt, but clearly restraining himself, and we all sighed with relief when Dick stomped out.
Nick meanwhile was being armbarred by X, of course. (He wouldn't tap.. and then he yelped.) Afterwards he was very cool about his friend and indicated it wasn't the first time he'd had a blowup. Class was kind of derailed by that emotional energy so we ended up having kind of an open mat/lab/training session instead. But I learned more lessons after class when I had time to process.
Here's what I learned... number one, sometimes you can just tell with your spidey-senses that something weird is up. I felt some kind of suppressed tension in the air and I'm glad it wasn't me rolling with Dick (my instructor felt it too, and in a way threw himself on the grenade.) Listen to those instincts.
Number two, the profound wisdom from my instructor, who said afterwards -- look, when I know you and trust you, I will let you do anything to me, I will get into bad positions, you can tap me as much as you want, it's all about learning. But if I don't trust you to take care of me the way a partner should, then I must take care of myself by not letting you get into a position where you could hurt me. That's a big lesson and fortunately one learned without physical injury. Even a blackbelt, even a whitebelt... yeah. You can't afford to assume that someone has your best interests at heart unless you know a little bit about them. Be safe, don't be sorry.
Number three, I learned that (although I prefer playing top) my safe place with a new person is, surprisingly, guard. That's a big eye-opener for me. I usually view guard as a means to getting on top-- like cake is a delivery device for frosting.
(this picture came from here, which happens to have a seriously bad ass chocolate cake recipe and frosting recipe.)
But I realize that for a little while now I have been approaching new students of all training backgrounds from my guard. It's inoffensive and un-intimidating to a scaredy person... it's non-threatening to a "I train UFC bro" guy... it's not aggro, it's receptive and chill and yet very safe. I felt awesome when I realized that my guard has grown enough to stymie most pass attempts by a young-20-something self-proclaimed "fitness nut" and even when I got passed (which I kind of let happen, truth be told) I was able to escape easily.
Of course I'm not really saying I'm all that-- he's a white belt, I should be able to escape, and I did have to work to sweep him (and I doubt I could've submitted him without a major fight.) But I felt a bit closer to understanding the Helio perspective-- if you can't hurt me, I win.
Thanks for listening. :)