being late to class

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The other day I was going to judo and I got stuck in traffic. I was twenty minutes late and inside I was appalled – there is no worse feeling than being late to class. One part of me would rather go to the movies than walk into the dojo late but the other part of me knows a little training is better than no training. 

As I was coming in, another student was behind me and he said, “you’re actually going to go in?” and when I said yes, and he said “I was just thinking about just going back home.” I said, “You’re out of your mind. For sure Sensei wants to see us. For sure Sensei believes that a little bit of Judo is better than none at all.”

jumping-jacks-BBJJI knew I was late, and I knew that I ran the risk of making Sensei mad, but I was prepared to take my medicine in that way. My lateness was my responsibility and I didn’t want to displace it, but I also didn’t want to wallow in it.

My intention in a situation like that is to make up for a shortcoming with my effort on the mat, to do more to make the class better as a way to compensate.

In the old days, when you were late to class you were asked to leave the floor. It was a sort of punishment – the lesson you were to take away was not to be late again. Pain like that can be a powerful motivator, but if you’re a mother with three kids and you’re just barely able to make time for yourself and the time you are making is to come to class, to us that’s also pretty powerful.

Some of you are doctors showing up after a surgery or police officers coming in after a double tour. If you’re asked to leave after a sincere effort to show up, it’s understandable that the lesson you might accidentally take away instead is that it’s just not worth your effort.

We can appreciate the traffic situations in Brooklyn and how hectic life is. But if you’re late to class in a martial arts dojo you’re still late, so here is the updated suggestion for the modern classroom – act like you’re late. Don’t act like you’re on time.

Hustle. Express through your physical communication that you’re excited to be here and just put the rest aside.

Try to remember that if you saunter in, take your time getting changed or miss the warmup, it’s an insult to the instructor and the other students. It’s one way some people manipulate the classroom, hold the class hostage. They make the group subservient to their own personal issues, which is not appropriate.

On the other hand, we’re also not advocating that you rush into class. I began by sharing that I was in traffic on the way to judo, but I didn’t say I ran red lights or pushed people out of the way to get there.

This is an important point for everyone because a lot of times in that rush is when problems occur. We overcompensate, we get injured, we cause accidents. We don’t want that, either – so the remedy is finding the middle ground. Be on time, but if you’re late, don’t make it worse by becoming a nuisance.

Just be present on the mat and take your time. The class isn’t going anywhere. You’re not missing a thing. We’re happy to see you when you arrive. We all believe that a little bit of training is better than none at all.


For more about the larger project of cooperative Jiu-Jitsu and martial arts training, visit the Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (Brooklyn BJJ) website here .

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One Comment

  1. Gordon Henderson

    This is such a great post. I have three amazing children and an awesome wife and making time for training can be tough. I work in Jersey City and as a result it is an hour to get to any of the classes after work. I would rather make it home for bedtime and dinner than go to a late night class and as a result I unfortunately I frequently miss the warm up. Seeing this type of support means a lot to me, and I am sure, a number of other individuals. Thank you! Oss!!!

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