Background information:

I will start university in September and I want to continue practicing martial arts. I've been doing shotokan karate for 8 years now and I have a black belt exam in December. At the university there is no karate club but there are other martial arts clubs and I've decided to start japanese jiu-jitsu. I'll be studying abroad so going to other clubs than the university's is not an option because I don't speak the language and even though most people there speak English I don't want to put pressure on the instructor and his students plus I want to experience and train in a new art and expand my techniques and knowledge.

I want to know how I should behave at first when joining the club, if there is any etiquette to be followed (I've never changed clubs), if I should tell them that I've been doing karate (I don't want them to think that I'm boasting about it).

I excuse myself if this is too long or there are too many questions stuffed in here.

  • 1
    These are questions for the coaches at the gym. Every gym is different. Don't overthink it, and have some fun.
    – coinbird
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 13:40
  • 3
    Within 10 minutes, they'll know you have experience in a prior art. If you've learned anything it will show in your body.
    – MCW
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 14:05
  • Thanks guys . It is just that I've never changed clubs plus it is a new martial art that I have no experience with that makes me a bit unsure.
    – Fel31
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 18:10

5 Answers 5


There is a famous zen story, one of the variation is this…

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

This is how you should approach learning a new art: with an empty and open mind.

There are many different splits within Jujutsu: For example, Daito-ryu Aiki jujutsu is a flavour of jujutsu but has nothing to do with the Gracie clan system of jujutsu. Jujutsu is like Kung Fu, there is a lot of it. Whichever flavour of Jujutsu (see above…) you practice will have differences, similarities, and contradictions to karate. Just accept it all and learn.

There is nothing etiquette-wise beyond the usual of being polite and open-minded to what is being taught. As for whether to tell them you have been studying karate, if they are any good they will notice and ask. In any case, it serves nothing to hide it.

Finally, a letter of recommendation (or email or phone call or …) is sometimes written from your old teacher to your new one. This might happen within the same style (or with the same parent organisation) but is rarely (if ever) used between organisations. I would not bothered with such recommendation.

  • Very good answer. Just that, by "flavour" you mean one of the modern day schools (found this on Wikipedia) that are found today?
    – Fel31
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 8:14

When I was studying Tae Kwon Do -- if you want to be ultra polite... Explain the situation to your current instructor and if possible get permission and a reference letter.

Even if you don't talk to your current instructor..

Approach the new school very carefully. Perhaps calling first and explaining your situation. Some old schools used to mind, most don't today.


I have been in a similar situation, and though I expect them to ask about your background, I would definitely mention it to the teacher at the earliest opportunity.

The main advantage of sharing, is that you may get tailored advice/training if the teacher is familiar with people who come from a similar background.

The main risk of not sharing your experience is that people see some capabilities and extrapolate from that. For instance, when they see you are good at one thing, they may expect you to be good at other things as well.

Real life example:

  1. Start with kicks punches, etc.: deliver comparatively high performance
  2. Make groups roughly based on performance
  3. Practice throws, grips, ...

Naturally, you should not overthink this, but if your recognize such a situation please speak out to make sure you get the proper fundamentals and learning curve.

  • 1
    By extrapolate you mean that if I do not tell about my background they'll expect others that are not trained in a martial art to perform in the same range as me, as they consider me a normal individual with no previous training whatsoever?
    – Fel31
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 17:23
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    @fel31 Considering the example, I think it is rather that they could see your good kicking and striking, assuming a big deal of experience in general, which could lead to confusion when it's coming to ground work and grappling against experienced guys, where you probably are more or less a complete beginner. Misjudgements like that could actually even lead to injuries. Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 23:03

Most likely your instructor and training partners (when you are new) will ask if you have any prior martial arts experience. I would offer it when asked, but two years from now, you don't want to be the guy who won't stop talking about how "in karate, we...".

-an assistant instructor w/ 12 years' experience


It's quite easy.

Go to the open training time, be early.
Ask the trainer, sifu etc., if you may join.

They will ask back if you have some experience.
Tell them what is. They should know. Just don't brag.

As a sign of respect, take a white belt to the training.
They may offer you to wear your old black belt as a sign of respect. Stick to white.

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