by: The Geeza

Two years ago I was sent a funny email that listed the different types of behaviour you encounter on the mats. The inventory included chatters, farters, sandbaggers, bullies and old goats, and was an almost endless register of the crass conduct you might come across. While it was hilarious, it was not that useful. This email is less amusing, but aims to be more useful. It describes the 4 kinds of people that will cause you huge problems on the mats if you do not handle them correctly. This email also illustrates 3 other personality types that you will definitely encounter. It details some tactics for how to handle each of the 7 behaviour styles and how to get the best out of people to accelerate your BJJ training process.

There are four key personality traits that can cause trouble on the mat. Below I have ranked them in order of their potential to cause problems for you. A BJJ player can have any combination of these traits to a greater or lesser degree in the make up of their personality.

1. Mr. Psycho - is anti-social, psychopathic, egotistical, ruthless, vengeful and dangerous.
2. Mr. Me-Me - is in love with himself and seeks power and admiration.
3. Mr. FlipFlop - is unstable and impulsive and he creates disasters
4. Mr. Emotion - can never get enough attention and will do anything to get it.

There are 3 other personality types that are much less dangerous, but need specific handling.

5. Mr. Victim - is helpless and submissive.
6. Mr. Perfect - likes to be in control.
7. Mr Shame - fears rejection and disappointment.

Mr. Psycho – is anti-social, psychopathic, egotistical and ruthless.

About 1% of people are psychopaths. I estimate that amongst BJJ players about 10% of people are psychopaths and in MMA my guess is around 50%. Mr. Psycho has no conscience. He has no regard for laws, rules, norms, rights and the interests of others. In general, Mr. Psycho is easily bored and is drawn to exciting and risky activities such as extreme sports, drug abuse and provocative behaviour. He is dishonest and untrustworthy. However, he is a master of seduction and knows how to persuade others that his intentions are honourable. This last fact makes him the most dangerous type of person you can meet in competition or in training because he will mess you up and then talk his way out of it. His creed is to hit you before you hit him. He is impulsive, reckless, fearless, and lacking in empathy. He is incapable of putting himself in another’s shoes. However, he is extremely good at pin-pointing and exploiting other people’s weaknesses. Punishing him does not lead to repentance as he feels little regret or shame. When confronted about his behaviour, Mr. Psycho reacts aggressively or turns on the charm. If you are an honest, decent, simple training partner, Mr. Psycho is your worst nightmare. But at least he is easily recognised; his reputation always precedes him.

How to handle Mr. Psycho on the mat

Mr. Psycho seeks revenge. If he thinks you have wronged him, he will do whatever he can to get you back. Be careful to ensure that you give him plenty of time to tap and make sure that you tap early when he catches you in a submission. Insist upon rigid discipline on the mat – do not EVER allow him to do anything that is against the letter and spirit of the rules. Directly confront him when he breaks the rules or does inappropriate things. Bitching about him behind his back will have ZERO effect; get in his face. Mr. Psycho will always try to get away with infractions, but tackle denial and manipulation immediately. Do not trust him. He will attempt to over-come your initial mistrust with generosity and geniality, but do not be fooled. Do not allow him to distort your own values and drag you down to his level. Do not accept any favours from him as this will be used against you later. Use Mr. Psycho mainly to practice your defence. Ask Mr. Psycho to highlight other player’s weaknesses to you and ask him to teach you how to attack. Finally, remember that Mr. Psycho is largely unaware that he IS the way he is.

Mr. Me-Me – is in love with himself and seeks power and admiration

The words most closely associated with this type of person are vanity, arrogance, pride and conceit. Their fantasy is to be noticed and admired. They are preoccupied with appearance, success and power. Mr. Me-Me tries to make himself stand out and be special by way of what he considers his exceptional talent. However, Mr. Me-Me cannot stand criticism because his vanity and smugness is fragile. Any success he feels is short-lived and transient. Some Mr. Me-Mes free themselves from what they feel is a growing burden of criticism by changing jobs, partners, academies and social scenes frequently. The successful Mr. Me-Me is easiest to spot as he has a position of power and status. An extreme Mr. Me-Me always comes to a sorry end. The mistake they make is that they start to consider themselves invulnerable. (Witness the horrible track record of some great BJJ names in their early MMA matches). In time, they can become bitter and cynical. The attractive outward appearance of Mr. Me-Me hides a restless and distrustful personality. He fears being anonymous. If adoration is withheld, or criticism voiced, Mr. Me-Me suffers a sudden loss of confidence. A key characteristic of Mr. Me-Me is that he cannot or is unwilling to take others into account. Although he may seem charming, in reality he is cold, calculating and distant. In the final analysis, everything revolves around him. His attractiveness can draw you in, even though you know you should know better. Whatever wrongs he commits, Mr. Me-Me finds forgiveness over and over again.

How to handle Mr. Me Me on the mat

Pay him compliments to make him amenable. Flattery does not mean you have to agree with everything he does. But remember - there are good reasons that Mr. Me Me is in love with himself and therefore you can learn a lot from his abilities. Ask his advice. He will be happy to show you his particular interpretation of a certain move – after all he knows, and he wants to show you, that his way is the best way! If you need him to do something for you, present him with a set of alternatives that makes the choice you want inevitable. Put up resistance if Mr. Me Me makes unreasonable demands from you; if you do not, he will lose all respect for you. Stand your ground. Never allow Mr. Me-Me to categorise you as an easily manipulated person. Be prepared for Mr. Me-Me’s mood to swing in your direction once you have stood up to him. Do not make the mistake of thinking that Mr. Me-Me’s wisdom will grow with age; their character traits grow more pronounced with the years. Be aware that Mr. Me-Me never sees himself as part of a problem; fault always lies elsewhere. It is best to go along with this vision when you are attempting to solve a problem that involves Mr. Me-Me. Do not criticize Mr. Me Me, the price he will make you pay is too high and may include injury. If you really need to give him feedback, do it through someone you know that he admires.

Mr. Flip Flop – is unstable and impulsive and he creates disasters

The key word for Mr. Flip Flop is crisis. He is unstable and impulsive, and suffers from extremely rapid mood swings. He can arrive on the mat in a great mood, lose his temper, and leave feeling depressed. This can be confusing for the people around him. He has no trust in other people and he has no trust in himself.
At his core Mr. Flip Flop thinks that the world is evil and dangerous, and that he is vulnerable, powerless and inferior. He craves love and acceptance, but often acts in a way that invites rejection. He thinks in terms of black and white, therefore his relationships with other people are subject to enormous pendulum swings. Mr. Flip Flop generates chaos and disorder. He likes conflict and if there is none, he will generate it. Of all the personality types, he is the most likely to have been the victim of violence in his childhood.

How to handle Mr. Flip Flop

Mr. Flip Flop is volatile and unstable and will keep testing your boundaries. You must maintain clear consistent limits – make it clear at the start of a roll what injuries you have and what submissions are off limits. You may even need to remind Mr. Flip Flop during the roll – for example, he may suddenly do a move that he saw on YouTube and that has popped into his head. Make sure that you never break any of the agreements you make with Mr Flip Flop because he will never forget that you broke that agreement and he will never forgive you. Ask Mr Flip Flop for his ideas on set-ups as he is an expert at setting traps for people. Ask Mr Flip Flop about his defensive strategy and escapes, his distrusting nature allows him to see the traps that others are setting for him well in advance. The good news is that Mr. Flip Flop mellows with age.

Mr. Emotion - can never get enough attention and will do anything to get it

Mr. Emotion cannot get enough attention and to get it he has a theatrical personality. He hates it when he is not the centre of attention. To stay in the spotlight he will use any means at his disposal. His main method is exaggeration – both in dress and in behaviour. He expresses strong emotions and all kinds of emotions to make an impression. He is hypersensitive to rejection. He is as hard as nails and unable to form lasting relationships. Although his emotions may seem phoney, they are being genuinely and intensely felt. His mental world is hazy, sketchy, vague, generalised, impressionistic and unarticulated. He avoids intellectual discussions. For him, just feeling something is enough for action. If he is angry he feels he has the right to express extreme fury and to vent outrage – even over small things. Sometimes he even flings his emotions into battle just to get a reaction from another person. The emotional house-keeping of Mr. Emotion is immature (think of that two year old screaming in the mall!) When he lets loose, he does not consider what the consequences might be. He sees issues in black and white terms and cannot see shades of grey. Mr. Emotion is highly macho. People quickly grow weary of a Mr. Emotion, and therefore, Mr. Emotions tend to seek each other out as they are more forgiving of each other’s lack of control over their emotions. This personality type is often combined with a dose of Mr. Me-Me.

How to handle Mr. Emotion

Mr Emotion is prone to sudden violent outbursts on the mat especially if he thinks he has been wronged. The best thing to do if you upset Mr. Emotion accidentally (such as an unintentional elbow to the face during an escape) is to immediately apologize and repeatedly ask for forgiveness before his emotions escalate. The most important rule for handling Mr. Emotion is to keep your own emotions under control. Do not let his extreme emotions lead you astray. No matter what antics he displays, behave consistently toward him. Keep your expectations low. He can have emotional outbursts over the way you are grappling, missing a turn, rule infractions (however minor), even the way you shake his hand and in countless other situations. Do not worry if one minute he gives you a lot of attention and then the next he hardly seems to notice you, it says nothing about you personally; so adopt an attitude of acceptance toward him. Mr Emotion has a natural tendency to jump from one topic to another and therefore, it will not take long before his emotional outburst resides and something else grabs his attention. So learn to duck and cover. They have exaggerated opinions about other people and therefore, discount anything they say. Be careful not to give them a chance to damage your personal reputation as they are supreme trash-talkers.

And now three much less dangerous personality types you will meet on the mat.

Mr. Victim – is helpless and submissive

Mr Victim considers himself weak, incompetent and incapable. He will make a good first impression on you as he is considerate, flexible and cooperative, and he is a good listener. On the mat, he will show a lack of determination and a reluctance to initiate attacks. Mr Victim wants to be cherished and protected and he hates criticism, but he ends up being dominated and even exploited.

How to handle Mr. Victim

Do not ask too much of Mr. Victim. You will meet strong resistance if you ignore the central fact that Mr. Victim genuinely sees himself as helpless. Ask him for advice on how to heal injuries. Ask for opinions about who to avoid on the mat and how to handle the most dominant grapplers at the academy. Mr Victim is frequently adopted as the instructors pet and therefore is a good source of useful inside information. Never forget that if Mr.Victim trains long enough he will become a black belt.

Mr. Perfect – likes to be in control

Mr Perfect loves neatness, order and perfection. He is rigid. He has the capacity to learn one new technique roughly every six months. But whatever techniques he does know, he will know them better than anyone else so try to get him to share that knowledge. Mr. Perfect pays so much attention to detail that he loses sight of the big picture. He has incredibly high standards for himself and for all those around him.

How to handle Mr. Perfect

Mr. Perfect is stubborn and he needs to do things his way. If he is showing you a technique, he will have good reasons for a doing it in a particular way – it is worth understanding all the detailed points he makes. Mr. Perfect knows all the rules and will follow them meticulously. He expects the same of you too. Mr. Perfect is mean with money and mean with his time so do not expect too much in these arenas. Try not to get bogged down in the details when Mr. Perfect is your training partner. Mr. Perfect can make you feel like you are being sloppy or thoughtless in your technique. Do not let his compulsiveness get to you.

Mr. Shame – fears rejection and disappointment

Mr. Shame fears failure. He is extremely concerned about what other people will think of him and avoids rolling and competing as a result. He has a fear being rejected and fears being made to look a fool. Mr. Shame seeks cover and avoids eye contact. He is scared of being hurt and rejected, but his greatest fear is that he will make a fool of himself.

How to handle Mr. Shame

Mr. Shame rarely ventures outside a small group of training partners, so grab your chance to train with him when it comes up. Mr. Shame rarely if ever competes. But if he does, he is the most likely personality type to get caught in a flying arm bar because that is what he fears the most. Do not throw Mr. Shame in at the deep end; do not go full on during your first few sparring sessions. If you want his particular body-type as one of your regular sparring partners then take it easy on him and do not grapple under the instructors nose; go to the far end of the mats. Do not expect him to come and chat to you – as you will need to initiate all social contact.


Well of course, all this analysis of personality types begs the question of what kind of Mr. am I and what kind of Mr. are you? Well the truth is that when I think about all the time I have spent on the mat, I can see little bits of each of the personality types in my own behaviour at different times and in different situations. But more importantly, I know people who fit exactly into each of the personality types. What about you?

I hope this helps. Stay healthy and enjoy analysing your mat mates.


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