Beginner BJJ – avoiding the pitfalls and getting the best start to Brazillian Jui Jitsu
So congratulations on Finding Brazilian Jiu Jitsu 🙂
It has been proven time and again to be one of the most effective martial arts or styles of self defense out there.
All the most effective martial arts out there eg. Boxing, Muay Thai, Wrestling and BJJ unsuprisingly follow similar training methods.
The student is gradually educated in the technical and tactical aspects of their discipline but then, and this is important, what they are thought is implemented on a fully resisting partner/opponent. If it doesn’t work its binned and so there is no room for inefficency or more importantly, being lured into a false sense of reality.
What further sets Brazilian Jiu Jitsu apart is that it a grappling art ie. no striking. This may sound unusual at first, but as everybody is free to ‘tapout’, grappling allows us to train at very close to 100% with very few injuries. Plus, I don’t like getting punched in the face too much 🙂
BJJ obviously will give you an improved psysique but, perhaps more important, is the long term mental stimulation from the sometimes baffling technical depths of the sport. Trust me, you won’t be getting bored anytime soon and its nice to learn something new every single day, which gladly I do.
Okie Doke! You’ve made the plunge and are ready for your 1st class of BJJ 🙂 No need to be nervous/anxious etc, this is the start of a new adventure in your life and should be thoroughly enjoyed! A few things that will make sure you don’t have a false start;
Visit the club prior to your 1st class, make sure you know how to get there and familiarize yourself with your new surroundings, your gona be here a lot! This will take some of the pressures and uncertainties away and let you just concentrate on the BJJ during your 1st proper class, always a good thing. Likewise, turning up 10 or 15 minutes early for your first class is also a big help…
Hygiene is always a big factor so make sure you are clean and all toe and fingernails are clipped for everybody’s safety.
You should only need to bring a bottle of water with you as most clubs will have spare equipment for newbies.
If not, check out www.subonlygis.com for some equipment.
The usual structure of a BJJ class will be a general warm-up, followed by technical instruction and practise of that technique, and finally resistance training/rolling.
Although it is very tempting, I would suggest that newbies DO NOT spar/roll for the first few weeks at least. This gives them a chance to at least have some idea of what they should be doing from each position rather than picking up bad habits which will have to be unlearnt down the road. Also this makes it less likely that you will get injured and it can be a little overwhelming if you’ve never grappled before so easing in gradually is always a good idea.
Banned moves! Most are obvious but you would be surprised how often someone new tries to do these…
Striking of any kind.
Spitting or cursing.
Attacking the face e.g. eye gouging.
Attacking the groin in anyway 😕 Never nice
Attacking the spine. This can be done in many ways, often neck cranks like this one.
Attacking the knee, mainly heel hooks 🙁 way too dangerous and cause serious long term injuries…
During your first encounters its also a very good idea to evaluate the school and general atmosphere there. Your will be spending a lot of time here and with these people so you want to make sure its a place that you feel comfortable. Jiu Jitsu brings together people from all walks of life, generally trying to improve themselves and with a common purpose so most likely you will fit right in. Quiet unlikely, but if there is a bad atmosphere in the school just find another one before you are too invested in that academy and find it emotionally difficult to move on…
Finally, make sure you go back for your 2nd class of BJJ, sooner rather than later! Some people hold off because of a little muscle soreness etc, don’t wait and get straight back in there….
First Few Weeks
Tap and Learn! It doesn’t have to only be tap, snap or nap. Initially nearly everybody you roll with will have more experience than you and most likely will be able to submit you. You can get angry, which too many people do, and not learn anything or you can identify this as an opportunity to learn. Jiu Jitsu isn’t easy but that’s all part of the challenge. Learn from your mistake, think about and research the solutions, and improve! Rather than just getting angry and making no progress…
There are no silver bullets or shortcuts but these few tips will help speed up the learning process and help keep you on the right path.
Make sure you gain a good grasp of all the main positions and from each of these, what is your go to move? This will help you be more efficient and avoid hesitation and other bad habits. Of course you can just goof around in the positions every now and again but when your rolling hard you want to have some bread and butter moves from each position. Initially one is enough, but as you gain more knowledge these will develop into combinations and a surprising amount of depth, especially in your favourite positions. Develop multiple setups for your core moves and then of course plenty of follow-ups depending on his reactions.
Just practising particular techniques on one side, e.g. chokes etc. is a good way of optimizing your time as advocated by Marcello Garcia and others. Once your effective on one side then you can easily add in the other.
The fundamental movements of BJJ will start to become ingrained in your muscle memory, these are often practised without resistance at the start of class so make sure you use this opportunity to pay attention to the finer details as this is what makes Jiu Jitsu tick. The beauty is in the detail and often referred to as invisible jiu jitsu. Likewise when you get a chance to practise technique during class, make sure to always do it 100%. When there is no resistance, we can get lazy and cut a few corners but this is a really bad habit which will catch up with you during sparring.
Drilling can be very beneficial especially when new movements are introduced. The repetition will help speed up your adaptation to the new stimulus and strengthen your brain pathways in relation to this technique, making it easier to apply.
Protect your hands. Too often I see people break or dislocate fingers, myself included. Mostly this is due to holding on too long when somebody is breaking your grip, if your gona lose the grip just let go, while their preoccupied with breaking it, and counter grip elsewhere. Your hands will thank you for it 🙂
A diary can be very helpful during this phase. I never kept a journal before BJJ but it is a great way to make sure you understand and absorb what your being thought.
Be Patient. There is a huge amount of depth to BJJ so it’s gona take a while to learn but even just reading this is a strong indicator that your on the right path. Invest in yourself and make sure that you are responsible for your development. A good teacher is a great resource but they have a lot of people to keep in mind so make sure that you hold yourself personally responsible for how far you go on your jitty jitty journey.
Once you have got past the first few months I’m sure you have a good hang of things by now. Regardless, these next few tips should help your long term success…
Belt chasing. Don’t do it! Just enjoy the journey and remember why you started training in the first place, fixating on a particular belt will distract you from what’s really important. Many people get obsessed with earning their blue belt, for example, and then when they get it they just stop training. Job Done. I don’t think so, mate. The belts are just milestones on your lifelong journey in Jiu Jitsu and are far from the be all and end all of this beautiful art.
Could you learn faster? I think this is something we could all re-evaluate. Once you have some of the basic building blocks you can really start to take control of your BJJ. Start to build your A game. It can take a while to find the moves best suited to your body type but don’t worry if you have multiple A games over time, they will all complement each other. When competing or rolling with people more experienced that yourself, use your A game. For people less experienced than yourself, try implement new areas that you hope to incorporate into your A game or if you have more experience again perhaps work on your B or C game or even position and submission escapes. Just submitting the new guy with your favourite submissions over and over again, might be good for your ego, but ain’t gona help either of you develop optimally.
Of course evaluate how your game is developing and try out new moves with no resistance to understand how they work, then gradually build up the speed and get some reps in before trying it out in rolling against the less experienced grapplers and finally try it out against those guys that give you a lot of trouble in the gym and see how it goes….
Compete! This is often overlooked by white belts in particular. Although it’s only a part of the BJJ lifestyle, it really does help focus your training and pressure test your game. It’s a great opportunity to encounter different styles and outlooks on BJJ and learn accordingly. The white belt sections are the largest and hence you can get the most matches and experience which is a great foundation to have.
Strategy. With time, the movements of BJJ should become second nature and no longer will you have to think about the technique while rolling e.g. left hand grabs here etc. This will allow you to concentrate on the tactics and strategies, opening up the next stages of your development. Enjoy!
Longevity. Unfortunately hard training will eventually catch up on you if you don’t take care of your body. With most things we don’t fix it unless its broken, which is where I find myself now. But prevention is always best so make sure to take care of yourself. Eat a clean diet, stretch regularly and stay on top of your mobility. A bit of supplementary strength training can help strengthen tendons and the surrounding muscles, also helping to avoid injuries.
Travel. As you progress make sure to take advantage of any chances you get to train with different people. If away on vacation, bring a gi. Or better yet, go on vacation just to train 🙂 Travel to other gyms on occasion to roll with their top guys and experience different strategies, body types and personalities.
Lastly, make sure to stay happy in your training. If you push too hard, or become fixated on medals or belts, it can quickly lead to burnout and the end of your journey in BJJ 🙁 never a good thing. Remember it’s a marathon not a sprint!
Far Far too many to mention, but here’s a few…
- Weight loss
- Realistic self defence
- Lifestyle makeover
- Stress relief
- Motivation and Purpose
- Positive outlook
- Comrades/strong friendships
- Spatial awareness
- Long term mental stimulation
- Self control/deal with reality
- Think clearly/ability to seize opportunities
- Learn how to learn/progress/advance
- Different perspective/think outside the box
- Good routine
- You can train anywhere in the world
P.S If you have any questions or feedback, be sure to let us know in the comments section below.
See you on the mats ! !