How do I get started in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
Getting started in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is very much a daunting prospect. Even more so if you are out of shape, or lacking in confidence. As you know, there are many benefits to exercise in general and training in martial arts. There are even greater benefits to training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Such as losing weight and learning a new skill which enhances your confidence and well-being. BJJ will enrich your life in more ways than one, sometimes without you even realising it.
Are you keen on getting started in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu? Here are 10 tips to help you with your journey.
Forget about getting in shape before you start Jiu-Jitsu
This is one of the most popular excuses made by people who are apprehensive about getting started in BJJ. Some of this stems from a fear of being manhandled by people who are supposedly in “better shape”. Ridding yourself of this assumption is one of the biggest obstacles to overcome before getting started in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It’s a common misconception that you must be bigger and stronger than your opponent to beat them in the first place! For evidence of this take a look at this match between Mikey Musumeci and Seif Houmine at the IBJJF Europeans.
A good BJJ school will have a structured training schedule for beginners to help them settle into the gym. This will ensure that they can safely build the type of conditioning that BJJ requires without putting students in danger of harming themselves or their teammates. Focusing on learning techniques and their application on a regular basis will yield greater physical rewards than delaying getting started in BJJ to build those guns.
Find a gym that is close to home or work
When you are getting started in BJJ you will almost certainly become addicted (learning new stuff is cool). In addition to this you will be eager to step onto the mats as often as possible. An important factor to consider is to ensure that you can easily get to/from training as frequently as your possible.
Eventually the honeymoon period of starting BJJ wears off. You might become tempted to skip training and stay at home. Especially in the winter when the days are dark and the weather is miserable. You will feel as though you don’t have the energy to make it to class. Selecting a BJJ school that is close to you can remove one reason to convince yourself to stay at home. Here are some tips for finding the best BJJ school in your area.
Watch a class before signing up
Where possible you should always seek a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu school which has at least one black belt instructor. This is not always possible depending on where you live, but it should definitely be your first choice. A black belt from a respectable lineage often indicates that the quality of instruction will meet the required standard. This does not mean that the school would be a good fit for you. Therefore it is always worth dropping in to several BJJ gyms in the area and observe a class; this will help you get a look and feel of the place. It will also give you an opportunity to speak to the instructor and students.
It does not cost a lot to get started in BJJ
There is no way of escaping the fact that BJJ can be an expensive activity. From membership fees to a wardrobe full of the finest gis, all the way through to competing, attending seminars and purchasing instructionals, the costs can get very high very quickly.
However, you should just focus on the basics to begin with. All you need is a clean gi (or t shirt and shorts if training without the gi) and an enthusiasm for learning.
In fact some BJJ schools offer an option to hire a gi; this is a good opportunity before you purchase your own gi to get an idea of your size. Check out my beginners guide to buying a gi. It contains some useful info on what to look for with some recommendations to suit all budgets.
Don’t think about it. Just go!
Everyone you will speak to who takes part in BJJ will tell you the same thing: They wished they started sooner! In addition to this, everyone – from white belt to black belt – all went through the same first day at some point. Most of your teammates will be very welcoming and happy to help you settle in – after all, who doesn’t love the chance to strangle a new person? But don’t let that put you off at all, BJJ is a great way to make friends and meet new people – despite trying to break their arms and legs during class!
Expect to be the “nail”. Embrace it
“The secret of this sport is, while you’re the nail, hang in there, let them hit you, until the day you become the hammer, then you smash them back!” – Renzo Gracie
There is an incredibly steep learning curve when it comes to getting started in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. In fact it usually takes longer to achieve a black belt in BJJ than it would to become a doctor or university professor. Make no mistake, you will feel helpless and get worked over on a daily basis by your more experienced teammates. This happens to everyone, from an overweight 40 year old housewife to a competitive professional fighter from another martial art. You are not alone. This only goes to prove the effectiveness of BJJ, and the achievement of reaching a competent level can be very rewarding.
BJJ is addictive
If you pick the right BJJ school you will find yourself looking forward to your training sessions with a great deal of excitement. You will arrive early to change and warm up for the class (or classes). After this you will go through an hour or several hours of training and stay behind to socialise for a while afterwards. It is hard to beat the combination of hard training, learning new skills, meeting people from all walks of life who share a common goal. You will soon be at the gym 3 or 4 times each week, if not more. It will become your second home.
You will do a LOT of laundry
This is another aspect of getting started in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu which everyone needs to be aware of. Your gi will get soaked with sweat – both yours and from others. Your kit will build up a stink and therefore you must wash it after every training session. There are no exceptions to this rule.
The same applies to rashguard, shorts, and any other clothing. Your BJJ gear will be permanently on rotation on the drying rack or on the back of the exercise bike. As a result the bike will no longer be used because you are too busy going to class. Eventually you will be training 3 or 4 times each week and you will get to a point where you will be doing more BJJ laundry than actual clothes.
You will wake up sore every single day
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu uses different muscle groups than typical exercise so you will be waking up with soreness in places you never knew could be sore. You will get bruises all over your body and every so often you will have a black eye or sprained fingers. You will almost certainly find yourself on first name terms with a physiotherapist. The silver lining to all of this is that you will gain muscle without needing to lift weights and your friends and family will compliment you on your improved physique and confidence.
You will enjoy the journey
In the beginning there will be more bad days than good. But if you are consistent with your training and take care of yourself, you will have a lot of fun along the way simultaneously learning an effective form of martial arts while improving both your mind and body.