Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu 101

You thought about trying Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for a while and final you made the commitment.  You walked into a gym, spoke with someone that signed you up, they gave you an over-sized gi and scheduled your first introductory class.  Congratulations, you have just taken your first step into a much larger world!  Just like Luke Skywalker beginning his Jedi training you will find that everything is new and a little weird.  

If you start training at a quality BJJ school you won’t grapple with anyone for several weeks.  The first several weeks you should be getting acquainted with the positions and some basic techniques like shrimping (shrimping ain’t easy), the guard, mount, side control… and a few attacks from each position. Techniques have weird sounding names and how you lay on the ground has a name too.  It’s hard enough remembering all the names, how will you ever remember where to put your hands and feet?  You may even be thinking, moving on the ground looked so easy when I watched it on YouTube!  But in reality moving smoothly on the ground isn’t natural; it takes practice and it’s harder than most people think. Well don’t worry my young apprentice everyone feels awkward in the beginning, in time it will feel natural to you.

Here’s my advice to get the most enjoyment from BJJ starting from day one; SLOW DOWN AND RELAX!  You’re not grappling with anyone; you’re just practicing some techniques with a willing partner.  Over my many years of teaching I have noticed that many people try to impress their instructor by demonstrating their athletic ability. Or people mistakenly think they should be practicing the technique at full speed.  Consequently, they perform the techniques hard and fast which highlights how little of the technique they understand.  Trust me when I tell you, your instructor knows you are a beginner, that’s why he gave you a white belt.

To get the greatest benefit from training, practice all the techniques the instructor shows you with 25% of your energy.  That’s right!  It’s not a typo, 25% of your energy.  By using less energy you will “feel” more of the technique in your muscles and your brain will work better under less stress. The combination of using less energy under less stress helps you retain more physically and mentally.  Notwithstanding, when you go to your next class you will not have to re-learn a technique.  Instead you will be able to concentrate on improving the subtleties of the technique already learned and advance quicker.

Learning BJJ is a wonderful and exciting journey that can last a lifetime.  It typically takes from 8 to 12 years to become a black belt (full Jedi).  So there is no reason to try sprinting right out of the gate.  Slow down, have fun, relax and enjoy the journey.

I’ll see you on the mat!


Wayne Spinola is an instructor at Open Guard Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Kickboxing.

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