You have decided to pursue martial arts and are headed into your first Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class. WOW! Can you feel that? The adrenaline? The excitement? The nervousness? Yes, you may experience one or more of these, regardless, Congratulations! What can you expect when you step on the mats for the first month of your Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu journey (BJJ)? That first time on the mats can bring up any multitude of physical and emotional responses. I will try to take some of the anxiety away and share what the first month will be like, based on my experience.
What should you expect from your first month of BJJ?
The first month of BJJ is filled with learning a ton of new things. The flood of new words and unfamiliar concepts can be overwhelming. We have great resources when you are curious. Ask a coach, or browse more of the blog to pick up some extra information.
- New vocabulary and concepts
- A new level of sore
- Relying on strength
- Be clean, not mean
- Respect is king
- Social Network
- Self analysis
What to do Before Class
- Do not show up late
- Shoes and socks removed and placed on rack
- Sign in on iPad if you can not find your name use the sign in sheet next to iPad
- Bow before stepping on/off the mat traditions
- Make room for upper belts when rolling
- Changing rooms and shower are available at the back of the academy
- Bags can be placed on shelves near changing room
- Ask another student for assistance tying belt
- Ask questions when you do not know or understand something
- Line up is based on rank lower belts start closest to desk on east wall
- Gi’s other than white and blue are reserved for purple belts and above
- If you leave or forget something there is a lost and found
What to do After Class
We encourage students to participate before and after classes to work on techniques with a partner.
- Continue to practice
- Stretching after class
- Shower after class
- Wash gi after each class
- Keep a journal to note details on new techniques
BJJ vocabulary and concepts
You will learn techniques and terms that are unfamiliar and even counter intuitive. Relax, breath, and listen. At the end of class, writing out notes in a Jiu-Jitsu journal will help you retain, review and mentally process all the amazing new things you learn. Journaling techniques assists in your understanding and use of them.
Soreness from BJJ
I promise, even if you are in great shape, you will be sore. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu uses muscle groups not commonly used in standard fitness regimes. Soreness is to be expected. You are using larger groups of muscle every time you train. Stretching after class lessens the intensity and duration of your muscle soreness. Pay special attention to your neck, back, shoulders, hips, knees and legs.
Your core will get one of the best workouts you’ve ever felt. Your core is continually used throughout much of Jiu-Jitsu. Use ice packs to alleviate muscle pain with acetaminophen, ibuprofen or Aleve. Consider other muscle relief agents such as Tiger Balm, Icy/Hot and CBD’s to help combat muscle fatigue and soreness.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your partners and coaches about any injuries or strains. Your training partners will be happy to help keep you healthy, but they can’t take extra precautions if you don’t let them know what is going on.
Using Too Much Strength
When you first start practicing BJJ, you will depend upon your strength and power more than the techniques. Fight the urge, and focus on doing the techniques without muscling them. When you’re using a lot of strength you will gas out quickly. Try to relax, and focus on breathing. Jiu-Jitsu will be exhausting in itself. Even if you’re in great condition it will be anaerobically draining. By dedicating your energy to applying the techniques correctly, you will learn to control your opponent while using very little energy. That is the beauty of Jiu-Jitsu.
Be Clean not Mean: Hygiene in BJJ
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a dynamic martial art. In other words, you will be working directly with partners in very close quarters. You will get hot. You will sweat. Be mindful, and keep superb hygiene. What does good hygiene for BJJ look like?
- Shower beforehand if you have a physical job.
- Use deodorant and mouthwash before training
- Wash your gi after every class! BJJ is hard physical work and it can be no fun rolling when a gi smells like body odor and germs. Your gi is made of cotton so be conservative with the bleach as it can break down the fabric very quickly. Persil detergent is great for athletic clothing. Consider getting an additional gi or two if you are planning on coming more than 3 days a week.
- Trim and maintain your finger and toenails. Human nails can harbor dirt and germs. Keeping your finger and toe nails neatly trimmed will aid in the prevention of spreading germs. And nobody likes getting scratched.
- Remove jewelry, necklaces, rings including body piercings, plugs and ear rings. These thing can catch on gi’s and be easily torn off due to the nature of grappling.
Respect in BJJ
While BJJ is generally a laid back martial art. respect is still an important aspect in day to day interactions. This respect is shown for yourself, training partners, coaches, professors and the academy. How do you show respect at a BJJ academy?
- Bow on and off the mat to show respect for those who came before you, and the traditions from where we came from.
- ‘Use the ‘fist bump’ to initiate training sessions, and to show respect for training partners before and after training.
- Cleaning up after yourself and using the proper trash and recycling receptacles to discard tape, bandages and bottles. This helps keep the academy looking good.
- Show respect for black belts by addressing them as professor whether they are from your academy or not. All instructors who are not black belts are addressed as “Coach”.
The BJJ Social Network
BJJ academies are a close knit group and are often welcoming to new students. Due to the intense hard work we do together, you will develop bonds and friendships which will transcend the mats.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu constantly tests your resolve and your commitment. You will question many aspects of your character and abilities throughout you martial arts journey. Relax. Breath. This is perfectly normal, and to be expected.
You learn through failure the fastest, so let go of any preconceived notions of winning and losing. Focus on the fun. Everything will fall into place as you become more proficient. BJJ is a marathon, not a sprint. Do not expect huge leaps. Improving in BJJ just means continuing to show up and doing the work.
At the front of the academy you’ll find a recycle bin. Put your ego in there.
Hard work is not as difficult when we put our expectations and ego aside. BJJ is fun. Good, hard fun with huge life benefits. Keep that in mind.
Keeping a journal is a great idea. Cat got your tongue? Write down the words used to describe a technique. Write down flow charts of moves which chain together well. Express your feeling, challenges and successes. All of these are great ideas of what may be in your journal. BJJ is mental as much as it is physical. Write, read, repeat. Journaling can help you break down techniques and reinforce your absorption of the technique. Journaling can also give you insight to your own attitude on a specific day or roll.
The BJJ Journey
There is no single path in Jiu-Jitsu You’ll find some moves are easier than others. You will discover opportunities and challenges based on your own physical attributes as you progress. Jiu jitsu’s path is very personal, and it is as unique as you are. As you train and build your own unique BJJ language, you will discover little nuances and chains of techniques which you gravitate toward that become your own. Welcome to one of life’s great journeys in self discovery.
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