Getting Started : Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

What to know and what to expect from your first BJJ experience

I’ve been training Muay Thai and Boxing for the past 7 or 8 months at Adrenaline MMA in London Ontario Canada. I’d been wanting to give BJJ a try but I thought that learning Muay Thai, Boxing and BJJ at the same time would be too much. Once my fundamentals felt up to par in kickboxing, I started to take some MMA classes. MMA classes included about 20% stand-up and about 80% wrestling and grappling. I’ve never wrestled or grappled before and after a couple of MMA classes of being absolutely destroyed by wrestlers and BJJ guys, I felt the need to take up grappling immediately. I’ve never been in a situation where I felt as helpless as when I was grappling
with these experienced guys and instead of it making me want to quit, it lit a fire in me to get started with BJJ immediately.

My knowledge of BJJ was limited to what I’d watched from MMA — I was aware of basic offensive positions and submissions as well as most of the basic defensive positions but otherwise, I was completely clueless. I’d recommend that you research basic positions before you start your first class. You should know what the guard is, what a guard pass is, mount, turtle etc., this isn’t completely necessary but you’ll at least have an idea of what the instructor is talking about at first.

My first BJJ class actually happened after getting wrecked by a blue belt in MMA class for an hour. There was a BJJ class happening at the gym right afterwards and I grabbed one of the gym’s kimonos and dropped into the class. I’d found a bunch of excuses as to why I should wait to start BJJ for months but after getting destroyed by that blue belt in MMA class, I had no more excuses.

My first class had only 5–6 people in it and nearly all of us were white belts, it was less intimidating because everyone was relatively new. I’ve read online that a lot of schools do not allow you to roll until you’ve had some experience, our gym had me rolling my first day and I’m glad I did. After learning some guard passing and a kimura submission, we did 4 x 5 minute rounds of sparring. I had no idea what I was doing but it allowed me to feel what it’s like to be in good positions and bad ones and how to relax and get comfortable with rolling. I’ve become very used to cardio heavy kickboxing classes and I thought my cardio was great but after a couple of rounds of BJJ I was exhausted. It’s a completely different workout and even if you’re in fantastic shape, you’ll be gassed by the end of 4 rounds.After my first class, I was completely hooked. I ordered a couple of BJJ books and ordered myself a GI and a rashguard and I’ve been going to class roughly 4 times a week ever since.

After about a month and a half of training, I have a few major takeaways that I’d like to share with people who are thinking of starting or have just started :

  1. Just Go. As I was saying before, I made up a bunch of reasons as to why I should wait to start BJJ but now my only regret is not starting sooner. One thing new people to any martial arts tend to forget is that everyone started out not knowing what they were doing, there’s no need to feel dumb for being a beginner — everyone in the gym was new at one time.
  2. Prepare to get beat and learn from it. This wasn’t tough for me because I’d been so humbled in MMA classes by BJJ guys, I knew that I was going to get submitted like crazy in my first few months of training. When I’m put into a new submission or I don’t know something, I ask questions and when other higher level belts offer advice - I’m all ears.
  3. Don’t be afraid to roll with anyone. This can be hard sometimes, there’s white belts that have submitted me 3 or more times in 5 minutes and purple belts who are incredibly strong or heavy that will just drown me for 5 minutes and my instinct will be to try and avoid them and roll with someone “easier” but I have to fight those instincts and you should too. I will now roll with anyone who wants to, regardless to belt or size because I find that when I put myself in those situations, I always come away from the experience having learnt a lot.
  4. Don’t worry about belt progress or other people’s progress. Before I started, I was very curious as to how quickly you earn stripes or how long it takes to get a blue belt or purple belt. Now that I’ve actually been rolling for a bit — the idea of belts or stripes has basically not crossed my mind. It doesn’t matter and shouldn’t be a priority — go to class, learn and have fun. If other people are getting stripes faster than you, there’s a probably a good reason for it and just worry about getting better and worry about your own journey.
  5. There’s a ton of information out there, use it. I would caution new people to learn things that are at their level. I personally stick to basic escapes, defensive sequences, basic submission setups etc. There’s no need for me to learn extremely complex submissions or sweeps because I’m nowhere near the level of someone who can actually execute them in live rolling situations. If I learn a technique in class, I usually always read or watch videos about that technique later in order to understand the techniques better.
  6. Hygiene. You would think that this goes without saying but I’ve rolled with a couple of guys who seemingly never wash their GIs or rashguards and it’s a nightmare. Wash your gear and wear deodorant or nobody will want to roll with you.

I was lucky to start training at an MMA gym with a phenomenal BJJ program already included and I didn’t have to figure out what gym was best for me. If you have a lot of options for BJJ gyms, the subreddit : BJJ is great for information on clubs in different cities or if you’d like, most gyms allow you to have a free class. If you’re able to do a free class, go in and see how you like the teaching and overall atmosphere and try a couple of other gyms and then choose which gym suits you best.

As far as training in the GI or No-GI, I’d recommend doing both! I train 80% in the GI and 20% No-GI, I enjoy both equally for different reasons.

I hope that this article helps push you towards your local BJJ gym and I hope that you benefit from training as much as I have.

Have Fun, learn and share your experiences!