Rolling for the First Time — 5 Things I’ve Learned About Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Just a day before moving out to Seattle, WA, I was invited to take part in my first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) class taught by Cesar Cabrera at Evolve All Martial Arts Center in Arlington, VA. BJJ was something I’ve always been curious about, but never took the next step to experience it myself. After training in in Tae Kwon Do most of my life, I wish I had expanded my martial arts spectrum much earlier on, but I’m glad I took this step. Here goes —

5 Things I’ve Learned About Brazilian Jiu Jitsu:

1. Cardio — I never thought that rolling for 5 minutes straight would be as tiring as it actually is. I was gasping for air after a few minutes rolling with my first partner, but it was probably the best cardio exercise I’ve done beyond running. Facing opponents, both big and small in size, presented unique challenges in terms of speed and strength. I was told that the more I train and understand technique, the more I’ll be able to relax and conserve energy, which is true in most sports.

2. Problem Solving — I’ve always loved puzzles, which makes BJJ so interesting. No matter who I rolled with during class, it was like solving a brand new puzzle. Every position, every angle, every gap was an opportunity for a partner or myself to take control over the other. My greatest challenge was a gentleman that was a lot bigger than me, so I assumed that he would always over power me. Overtaking him felt impossible as his strength and size couldn’t be matched. However, Cesar explained to me with the right understanding of technique and understanding of the opponent there is always a way out. I’m determined to figure this out.

3. Versatility — As mentioned, I wish I had expanded my martial arts spectrum much earlier in life. Having only trained formally in Tae Kwon Do which focuses mostly on kicking, ground movements were something alien to me. After my first experience with BJJ, I can certainly understand the importance of being well versed on foot and on the ground. You never know how a physical confrontation can unfold, so having the right tools and knowing how and when to use them is critical. Or just avoid a physical confrontation to begin with (unless you are an MMA fighter).

4. Community — I don’t know if this is true for other BJJ schools, but the first thing I noticed was how friendly and helpful everyone was to each other. No matter how many questions I asked, someone was always be willing to take the time to explain things to me without reservation. Definitely a +1 for environments like this.

5. FUN — That’s what it is! BJJ can be really tough, you’ll be drenched from head to toe in sweat (yours and people you roll with), and you’ll probably want to black out or throw up from exhaustion, but if you’re up for the challenge, you’ll have a lot of fun. I sure did.

What’s Next?

For myself, I’m making it a personal mission to become a well rounded martial artist both physically and mentally. To Bruce Lee’s approach, understanding other martial arts styles, to retain what is necessary and reject what is useless is the mindset that I am adapting. In no way am I trying to become the next Bruce (The will only ever be one Dragon, RIP), but I have strong belief in finding what works best for every individual. This can only be achieved through the willingness to share across styles, build community, and having a strong desire to learn and develop self. If you find yourself reading this and in similar shoes, I highly encourage you to step out of your comfort zone to expand and develop an even greater appreciation of martial arts.

Now that I’m in Seattle, WA, I have an itch to continue learning and training BJJ in the Seattle area. I’m always down to do pad striking workouts and drills as well, so if there’s any opportunity to join an open training session, please leave a response below or message me on Reddit (rizema).

In the meantime… [shameless plug ahead]

I’ll be training solo and working on an app called RizeMA with a vision to create a stronger, connected community around Martial Arts where martial artists new and experienced can find open training sessions, schools, classes/workshops, and events happening around the world. The app beta launches February, so check out the website and sign up for the beta to keep up to date:

Closing Thoughts

I’ll be blogging more about the development of RizeMA, my journey back to martial arts, and progression as a martial artist. Hopefully my writing will also improve in the process. If you are interested in contributing your martial arts wisdom, please reach out to us: We’d love to share your thoughts.

If you’re reading this Cesar, thank you for having me as a first-timer in your class. Your experience in BJJ and patience is evident and appreciated. I have such high respect for teachers like you who are able to not only show the movements, but also communicate the science and theory behind them. And thank you to Emerson, owner for Evolve All, for your friendship and re-igniting my desire to find self in martial arts again. Definitely stop by Evolve All if you are in the Arlington, VA area!

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