Thinking about starting BJJ? That friend of yours finally convinced you to come to training, or perhaps you finally summed up the courage to follow your crush on the mats. In any case, you’re not just one of those people that are going to wander into something new without preparation. That is a great mindset to have. This article is for everyone that is thinking about starting Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or have just started. You’re in for a wild ride, and these are the main things you need to know about what lies ahead.
Starting BJJ is a big thing. I kid you not, it is one of the biggest things you will do in your life, especially if you end up being serious about it. But, then again, you wouldn’t be reading this if you’re not. The “Gentle Art” has a unique way of reeling you in and keeping you obsessed for years, if not decades. It will change your life, but whether it will be for the better or worse is going to be up to you. That said, taking up Jiu-Jitsu is different than anything else you’ve done in your life. So let’s start with baby steps here: manage your expectations, reality, goals, and your experiences.
Starting BJJ: Making the Decision
The hardest thing when it comes to starting BJJ is making the decision to do so. It was a big one, to begin with, back when things were normal. In this crazy pandemic-ridden world we live in now, it is even crazier to start training in a contact sport that has what is probably, the closest possible contact between two human beings. And still, as a gym owner, I am seeing crazy numbers when it comes to people taking up Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu nowadays. In fact, they surpass the interest people had back when we had no Covid pandemic.
The one thing to know about BJJ people is that they are extremely analytical. I say this because I want to take the biggest fear away from the get-go. When it comes to training in extremely close quarters, hygiene is everything. That simply means that BJJ folks were already doing everything that is now considered normal way before we had a pandemic. Training on the ground in close contact with multiple different people for hours on time requires very high levels of hygiene. So, rest assured, BJJ was safe to train before, and is even safer now, despite the close contact, simply because the people running the classes are very aware of the dangers and risks, and have established ways of managing them.
That just leaves us with you. If we remove the most obvious reason why people don’t do things these days – Covid, your rally left with nothing but your own inhibitions and excuses. IF you make the decision of starting BJJ, stick by it. Unless you give the sport a try for at least some period of time, anywhere from a couple of week s to a month, you can’t really know if it is for you or not. No amount of articles you read online, YouTube videos, or experiences that others share will help you figure that out. If you want to start, just get on the mats, and have in mind what to expect.
This is where things can get tricky. When people start training Jiu-Jitsu they come in with different expectations. it is also the one department where everyone, regardless of their goals is going to be surprised.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is different from anything else. Different academies have a different approach to new members, ranging from “holding their hand” for a month, to throwing deem directly among the sharks. All of these approaches work, but the experiences are different.
Basically, if you expect to train something along the lines of Karate, Aikido, or whatever else, you’re in for a surprise. BJJ is real, raw, and will make you struggle and fight for your life, albeit in a safe environment. That said, one thing you can expect is to come to terms with how vulnerable you are and how easy it is for someone that is trained to toss you around at will.
Furthermore, for those expecting MMA-like experiences when starting BJJ, once again, you’ll be surprised. BJJ has a slow and gentle side to it – you cant just embrace the chaos and think that cardio or explosiveness will take you far. You better be ready to solve riddles and sudokus while hanging off a cliff- that is how every roll will feel. that is also what we’ll keep you hooked and make you better in every aspect of life.
The reality of starting BJJ is that you’re about to do something that will challenge you in every possible way. It is not just about fitness levels or the shape you’re in. It is not just about knowledge of techniques or speed or flexibility. You will need to develop the ability to use your physicality, your mind, tactics, become comfortable in the uncomfortable, and many more things you have never thought of, in order to succeed in BJJ.
The reality of training BJJ is this: you are in for a surprise test every time you step on the mats, and you have no idea what the questions are going to be. Another reality is that you will love every second of it!
I could probably write an entire book on the goals that people have when they start Jiu-Jitsu. The goals people have are highly individual, and it is hard to sum them up in a way that will make sense for everyone. However, I can give you an idea of how to manage your goals.
Whether you are looking to be a competitor, recreation athlete or train to become a coach one day, I can tell you this. You will probably never be a world champion coach or competitor. It is not that it is impossible, it is just a goal that is extremely difficult to reach. Apart from having this goal of being the best in the world (which is far from impossible, just way out of touch from most of us), everything else is up for grabs. You just need to understand that you have to manage your expectations and face reality when you set your BJJ goals.
IF your goal is to go through the belts as fast as possible, you’re still in for nearly a decade of work, no matter how much you put into it. If you’re into it for the medals, expect that you will get lots of them, but you’ll also lose fights, and that is a guarantee. Basically, every romantic goal you have of starting BJJ is going to get crushed quite quickly. And that is alright because you will find new goals throughout the journey some small and some huge. Embrace that.
This is the one thing about starting BJJ that you should look forward to. If there was ever an activity that will offer you a wide range of experiences that you would otherwise not have access to, it is BJJ. Starting BJJ pretty much guarantees that you will have experiences ranging from awesome to highly introspective, taking you on a wild ride to get to know yourself, others, and everything that is going on around us.
Very often people talk about the community of people in BJJ and how awesome it is. That is because of the shared experiences people have. O the mats, on rad trips, on tournaments, seminars, camps… You name it. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu will provide you with new experiences in every aspect of life and it will make you a better person for it, whether you stay into the BJJ world for a lifetime, or you’re just a casual passer-by.
Starting BJJ shouldn’t really be something you’re wondering about. IN fact, I believe everyone should try training BJJ for at least a month. If it turns out it is not something you like, fine. Not everyone will like it or do it for long periods of time. However, it will still teach you a lot about things you never thought you can learn by rolling around on the ground with sweaty people. Don’t believe me? Try it!