10 things everyone should know before they start practicing jiu-jitsu

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White Belt

Whether you are a white-belt just starting out in 2015 or have been practicing BJJ for many years now, it doesn’t matter. We all should read these 10 tips in order to get the most out of our BJJ training and make sure we’re up to speed in the future.

1. Trust and be trustworthy.

NEVER hold a sub past the tap-out. When in doubt as to whether your training partner has tapped, let go—better safe than sorry. By striving to be a more reliable training partner and trust your teammates and coaches, the environment becomes a safer and more pleasant place in which to learn. If you’re not having fun, none of it makes any sense. BJJ is something you carry with you for the rest of your life. Each stage should be great; after all, the art is the most wonderful addiction you could possibly have.

2. Brazilian jiu-jitsu is done in a gi.

As much as no-gi is a sport in its own right, make sure to have a good understanding of the techniques in classical BJJ before venturing into no-gi. It’s easier to adapt your gi techniques to no-gi than the other way around.

3. Don’t ask black-belts to roll.

You can train with black-belts, but make sure you’re invited. This tip is kind of old-fashioned and is often resented by recently promoted students. What happens is that the higher-ranked feel like they are being challenged when a lower-belt fighter asks them to roll. You have to realize that they know who is available just by the way the person looks at them. Look at them humbly and make it clear you’re available—if they want to, they’ll invite you. And take my word: it’s always more rewarding to roll when you’ve been invited than when you do the inviting.

4. Find the best instructor for you.

Students are often discouraged when their start in jiu-jitsu is less than ideal, so it would behoove the beginner to do some research before committing to a class, making sure the instructor they pick enjoys what they do and is kindly to all students, not just their best ones. If after starting classes you get the feeling the instructors aren’t paying you enough attention, don’t accept that as being normal—it isn’t. A much better alternative to quitting is to switch to a gym where you feel welcome.

5. Have faith.

Believe in the techniques. As frustrating as it may be at first, try your best to defend by using the techniques already in your repertory. If you feel like you’ve run out of options, have a word with your instructor; they’ll be glad to get input on your needs.

6. Communicate.

One of the coolest things about jiu-jitsu is the exchange of ideas on how to perform a technique. Feel free to ask the more experienced students questions. Ask what you could have done to foil an attack or pull off that submission you were so close to getting. They’ve surely been through those situations before and can clue you in on all the ins and outs. Higher-ranked students tend to enjoy being appreciated and get a kick out of being able to help.

7. Do your homework.

It’s frustrating to a teacher when they do their best to teach a new move or concept, and then a short while later a student has already forgotten it. Doing lots of repetitions is essential, even if you feel a particular technique doesn’t fit your style. Keep in mind that as a beginner, you don’t have a set style yet, so what seems useless to you today may turn out to be your greatest asset tomorrow. Besides doing repetitions, take a few minutes each day to go over the techniques in your head.

8. Tap out.

Nobody wants to see a student intentionally tap out, but good students aren’t afraid to take chances or put themselves in positions of disadvantage. If you do tap, so be it; let it serve as a lesson. During moments of real danger, your chances of prevailing are all the greater when you’re accustomed to such harrowing situations.

9. Try new things.

There’s no point in sparring like you’re fighting in a championship final the whole time. Sure, there are times when you should go hard, but let your coach be the judge of when that should be. Generally speaking, I recommend always trying new things, putting the move of the day to practice. The more diversified your game is, the better the tools you’ll have at your disposal in the future.

10. Self-defense is of the essence.

There are plenty of teachers out there who are oblivious to the importance of teaching even basic self-defense techniques—some for lack of familiarity, others because they feel they moves are outdated. Down the road, self-defense techniques will provide you with an understanding of moves you so far haven’t a clue about. Not to mention that they’re fun. Keep in mind that each of the current techniques, even the tournament-level techniques, in some way or another originated from the basics. Knowing and understanding the basics is like a lesson in history, and will keep you from making basic mistakes.

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There are 17 comments for this article
  1. Marcus Coons at 1:22 pm

    We are planning on enrolling our kids in some jiu-jitsu classes and want to make sure they have a good time while learning this art. It really helped when you talked about asking questions about techniques and exchange ideas with fellow students. I can see how taking the time to do this and practice what you learn can hep you not only master this style but also be able to customize and make it your own fighting style as you learn new moves.

  2. Dylan Holman at 12:51 pm

    I’ve been training on and off at a school for about two years, and have been wanted something more. The gym is Gracie oriented and pretty old-school, but so much so that everything is kept to basics, which I know, is not a bad thing. However, I personally would like something different and the mindset of some of the higher belts clashes with what I’d like to do on the mats. For example, a purple belt told me most half guard sweeps are crap so I shouldn’t really worry about learning them. I found a new gym that is way closer, and is also run by an accomplished competitor. It’s called “Borets” and works under ZR Team. They have great sponsorship from clinic Biotexcom, so the team is able to take part in different tournaments around the world. Before them I don’t know much about the competitive scene so far. I loved my free class at the new gym, and felt like the training was at a different level. If I wanted to train more, there is only a six per week program, and it is even more expensive. I like the distance, apparently the instructor is top notch. And the mindset regarding new techniques, he also personally teaches every advanced class, which is something I guess a lot of names in the bjj world don’t do.

  3. Deb Pearl at 11:46 am

    Thank you for all the Jiu-Jitsu tips. My daughter is really interested in learning Jin-Jitsu and I wanted to look up some information before she started. I like how you mentioned I should make sure the instructor enjoys what he does and is kind to all the students. I think that would be a great idea.

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