Walking into your first day at Brazilian Jiu-jitsu class can be intimidating, but having some understanding of what to expect and look for can make your experience more fun and productive.
You Enter the Room…
I remember walking into my first BJJ class (the number of years ago is not relevant here). Despite having some wrestling experience, I was feeling a natural amount of anxiety…
What are the Protocols?
What if they don’t like me?
Is this really for me?
What if I embarrass myself?
Now lucky for YOU, times have changed. Your first lesson will likely be more sophisticated than a bunch of guys wrestling around on a piece of vinyl with carpet underneath… If it isn’t, you should probably consider another academy.
Yes, you’ll feel out of place. (Unless you go to work in a kimono)
Yes, everyone will know it’s your first day. (No one cares, they all had first days too)
No, you won’t be “good”. (Good thing you’re there to practice)
The odds are that you are going to feel a lot more welcomed and supported than you expected. Jiu-jitsu people are a funny bunch. We appreciate others coming out and trying the sport, especially when we can tell it’s out of your wheelhouse.
When you step on to the mat for the first time, don’t be shy, introduce yourself to people. Believe it or not, they’ll speak back to you,
Allow yourself to be Vulnerable
BJJ practitioners have our egos checked constantly. The fact is that even if you became the best in the world, there would still be moments when you would get put in bad positions and bested.
This is a beautiful thing…
Jiu-jitsu reminds us that no matter how prepared we are, the future is never certain.
If you’ve never practiced a wrestling sport before, you may not be used to people being so “in your space” Part of the magic of Jiu-jitsu is that you build the ability to stay composed in uncomfortable situations.
As a beginner, it will be a slow progression. You’re likely not going to be wrestling at full speed in your early sessions. You’ll get comfortable being in uncomfortable positions. Eventually you’ll learn to work your way out, and the rest of the game will start to piece together.
It does take a bit of courage to walk your first Jiu-jitsu class when you have no martial arts experience. But you’ll find that most of the rewards in this sport are just on the other side of that discomfort.
Quality over Quantity
On your first day of class, you are going to practice movements that are completely foreign to you. Resist the urge to rush through them. Ask questions, focus on the mechanics of what you’re doing, not just the end result of the movement.
Its’ better to complete one nice, slow repetition than 100 sloppy, rushed repetitions.
There is a saying in firearms training that I think applies here…
“Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.”
There are movements that are fundamental to Jiu-jitsu that you would never encounter otherwise. Keep this in mind if you are becoming frustrated learning a new technique…
All of the movements within techniques, are skills in them themselves. They are the basics within the basics.
When you are starting out, don’t feel like you have to train like mad 6x a week. There is definitely such a thing as “too much, too soon”. Even if you’re in good shape (of course you are), give your body time to adapt to the new demands you’re placing on it. Managing your training fatigue will help you stay fresh and excited about training.
Read the Room
Take a good look around the practice room while you are there. Look at the people, odds are that you are going to see all different backgrounds and perspectives spread out across the mat. People from varying professions, ethnicities, athletic backgrounds find their way through those doors…
The one thing they all have in common is they’re just weird enough to fall in love with the sport of Jiu-jitsu.
While there are many different clubs, with some variance of styles, one thing that is consistent about Jiu-jitsu clubs is their almost unconditional acceptance of just about anyone who comes in to make an honest effort.
We are all there to improve ourselves and enjoy ourselves. Patrons find the sport at different stages in their life;
Some people start as children,
Some are former athletes from another sport looking for a new challenge,
Many people are well into adulthood by the time they “catch the Jiu-jitsu bug.”
This, my friends is what makes the whole game so special…
What makes Brazilian Jiu-jitsu unique, is its emphasis on leverage and control rather than speed and explosiveness.
Its effectiveness and accessibility to people of all athletic abilities make it fertile ground for such a spectrum of people to come and try a sport/martial art that they never would have considered otherwise.
At the End of the Day…
After your first practice, try to review the technique that you learned. Don’t let it slip away…
What were the steps?
What was the purpose of the technique?
What position did you start/finish with?
A little bit of review and reflection will greatly improve your ability to retain and recall what you’ve learned. Especially when practicing with a resisting opponent (in other words; when it matters).
You are going to be sore in places that you didn’t know existed. It’s normal, you’ll be fine.
As I mentioned before; BJJ places some pretty unique demands on the body. The upside to this is that you’ll develop some pretty unique physical abilities.
And at the end of the day, if you decide that Jiu-jitsu isn’t for you right now, nothing is lost. It’s just one day out of the ordinary. You’ve crossed one more thing off of the list and you now know yourself a little bit better. That one class is more grappling experience than the vast majority of people will ever have. Good for you (I’m serious).
I’m not going to tell you to “stick with it” or offer some trite, motivational quotes. I hope you have a great experience; I hope the Instructor is receptive to your needs as a new student. I hope the other students are welcoming and that there is an environment that is conducive to your development.
More importantly, I hope that this decision trends you towards trying things that are out of your comfort zone and frankly a little bit scary. You’ll discover parts of yourself that you didn’t know were there. And that’s pretty cool.
Good for you.