Category Archives: personal improvement

Top 5 Tips for your “First BJJ Tournament”

BJJ Tournament
Team Conquest at US Grappling
First Tournament Tips

1.Just do it!!! The biggest thing holding people back from competing is the feeling of not being “ready”. The truth is the sooner you start competing the better competing is. With your first tournament, there is less of an expectation to win and less pressure to perform. Pick a tournament, register, and hold yourself accountable to show up and compete on that day. The skill difference between you and the other competitors can become vastly different the longer you wait. For example,the novice white belt division is typically 6 months (or less in some cases) of training where the blue belt can be anyone training from 1 year up to 4 years. I have also found that the students who compete sooner progress faster. I believe this in part due to those students gaining confidence more quickly and being in situations that allow them to develop their game. When you decide to compete you typically start developing a game or style. Which brings us to tip number two….

2. “If you don’t know where you are going you might not get there”. What does this mean to the person getting ready for their first tournament? It means develop a game plan and set a goal. Obviously, the main goal of competing is to test yourself and win; however, that is too broad of a goal for this scenario. You need to develop a game plan that will guide you to win. For example, if Steve is very good at from closed guard, his game plan should be centered around that and not takedowns. You should be able to pinpoint your strongest position and have an avenue to always be able to get back to that position. This is best done in training; decide on your strategy and how you would like each of your tournament matches to go and force that game plan in every roll during class. This builds precision in your techniques, confidence in your ability to execute the techniques, and provides opportunities to learn how to adapt when the technique fails.

3.Learn to listen. There is a great saying… “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we talk.” The ability to listen to your coach during a match is essential and can be the difference between winning and losing. Your coach has an outside view of the match and can help remind you of techniques you may have forgotten in the heat of the moment. The best way to train your listening skills is to have mock tournament matches during class or open mat during the weeks leading up to the tournament.
Doing this will help you recognize your instructors voice under pressure, while your adrenaline is pumping.

4.Learn the rules. Many competitors, both novice and experienced, now a days get to a tournament and do not understand or even take the time to read the rules for that particular tournament. By taking the time to read and understand the rules you can prevent any chance of getting disqualified and even plan a strategy around the rules (to your advantage). For example, if the tournament you are entering has a time limit you can use a strategy that secures points quickly while you go for submissions or wait until time runs out. If it is a submission only-no time limit match, your game plan will be based on being able to submit quickly or build your endurance to last a long match.

5.Train Train Train! If you have picked a tournament and made the commitment to compete, the best thing you can do is train. Show up to as many classes as your schedule allows. The time spent on the mats leading up to a competition is invaluable when it comes to preparing for any tournament. Listen, learn, drill, and roll as much as you can to prepare for the competition. Train with a goal in mind, do not just train and roll like you normal would in class. Have your game plan in mind and roll every time looking to execute your game.

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BJJ Goal Setting for 2014 How & Why

Many people feel as if they’re adrift in the world of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. They work hard, but they don’t seem to get anywhere.

Like Zig Ziggler Said “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time!”

( Read this whole post! At the bottom there is a goal work sheet pdf for you to print out. )

A key reason that they feel this way is that they haven’t spent enough time thinking about what they want from BJJ, and haven’t set themselves formal goals. After all, would you set out on a major journey with no real idea of your destination? Probably not!

Goal setting is a powerful process for thinking about your ideal future, and for motivating yourself to turn your vision of your future into reality.

The process of setting goals helps you choose where you want to go in life. By knowing precisely what you want to achieve, ie: winning a local tournament, not getting smashed in side control, making it to class 3 days a week, or my favorite drilling with a partner 2 days a week, you know where you have to concentrate your efforts. You’ll also quickly spot the distractions that can, so easily, lead you astray.

Why Set Goals?

Goal setting is used by top-level athletes, successful business-people and achievers in all fields. Setting goals gives you long-term vision and short-term motivation. It focuses your acquisition of knowledge in BJJ, and helps you to organize your time and your resources so that you can make the very most of your BJJ life.

By setting sharp, clearly defined goals, that, you can measure and take pride in, the achievement of those goals, and you’ll see forward progress in what might previously have seemed the long BJJ grind. You will also raise your self-confidence, as you recognize your own ability and competence in achieving the goals that you’ve set.

Starting to Set BJJ Goals

You set your BJJ goals on a number of levels:

  • First you create your “big picture” of what you want to do with your BJJ life (or over the next 10 years), and identify the large-scale goals that you want to achieve. ie: get your black belt in 10 years, win Worlds at each belt rank, open your own school
  • Then, you break these down into the smaller targets that you must hit to reach your lifetime goals. ie: get my blue belt by the next belt test, add one day a week for classes and drilling, volunteer my free time at the school to learn the business side
  • Finally, once you have your plan, you start working on it to achieve these goals.

This is why we start the process of goal setting by looking at your lifetime goals. Then, we work down to the things that you need to do in the next five years, then next year, next month, next week, and today, to start moving towards them.

Step 2: Setting Smaller Goals

Once you have set your lifetime goals, set a one to five year plan of smaller goals that you need to complete if you are to reach your lifetime plan.

Then create a six-month plan, and a one-month plan of progressively smaller goals that you should reach to achieve your lifetime goals. Each of these should be based on the previous plan.

Then create a daily To-Do List  of things that you should do today to work towards your lifetime  BJJ goals.

At an early stage, your smaller goals might be to read books and gather information on the achievement of your higher level goals. This will help you to improve the quality and realism of your goal setting.

Finally review your plans, and make sure that they fit the way in which you want to live your life in BJJ.


If you feel that you’re not paying enough attention to certain areas of your life, you may need to use these same goal setting techniques in other parts of your life. Family, money, education, love, anything and everything. 

Staying on Course

Once you’ve decided on your first set of goals, keep the process going by reviewing and updating your To-Do List on a daily basis (if possibly) but no longer then weekly.

Periodically review the longer term plans, and modify them to reflect your changing priorities and experience. (A good way of doing this is to schedule regular, repeating reviews using a computer-based diary, or a composition book)


A useful way of making goals more powerful is to use the SMART mnemonic. While there are plenty of variants (some of which we’ve included in parenthesis), SMART usually stands for:

  • S – Specific (or Significant).
  • M – Measurable (or Meaningful).
  • A – Attainable (or Action-Oriented).
  • R – Relevant (or Rewarding).
  • T – Time-bound (or Trackable).

For example, instead of having “winning worlds” as a goal, it’s more powerful to say “I want to win blue belt Worlds by June 2015.” Obviously, this will only be attainable if a lot of preparation has been completed beforehand! (Setting smaller goals daily, weekly, monthly to attain your larger goals.

Further Goal Setting Tips

The following broad guidelines will help you to set effective, and achievable goals:

  • State each goal as a positive statement – Express your goals positively – “Execute this technique well when in Closed guard ” is a much better goal than “Don’t make this stupid mistake when sweeping someone.”
  • Be precise: Set precise goals, putting in dates, times and amounts so that you can measure achievement. If you do this, you’ll know exactly when you have achieved the goal, and can take complete satisfaction from having achieved it.
  • Set priorities – When you have several goals, give each a priority. This helps you to avoid feeling overwhelmed by having too many goals, and helps to direct your attention to the most important ones.
  • Write goals down – This crystallizes them and gives them more force. You must do this!!!!!!
  • Keep operational goals small – Keep the low-level goals that you’re working towards small and achievable. If a goal is too large, then it can seem that you are not making progress towards it. Keeping goals small and incremental gives more opportunities for reward.
  • Set performance goals, not outcome goals – You should take care to set goals over which you have as much control as possible. It can be quite dispiriting to fail to achieve a personal goal for reasons beyond your control! In BJJ, they could include poor judging, injury, the person is better then you or just plain bad luck.If you base your goals on personal performance, then you can keep control over the achievement of your goals, and draw satisfaction from them. ” I may not have won worlds this year but I played my game well Roger Gracie was better then me, I will beat him next year.” 🙂 Thats the idea at least
  • Set realistic goals – It’s important to set goals that you can achieve. All sorts of people (for example, employers, parents, media, or society) can set unrealistic goals for you. They will often do this in ignorance of your own desires and ambitions. It’s also possible to set goals that are too difficult because you might not appreciate either the obstacles in the way, or understand quite how much skill you need to develop to achieve a particular level of performance.

I have made a goal setting work sheet for you to download

Click the link to download your 2014 Best BJJ Drills Goal Sheet

Tell me your Goals for 2014 in the comment section below!

Also please share this blog if you like it!


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“Thanks, But Too Much Information”

OK, I want to learn BJJ.  I made that decision but where do I even begin?

Signing up at an accredited school is the first step.  Accredited is a subjective term here since anyone with a business license to rent property can start up a school.  Do your research through word of mouth and the Internet.  But if you want even more of a supplemental learning or just can’t fit in classes as a regular routine, there are too many other sources to explore.



The world is currently at your fingertips and you can try YouTube.  You can try Googling.  Anyone can upload a YouTube video from your average Joe’s to World Champion black belts.  If you choose to watch free videos, do your research on who is actually a credible source.   If you do get information through a credible source, the moves may look cool, but they could be too advanced for someone who is new.  Even if you’re able to grasp the concepts while your helpful partner plays a dead fish, attempting to try it on a resisting person may create some issues and overall it would be better to learn more realistic moves that you can actually execute.  Bloggers can offer advice and useful tutorials but just like YouTube, it’s free and pretty easy for anyone to get involved.  Like everything else on the Internet, the techniques may be actually legit or not really.


Other Media:

BJJ magazines aren’t fully mainstream at the moment so many people can order them online if unable to find them in a physical store.   Many of these magazines highlight the BJJ celebrities and talk about current events, gear, and culture.  There are articles that do showcase specific techniques and drills with pictures and detailed descriptions.

DVDs usually are not free, unlike YouTube.  Similar to YouTube, anyone can produce one, but because they take more time to produce, generally DVDs are sold by people with relatively higher level experience.

Books. You can buy colored picture books that go through step by step directions by going to a bookstore or purchasing an item online.

You could get with a buddy and practice what you see in the pictures, but this can be difficult if there is no more experienced third person to make sure sure you are actually doing it correctly.  Jiujitsu certainly relies on the small details.  Placing your base as your hand instead of an elbow, at a 30 degree or 90 degree angle, a few inches close to someone’s head or farther way can make a pretty significant difference.


More Classes:

Seminars are often offered by higher level belts who have had some kind of BJJ competition qualification.  Rarely will these events be free unless you have the hook up, but they focus more on a specific technique that the instructor has generally refined.  These are a little different from the normal class because it is more about learning, watching, and drilling rather than hard sparring.

BJJ is huge in Brazil, which is pretty expected since that is where it originated so you could always take a trip down there to fully get engulfed in training and culture straight from the source.  This would be an expensive route but memorable experience.


Tired of reading? If so, it makes perfect sense.  That was a lot of information all at one time, the exact point of this post.  With all that being said, stay tuned for the next articles on pinpointing the right type of supplemental training best for you.

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BJJ Mind Game

Many BJJ athletes worry too much about what others think about them. These athletes have a desire for approval from others, such as teammates, coaches, parents, and friends.

If you (or your students) want or need to please others, you have a need to be admired, accepted, respected, or liked by other athletes, coaches, family or teammates.

I have to admit that some of this is just human nature (I do It too), but when taken to an extreme, it can cause athletes to feel pressure and is a huge distraction.

Do you worry you’ll disappoint your teammates or professor if you loss a match or mess up a technique?

Here’s a classic scenario from one of our readers,  parents:

“If my son makes a simple mistake like making a wrong grip, losing by points from a mental mistake, or giving up when someone starts passing his guard. That’s it, days over, in a funk, and upset. His main concern is disappointing the Professor, teammates, or parents and worried they will think less of him as an athlete (outcast for not winning the match). Why is he so concerned with “not letting down others”?”

This type of thinking not only distracts you from performing in the moment, but it also becomes a source of pressure for many BJJ athletes.

This is called social approval . Athletes who are preoccupied with what others think tend to engage in what I call “mind reading.”

Mind reading is when you make unfounded assumptions about what others might think about your performance, such as:

“Is my Professor disappointed with the errors I made today?”
“Will my parents be happy with my performance today if I lose?”
“If I mess up today, will others be happy with me?”

Social approval comes in many forms. Some athletes want to please or gain respect from others. Some athletes fear disappointing people.

The effect on you is still the same when you perform: pressure, tension, and distraction.

The key is to understand when you begin to read others’ minds:

  • Do you mind read when others are watching you perform?
  • Do you mind read after you make a mistake?
  • Do you mind read when you see expressions of disapproval from others?

The next step is to understand why you are so concerned with what others think about your game:

  • Do you want to avoid embarrassment?
  • Do you want to gain others’ approval?
  • Do you want to impress others with your skills?
  • Do you use sport as a way to gain respect from others?

Once you can uncover when and why you mind read, you can learn to react better in these scenarios.

Here’s a simple mental game tip to help you… (1) Catch yourself the next time you begin to mind read. (2) Tell yourself that’s not important right now. (3) Refocus on the current match. That’s it!

This simple strategy will at least help you be more aware when you worry about what others think.

Best BJJ Drills

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You Need Quality Sleep to do well in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Questions: How important is sleep for you? What do you do to insure adequate rest?

It’s easy to confuse discouragement while training and just being tired. The symptoms are similar. It reminds me again of something my parents used to tell me when I was in college: “You can’t burn the candle at both ends.” Jiu Jitsu is hard mentally and physically so rest can be a game changer.

By that, they meant that you can’t get up early and stay up late. You might be able to get away with it occasionally, but eventually you burn out—just like a candle would eventually do if you could light it at both ends.

Once again, I was reminded that I have to actively manage my energy level. If I don’t take care of myself, I’m not going to be much use to anyone and my Jiu Jitsu will suffer.

Of all the things that affect my energy and productivity, nothing is more important than getting a good night’s sleep. Exercise (BJJ), diet, and mental focus are all important, but they can’t make up for a lack of rest. You need to aim for between 7-9 hrs of sleep per night.

Here’s how I make sure I get a good night’s sleep:

  1. Avoid caffeinated drinks in the evening. Use caffeine as a pre work out boots, but try not to drink it with in 6 hours of going to sleep. You maybe able to fall asleep but you sleep quality will be poor.
  2. Go to bed on time. This is huge. I have to be strict with myself. For me, this means no later than 10:00 p.m., unless it’s a weekend.
  3. Make sure the room is dark. We have blinds on the windows that cut out 95 percent of the outside light. Again its all about sleep and sleep quality.
  4. Keep the temperature cool. In the winter, we keep it at about 68°. In the summer, about 70°. You will sleep more soundly if the room is cool enough to require a blanket.
  5. Listen to relaxing music. This doesn’t work for everyone, but I listen to the same exact music every night. It’s become an audio queue that says to my subconscious mind and body, “It’s time to go to sleep now.”
  6. Run a fan. The “white noise” mutes outside noise and puts me to sleep. When I am on the road, I loop “Ambient White Noise for Sleep,” which you can get from iTunes.

It is surprising how much more productive and how much better my Jiu Jitsu is when I have had a full night’s sleep. Problems that seemed insurmountable at the end of the previous day are manageable with a full charge on my biological battery. Sleep is one of the things we NEED to have every night.  The sleep get MUST be QUALITY SLEEP!

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Commitment In BJJ


There is a saying in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) “A Black Belt, is only a white belt that never quit”. Now that you have decided on a school and you have started on your road to Black Belt nothing will help you more then commitment. If you have gone though the steps laid out in step 1 of finding a BJJ school. You have found a great school with some great coaches or professors. Their goal will be to get you to Black Belt. This will take a lot of time and hard work from you and from them. Not only will you need to commit a set amount of time you will need to commit to learn.

First take an honest assessment of your life and your time. If your married with kids and have a full time job you will not be able to commit 5 days a week to Jiu Jitsu and thats okay. What you need to do is Commit to, 1 or 2 days a week and don’t miss class. If you commit to 2 classes per week MAKE THEM. No excuses I’m tired (we are all tired) I’m hungry (eat quick and get to class) , I’m not feeling well (go to class and i bet you feel better after) I will make it up next week (NO you won’t). I have heard every excuse in the book. The only thing that is, is your mind trying to quite. It’s trying to tell your body we don’t need this, lets eat some ice cream and watch a movie. There is another saying you will hear in BJJ and i’m not sure who said it. Your mind will quit way before your body ever will. This is a quote to live by.

Five Functions of a team
Commit to your BJJ Team. They are your family!

Now that we have committed going to class and we are keeping our commitment. we need to commit to learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Going to class a couple times a week is great, but to be able to progress fast you will need to commit to learning the concepts of BJJ. This will be a skill you need to work on to see the key parts yourself. We will help you start finding the key movements and positions that are in many if not all the bjj techniques. We here at we can show you hundreds of drills that we use to teach the movements and the techniques. Drilling will be the fast way to progress in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu but again that will take commitment. Any time you can get some free mat time, drill, don’t waist your time rolling when you don’t have the basics down.

I will promise you if you have gone over our steps to find the right school. When you show your new team that you are committed to them by showing up and training hard. Your new team and your new instructors will be committed to you.

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Its your First Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Class, NOW WHAT?

Step 2 First Day

Now that you have found your new Jiu Jitsu school what will your first day be like?

What to Wear

Before you come to your first class, you’ll need to figure out what to wear.

You usually don’t need a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) gi for your first class; t-shirts, rash guards, board shorts, or sweat pants are all fine. Sometimes, you can wear a gi or uniform from another martial art (ask the instructor about this issue). You will need to buy a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gi for any of the gi classes. At my school, we ask that you wear our team gi or a team patch on your personal gi.

Do NOT wear anything with extra pockets, belt loops or baggy fabric. These are dangerous since fingers and toes can get caught in them. Baggy cargo shorts are a common example of things not to wear.

If you already own them, you can wear any protective gear (knee braces, ear guards, mouth guard, cup, etc.) you feel you need, with the exception of wrestling shoes (some clubs allow shoes, others don’t). Athletic tape can be used to protect injured fingers or toes. I do suggest you purchase a mouth guard; they can be found at any local athletic store or from our list of links below.

keiko Gi for bjj
Keiko Gi for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu


Make sure your finger and toe nails are well-groomed. If you have long hair, you’ll want to put it up in a ponytail or bun during class. You should also remove any piercings or jewelry to prevent injuries. Always use deodorant and have a clean uniform. I don’t want to smell you before I see you:)

Your First Class

You’ll probably want to show up a couple minutes early to introduce yourself to the instructor and any other students. The Jiu Jitsu community is very nice so you should feel at home right away.  Before class starts, you’ll have a chance to get dressed and stretch out on the mats. If you have any injuries, be sure to tell the instructor and stretch that area before class starts. Be prepared before class starts so you don’t miss anything.

You will also want to have an idea of BJJ Mat Rules. Here is a list of my academies mat rules. This will be a general idea of how most schools will be, some schools will have more, some will have less.

  • Bow to the center of the mat when you enter or exit.
  • Keep a respectful posture on the mat. No lounging.
  • Classes begin and end with a formal bow to the instructor with students lining up in descending belt order.
  • During class, when the instructor is demonstrating a technique, all students must sit in seize and watch.
  • If late, stand by the side of the mat until recognized by the instructor.
  • Always ask permission from the instructor to leave the mat.
  • Touch Hands with your partner before and after each training session.
  • Talking should be kept to a minimum, relate to the class subject, and be appropriate at all times.
  • Exercise good hygiene to include, but not limited to: clean gi/no-gi uniforms, short finger and toe nails, clean bodies, fresh breath, etc.
  • The belt represents your progress. Keep it on when training in the gi.
  •   Refer to black belt instructors as “Professor”.
  •   All metal objects, jewelry, piercings, necklaces, etc. must be removed before class.
  •   No shoes, food, or drink on the mat.
  •   Keep your cell phones in the lobby or locker room. If you are expecting an important call, let the instructor know before class.
  •   Higher belts will ask lower belts to roll. Not the other way around.
  •   For safety reasons, lower belts should yield to higher belts when rolling if mat space is limited and contact    may occur.
  •   Keep unneeded gear in the locker rooms.
  •   Clean up after yourself. This includes water bottles, sweat towels, clothing, etc. anything remaining in the gym after class will be thrown in the trash or lost and found.


Some teachers use a very light warm-up, whereas others start the class with a heavy-duty conditioning session. Most classes start with a group warm-up, such as running laps and doing push-ups, followed by solo drills like forward and backward break falls and shrimping. Those last three moves will probably be new to you, so just watch what everyone else is doing and try to copy them. These are to help you learn how to fall safely and move your hips on the ground. I start all of my classes with a 10 to 15 minute warm up. If your starting BJJ when your older, a good warm up will save you from a lot of unnecessary injuries.

Don’t worry if you don’t get the exercises correct at first, no one does on their first day. All of these drills and movements take a practice (drill, drill, drill). Just give it your best try and the instructor or a higher belt will make sure you learn to do it right.


The normal way you signal submission in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is to tap your opponent three times. When you tap, make sure you do it hard enough that your partner can feel it; or tap yourself or the mat where they can see and/or hear it; or verbally tap by saying “TAP, TAP!”; or loudly tap the mat with your foot so they can hear it. Likewise, be aware of your training partner tapping and stop whatever you are doing when he does so.

Tapping is just part of training and there is no shame in it. Don’t worry about winning or losing. Just try the techniques you’ve learned to the best of your ability and tap when you need to, ideally before it hurts. A good rule that I always tell my students is “Tap early and Tap often;” this is another rule that will keep you from getting any unnecessary injuries.


After warm-ups, you’ll be partnered with someone or you will pick a partner. If you get to pick, always try to get a higher belt rank your same size. It will help you speed up your learning curve, because the higher rank will notice any mistakes and correct them right away. Now you and your partner will go to your own section of the mats to be taught your first lesson. At some schools, you will practice a beginner curriculum, and at others, you will simply do whatever techniques are being taught that day.


Positional Drilling

After you have warmed up, and drilled the technique of the night. Most gyms will do some positional drilling. Drills and sparring follow the instruction and repetition of techniques. This will be your first chance to try out what you just learned against a fully resisting partner in a live drill. It’s important that you understand some basic rules for all live drilling and sparring:


Basic Rules* No striking, punching or kicking.
* No eye gouging or hair pulling.
* No twisting or grabbing fingers.
* No slamming
* No heel hooks
* No neck cranks.


Remember that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is designed to be trained safely without serious injury. These rules are to help keep you and your training partners safe and healthy.

Sparring or “Rolling”

At most schools the class concludes with live rolling. You may be assigned a sparring partner, and usually you’ll change partners after every round. I like to pick the partners for my students. It keeps people from just choosing people that they can beat, staying in a safe zone. It also helps in intergrading the newer students to pair them with people that will help them during the roll.

At the start of each round, you’ll begin by facing your partner on your knees. When you’re both ready shake hands and start to “roll”: try out your techniques, stopping whenever one of you taps and restarting from knees. Remember go slow and leave your ego at the door. You are there to learn and get better, not to get hurt or hurt anyone.

Some schools start with timed rounds, but allow you to continue doing “free sparring” with no time limits after class is officially over.

After Class

With class over, you might have more questions, now that you’ve trained for the first time. Don’t worry, your BJJ technique will take some time to develop. This is where will come in play. After class and during open mat is your time to drill. Rolling is fun, but to really increase your skills, you need to DRILL! Another great tip to learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is keeping a journal or notebook. I like to see students taking notes after class; notes and drilling will be the key to learning BJJ.

This should answers any questions you might have regarding your first day at your new Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academy. Good luck and hope to see you on the mat. If you do have questions feel free to leave it here in the comments or on our FaceBook fan page




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Starting BJJ? How to find a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu School.

Top five Steps for starting Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

BJJ Class drills
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Classes

Step 1. Research

Do research on nearby Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) academies.  Start with the three closest BJJ schools. Look at their websites to ensure they have a beginner or fundamentals program.  Some Jiu Jitsu schools may not have a fundamentals class and they’re going to lump you in with the advance students. This can be good or bad. I make all my new students take the fundamental classes, it will teach you the basics and get you up to speed before jumping into the advanced classes.  I also encourage all of my upper belts from white to black belt to take the fundamentals classes. NO ONE can ever drill a position to much.

The International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) is the governing body for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu worldwide.  While conducting your research see which schools are a member of the IBJJF or if their instructors are ranked under the IBJJF. If you have any interest in competing in Jiu Jitsu you will need a certified IBJJF Black Belt to sign for you when entering their tournaments. Don’t get me wrong, the IBJJF is not the only tournament game in town. There plenty of other great tournaments like NAGA, Grapplers Quest, US Grappling and The Good Fight you can just sign up for and compete without any one vouching for you.  However, the IBJJF tournaments are the most prestigious, and recognized internationally.

Now that you have located a few schools and done some basic online homework you will want to call or email your choices.  The owner or employee should return your message within 24 hours.  Remember this is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school and not a Fortune 500 company, although a quick response and stellar customer service should happen.  Just keep in mind, a lot of these schools are run by one or two people, so some things can slip through the cracks. This could serve as a warning sign the school has some issues with leadership and professionalism.  You may get lucky and find both fantastic Jiu Jitsu and great professionalism on your first try, but don’t count on it. I recommend you make your decision based on the skill of the instructors and the professionalism of the staff, not one or the other.

This is the part you’ve all been waiting for. Taking the tour! At this point you should have been asked by the staff to come in and check out the school.  If the staff was hesitant to tell you the prices over the phone, don’t worry, this is just a normal sales tactic used by most businesses. Still go and find out for yourself if this is the BJJ school for you. Once the appointment has been made make sure to be on time, bring a change of clothes and some water with you. I tell people to wear shorts and a tee shirt. Upon arrival look at the facility during your tour and ask yourself the following questions:
* Is it clean?
* Do they have separate men’s and women’s changing rooms?
* Are the mats and equipment clean, safe, and up to date?
* Are there holes in the walls or mats?
   If they have a cage:
* Does it have rubberized fencing?
* Are all the post, joints, and handles covered with protective padding?
* Are the mats thick and made for takedowns?
Once you’ve completed the tour, ask yourself again: Is there a professional attitude? If not, is it unsafe, or just a lack of business skills. Both can be a red flag, but you can look over a lack of business skills.  If you feel the school is unsafe LEAVE AT ONCE! Safety can never be over looked or under emphasize.
After your initial tour is over, a professional school will teach you a private lesson.  I like this because you will learn without the pressure of others watching. You may also be asked to join the regular class. This can mean one of two things… If they have you try a “fundamental” class and allow you to do some drills, basic technique, while you interact with other students, that’s great and nothing to worry about. If on the other hand they throw you to the wolves and make you spar or as many BJJ schools call it “roll” with other students, this may not be the place for you. I would decline to roll until you have more familiarity with the basic Jiu Jitsu positions.

Lastly, talk to the other students.  Ask them what their feelings are about how the classes go?
What’s the environment of the school, is it a competition school or a family-friendly school, or both?
Some other questions to ask include… Are they happy? Is the place safe?  Is there anything they don’t like?

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can change your life; it changed mine and almost everyone I know that trains.  It is a lifestyle and journey.  Make sure to sign up for the news updates and receive your free “top three BJJ drills”. Keep an eye out for part two of the top five steps for starting Brazilian Jiu Jitsu next week; we’ll get into some exciting and important stuff

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