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.
If you know me, then you know, I love the closed guard. To me the closed guard is a position that, I feel, everyone needs to master. (or at least try to) In BJJ your guard is your home, and you need to control who comes in and who gets out.
This is a slick armbar setup that I use all the time and it almost always works! It will take some drilling to get the timing down, but it is worth it.
Leave a comment below and please share with your hommies!
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.
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.
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.
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 bestBJJdrills.com 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
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