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BJJ: What to expect for beginners

It’s officially a new year: ‘Tis the season to try something new! If you’re on this page, chances are you’re in the Sutherland Shire and either thinking about taking up Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), or have already done so. 

It’s a fantastic martial art, one that’s likely to change your life. Not only is BJJ an excellent form of exercise and self-defence, it’ll challenge you emotionally and mentally. The result is that, if you stick with it, Jiu-Jitsu will make you stronger in every way.

A primer for the uninitiated: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art that originated in Brazil (that much should be obvious!). Is focus is on ground-based grappling, rather than striking, and is designed to work against bigger, stronger aggressors.

Jiu-Jitsu has exploded in popularity since the ‘90s, when BJJ Black Belt Royce Gracie won three Ultimate Fighting Championship tournaments. Back then, the UFC was about pitting experts from different martial arts against each other. Gracie’s dominance against larger opponents showed the world how effective BJJ is. People have flocked to Jiu-Jitsu academies around the world ever since. 

So we know BJJ is an excellent martial art, but it’s not easy. In fact, it can be very difficult. If you’re starting your Jiu-Jitsu journey, or are thinking about doing so, here are some things you’ll want to know. 

gracie miranda brazilian jiu jitsu grand opening

Be ready for some cuts and bruises: I cut my knuckle in my very first BJJ class. I remember being terrified: We’re here practicing this contact martial art, and I was bleeding after simply grabbing someone’s gi. “This is a bad sign of things to come,” I thought. 

Actually, it wasn’t. If you find yourself with small cuts and bruises on your body after your first couple of sessions, don’t be alarmed. This is normal. It takes your body a few weeks, or even a couple of months, to get used to BJJ training. You’ll have tougher skin in no time. 

Don’t be scared of sweat: In the grand scheme of things, this may seem trivial and obvious. But it’s something you should be aware of. You’ll sweat a lot — and you’ll train with people who sweat a lot, too.

I include this here because it’s something that comes up a surprising amount with my friends who don’t practice BJJ. Many times people have professed an interest in martial arts training, but claim they couldn’t handle being sweated on. 

You may be turned off by this — it doesn’t sound pleasant. But like so many things that are uncomfortable at first in BJJ, you’ll get used to it!

Don’t overtrain: Now onto something more practical. Many people come to Gracie Miranda and quickly become addicted to BJJ. Jiu-Jitsu is a complex martial art, one that’s satisfying to figure out. There’s a deep feeling of reward when you figure out a technique for the first time, or when you defend something that previously would get you regularly. 

And because Jiu-Jitsu is so complicated, people are keen to train as much as possible to figure the puzzle out as quickly as possible. This is great — but only if it’s sustainable. Often, people sign up to martial arts, come to class 6-10 times a week and then crash after a few months.

Patience is as important a virtue in BJJ as any other, and it, more than other martial art, is a marathon rather than a sprint. Train as much as you can comfortably fit into your schedule, whether that’s twice a week or five times a week, and stick to it. 

Breathe: One of the biggest mistakes people new to Jiu-Jitsu make is that they don’t breathe properly. That’s natural: When you’re new, sparring can be nerve wracking, so it’s easy to lose your cool. But it’s important that you focus on breathing.

This is true for a couple of reasons. Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art that prizes timing, technique and, above all, efficiency. Tiring yourself out through hyperventilation is the opposite of efficient, and poor breath management is why otherwise fit people tire out after 60 seconds on the mat. Controlling your breath, like you would during yoga, will help you conserve energy, and will make your technique smoother too.

Plus, one of the most important aspects of Jiu-Jitsu is the ability to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations. You’ll often find yourself being crushed from above, or in an otherwise compromised position. In situations like this, measured breathing is key. Panicking makes you highly likely to make a mistake or fall into a trap.

You’ll find that things you learn on the mats will be of great value in “real life” too. That ability to be calm in uncomfortable situations is just one example.

If you’re interested in taking up martial arts classes, come into Gracie Miranda for a free trial.