Your first BJJ class: a complete guide

So you’re interested in trying out Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for the first time? This guide will give you and idea of what to expect, what to do and also on what NOT to do. Hope to welcome you on the mats soon!

What do you need to know? Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a martial art that is quite similar to Judo. The big difference is that in BJJ most of the fighting will be done on the ground and the ultimate goal is to submit your opponent.

There is quite an elaborate point system, but for now: - You’re winning if you are on top - You’re losing if you are on the bottom - The ultimate goal is to apply a choke or an arm-/shoulder-/neck-/leg-/ or wristlock and have your opponent ‘tap-out’ to get the ‘submission’.

That brings us to tapping out, the most important thing you’ll learn at your first day. Whenever you feel that something might break or pop, or that you might go unconscious, be sure to ‘tap out’. Tapping out is done by tapping your hand on you opponent’s body (or the mat, but preferably his body) to show him you ‘submit’. A little bit of history: BJJ has it’s roots in Japan, where it originated from an early form of judo, back then it was still called jiu-jitsu. A Japanese immigrant taught his skills to the Gracie family, and they evolved it in to Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. Brazilian jiu-jitsu is said to work for small and weak people as well, because of the use of leverage and timing. BJJ became really big after UFC 1 where Royce Gracie, the smallest contender of the tournament, won all of his fights by submission and became the first UFC Champion.

For more information about BJJ, you can check out these links:

Brazilian jiu-jitsu on Wikipedia:

Helio Gracie documentary, Helio is seen as the ‘inventor’ of BJJ:

Choke, a documentary about Rickson Gracie, son of Helio and often seen as the best BJJ practitioner ever:

What do you need to do? First you’ll need to find a BJJ school near you. As soon as you’ve found the website it’s common courtesy to send an e-mail or DM to ask if it’s ok for you to join a BJJ class. Usually trial classes are free, but quite often you’ll have to pay a fee ranging from €5 for the neighborhood gym to €50,- for a school like 5 time world champion Marcelo Garcia’s.

When you arrive at the training you should find the instructor and introduce yourself, but more often the instructor will come over to introduce himself to you. From now on it depends if a friend brought you along or if you’re all by yourself. If you’re with a friend that already trains: follow his lead. If you’re all alone: do what everybody else does.

Different schools have different routines and unwritten rules. The safest bet is to just observe what everybody else does and copy them. Don’t worry, if you bow the wrong way, I’m pretty sure most instructors will forgive you. But at all times: be respectful to the instructor and the other BJJ practitioners. Be nice to them and they’ll be nice to you. Pretty much all the BJJ practitioners I’ve met are super nice people. Even the guys you ‘fight’ at tournaments will usually be extremely cool to you.

If you have any questions about the technique, don’t hesitate and ask your trainings partner, they usually know enough about BJJ to help you out.

More practical stuff: Cut your nails short

What do you need to bring? If you have experience in Judo or traditional jiu-jitsu: bring your gi (the white pajamas BJJ practitioners wear). If you’ve done any other martial art wearing a gi: don’t bother. Those gi’s are usually too thin to use in BJJ, where grabbing collars and sleeves are go to moves. Judo gi’s are ofcourse an exception.

Often the BJJ school has a gi lying around newcomers can borrow. You can ask about it in your email to the instructor. If they don’t have one, or you’re not comfortable with wearing the borrow-gi, you should bring loose fitting shorts, preferably without any pockets, zippers or buttons, and a tight fitting t-shirt. Bring flipflops to wear when your walking off the mat. The rule is to always wear footwear when you’re off the mat, and NEVER wear footwear on the mats. Oh, and bring a bottle of water, you’re going to need it.

Other things you could bring, but are not absolutely necessary: - A mouthpiece - A rashguard (instead of the t-shirt, or under your gi) - A towel, soap and fresh underwear to take a shower after training

Conclusion That’s basically all you need to know about your first Brazilian jiu-jitsu class. Questions about the academy or about the details of the training (those differ per school) can be asked in your e-mail or DM to the coach. I hope this helped some of you to make the step to the first BJJ class, but beware: it’s a very addictive hobby!

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