Everyone who practices BJJ has been a beginner. We all began our journey with the first step, a fresh blank slate for our instructors to fill with what seems like a bottomless amount of information.
Eventually we get to the point where we love it.
We go through so much in those first few months, but we stick with it because it becomes a part of us.
We’ve all seen those individuals that for whatever reason just don’t last. They come in and take a boxing class here, a BJJ class there; but for some reason or another just do not have or develop the passion for the sport. That’s fine, but it seems to me that we’re in on something pretty spectacular, and it just boggles my mind that people leave.
Following are some examples of what to do and what not to do as a BJJ beginner that could help someone new stick around longer.
There have been so many incidents where brand new guys come in knowing absolutely nothing, and expect to spar that same day. I had a discussion with a teammate yesterday who told me about a new guy that had been going to the gym for a week or so. They were paired up during sparring. This new guy did the typical white belt spaz. My friend told this kid that he had to slow down, or he was going to get hurt. The kid responded “I go 100% all the time.” This kid had to be told that No, you don’t go 100% all the time, especially when you’re new. People get hurt constantly and it prevents you from learning and applying the techniques. If you’re a new white belt and I’m sparring with you, fine. I don’t mind this in the slightest. Start in my guard and work whatever passes you know. Be aware, however, that the second you start to spaz, the more experienced guy has the ability to make you very uncomfortable and slow you down. Beginners should use these opportunities to take the time and apply what they do know. This is not a competition.
The new guy told my teammate “I don’t lose.” My teammate responded with “in here, you will lose ALL THE TIME,” which is true. This filters out the types of guys that have that raging ego. The ones that come in with a 400 pound bench press and have spent the last 5 years in the weight room. That is all well and good, but do not be surprised when the guy that weighs 145 pounds locks a triangle on you and you can’t muscle your way out of it. As a beginner, these lessons that are doled out should be enjoyed. They are something to be looked forward to, craved. This is something that never leaves us. Rolling and getting worked over by upper belts is a wonderful learning experience. By no means does this mean we shouldn’t try against them, or not give them our best effort, but the beginner needs to focus on improving what little they already know, not trying to submit a brown belt.
A different new guy comes into his first BJJ class and tells everybody who will listen how he has 3 different black belts and has been training martial arts his whole life. That is wonderful. Good for this guy. All martial arts are beneficial in one way or another. The issue becomes when he steps in and tries to change the technique or acts like an authority figure in the class because of this. BJJ is so deep and evolutionary that someone with no experience cannot possibly know these correct techniques, and will only annoy the people in class and the instructor with their constant irrelevant interruptions. It should be admired and respected that this person has a wealth of knowledge, but in this setting, in the BJJ gym, this person needs to essentially shut up and let the teachers teach. These interruptions are a quick way to alienate yourself from teammates trying to learn, and the coach trying to teach.
When a person signs up for BJJ, they are not just undertaking a new challenge, they are also taking on a new monthly bill. It blows my mind when I see someone sign up and then be inconsistent with their attendance or just flat out not show up. BJJ classes are not necessarily cheap. If a person skips, it is not just a waste of money, but a huge setback in the technique. Our coaches follow a system or curriculum, and if a person is inconsistent and misses often, that person will fall far behind the class and not advance. In the very beginning, you know nothing, however, a person needs a foundation to build upon. Consistency is the key here. There will never be any significant growth or development without it.
We learn this art to apply it. There is no better place to apply and really test what you have learned than a competition. The adrenaline, the on the fly decision making, the mental toughness and everything else that goes into a competition is amazing. This is a rite of passage for a BJJ player. I seriously doubt the seriousness of some who practices this art that does not compete on a regular basis. Though as a beginner, the focus is not on winning. The focus should be on learning and applying what we know in a full speed live situation. It’s wonderful to pull off a sweep, guard pass or some other technique you’ve learned against another person who is trying their hardest to not let you. So many gains are made at competitions that it seems almost foolish not to compete.
BJJ is such a wonderful thing, and is far from easy. If we can make it through our first few months, stick it out, and learn to love the grind. . . The sky is the limit.