I recently had a coworker sign up at the gym I go to.
Awesome, I thought to myself.
I’ll have someone at work who will actually understand the beauty and wonder and joy we get from trying to choke each other or bend a joint the wrong way.
He joined about a month ago and has taken every class we have to offer, aside from BJJ.
We work in a jail, where every single fight and physical incident involving detainees ends up on the ground.
I do not understand why on earth every single law enforcement officer doesn’t train, but that is a different blog post. He tells me he is intimidated and wants to learn the basics before he starts.
Unless a person has the money for private lessons, they are not going to get private lessons to just learn the basics. If there are enough instructors or more experienced practitioners on hand, sure, they will sometimes take the brand new student aside and show the most basic techniques before integrating them into the regular class. For me, to a beginner, the most important thing is mat time. Come and learn and just keep coming and learning. Just like most things in life, if we wait until the perfect time, it will never come. I feel like a beginner should train and train and train and recognize that they will not feel comfortable for a while. BJJ is such a deep, intricate art that it takes years and years to feel comfortable. What this comes down to is that as brand new student, immerse yourself in the art and take as much in as possible. Train as often as you can get into the gym.
After starting BJJ and taking some time to familiarize yourself with some of the techniques, the speed of sparring, etc. there are essentially two roads a person can take. We either become hobbyists or competitors. I will say again and again that I am no expert, but these posts are essentially observations I have made and what I feel are positive aspects of these observations.
I’ll start with the hobbyist. This practitioner comes in and loves the sport, but for one reason or another decides competing is not part of his journey. This is fine. This is almost something that can be admired because he is not going to focus on advantages and knee reaping. He’ll be able to “train BJJ, not IBJJF,” as someone said recently. This person trains as much as they want, without having to worry about making weight, what techniques are legal at what experience level. This person may be more focused on the self defense origins of BJJ. That being said, he may gravitate more toward the instructors that are focused on the same “type” of BJJ as he is. If he sees the self defense instructor is teaching class that night, he shows up. If the instructor is more sport oriented, maybe he skips that night.
Most people that join BJJ and become the hobbyist tend to be older when they start. Their training schedule is more dependent on jobs, kids, family functions than the 19 year old who has lots of expendable time and income. I have noticed the hobbyists develop the love of the sport the same as the competitor. I have noticed their attraction to the mat. Something about the mat keeps them coming back for more and more and more, and they would not have it any other way.
There are others that identify themselves as a competitor. These are the guys who work part time jobs just to make ends meet so they can train and compete as much as possible. These are the guys that stay in every weekend so they can afford the plane ticket to California in March. They have a key to the gym. They organize open mats and car pools and road trips, yet manage to find a balance between BJJ and life. The competitor trains as much as possible. This person is on the mat twice or three times daily plus strength and conditioning. They may have started out as a hobbyist and decided on a whim to compete and won a match. They fall in love with that feeling. Getting a hand raised at the end of a match is an unparalleled rush to these guys. It becomes an addiction and passion unrivaled by anything else in their life. Once victories and 1st place finishes start to become the norm, there is no stopping the competitor.
Of course, not everybody falls into one of these categories. It’s not all black and white, there is plenty of gray area in between. But when deciding how much to train, a person should take a look at themselves, analyze their goals and reasons for taking classes, then train as much as they feel necessary to reach these goals.