So you have decided to finally take the leap of faith and signed up for your first BJJ class. It can be a bit of a nerve wracking experience since your only exposure to BJJ has been through the UFC where BJJ appears to be anything but the gentle art with hyper aggressive chokes and arm bars. Don’t worry though, chances are there won’t be too many hulked up, tough looking guys in your class. The reality of BJJ is that most people will be regular looking guys and gals that are like you. They likely had the itch to learn something new, get in shape, and meet new people. Here is a list of 10 things to expect in your first BJJ class
Waiting on the mats before class will be a bit awkward: Unless you know somebody who is also attending the class, stepping on the mats for the first time and waiting for the first class will be an awkward experience. Cliques might be a strong word, but there will be students that already know each other and will be chatting in groups on the mats before class starts. The first day on the mats is like the first day in school as the new kid in the cafeteria looking for a place to sit. In most cases, somebody will introduce him/herself to you. If not, feel free to introduce yourself to your new classmates.
You will be really thirsty: Bring 64 oz of water with you just to be on the safe side. There will be a lot of sweating and movements that will leave you feeling hot and a bit dehydrated so definitely bring water to class.
The foreign warm-ups and movements will tire you out quickly: Even if you are lifting weights, jogging or doing another form of cardio, your body will get tired from some of the new compound movements you aren’t used to doing such as shrimping drills, gator walks, and bear crawls.
That Gi/Kimono will feel hot and heavy: If you are used to working out in shorts and a t-shirt, then theGi might feel like a 25 lbs weight vest during warm ups. Combine that with the sweating and body heat and you might feel miserable. Also, if your gi is brand spanking new, there will be some form of rug burning sensation on your arms and upper body if you aren’t wearing a rash guard or shirt underneath your gi.
Everybody will appear to be in shape except you: Since most of the class is used to the warm ups and drilling, they won’t be straining as much as you will be straining during your first class. This is totally normal. It will take a few weeks to adapt to the warm ups and get used to the movements.
You might have a hard time finding a training partner: It sucks being the new kid in school. After warm-ups, students will usually partner up for the learning and drilling portion of class. Since many of the students have trained together and are familiar with each other, finding a training partner might be really awkward. In many cases, the coach will assign a partner to you or will pair you up in a group for a 3-person rotation.
You will feel lost: When the coach demonstrates a move, you will likely be lost since you have never seen it before, never heard of the terminology used by the coach, don’t understand the fundamentals of BJJ, leverage, or the efficient movements that come with training. Don’t feel bad if you don’t understand the concepts. This is totally normal. BJJ has so many different positions and techniques and it takes many years to learn and understand the fundamentals and techniques. Hopefully, the coach will partner you up with a more experienced partner that is both empathetic and a good teacher.
Rolling: In some schools, you will be paired with a more experienced partner or coach and asked to roll/spar light and taught basic fundamentals. In other schools, it will be open season on the fresh white belt. If you aren’t comfortable with the open season approach, that is totally fine. Just let the coach know. There are schools that won’t allow new students to roll, even if they have previous grappling experience from high school wrestling. Don’t take it personally. Just stay and watch other students roll to get a feel for how to do it, find a partner to drill the moves you just learned, or sit by the coach and ask the coach questions about BJJ.
You might receive a hard sell after class: If you took a free trial class, some schools might try and give you the hard sell to try and sign you up for a long-term contract. If you are not comfortable committing or if you want to check out other schools, stand firm and don’t sign anything. Schools want your business. Feel free to ask for another free trial class or week to evaluate the product. Remember that you have control in this situation.
You will be sore: If BJJ is new to you, then chances are you will be sore in the morning from doing movements you aren’t used to doing, making grips, and falling on the mats. Don’t worry, some ibuprofen and ice should solve the problem. Also, realize that this soreness is from the initial shock of doing a brand new form of exercising and it will subside as you get used to the training.
This was formed from my own experiences training in BJJ and also from helping my coach out every once in a while with new students in the beginners class. If you have trained in BJJ for a few months or years, just remember that first time you stepped on the mats and take time out to say hello and make the new members feel welcomed at your school.