5 Important Things To Expect When You First Start Jiu-Jitsu

Image Source: Trinity SP Photography

Whether the idea popped into your head as a potentially fun way to get fit or was forced upon you by your friend’s incessant social media posts and requests for you to “just try one class,” making the decision to start training jiu-jitsu can be a huge step forward in finding a hobby that can quickly turn into an obsession. As with any new skill, however, learning BJJ is often just as frustrating as it is enjoyable, and it’s no surprise that many people quit before they get anywhere near their true potential in the sport.

If you’re thinking about taking your first class or are just feeling overwhelmed after a week of getting your butt kicked, here are five things to keep in mind:

1. Everyone progresses at a different pace.
People who have athletic backgrounds — especially those in sports like wrestling, gymnastics, and even dance — are more likely to see speedy progress in jiu-jitsu. If it’s been a while since you’ve played a sport, and especially if you’ve never ever played a sport, figuring out how to move your body to achieve your desired goals is going to be a lot harder. Athletic experience aside, some people are more flexible, more competitive, younger, or simply have a “knack” for the skills that are beneficial in jiu-jitsu. Try not to get discouraged if you’re not progressing at the same rate as someone who started when you did. You’ll get there — it may just require a bit more time.

2. You’re (probably) going to feel out of shape.
Again, if you’re already a wrestler, your strength and conditioning is going to be a lot better than someone who’s stepping onto the mats after a few years of avoiding the gym. Even for people who are considered to be in good shape, though, jiu-jitsu can be a whole ‘nother beast. It’s a full-body workout — you’ll be using both strength (in every conceivable muscle) and cardio. Powerlifters and marathon runners alike can walk into a BJJ gym and feel exhausted after the first five-minute roll. Your body will adjust to the changes if you train consistently, but expect to be sore.

3. You aren’t bound to one academy.
Jiu-jitsu is an intimate and social martial art. You’ll talk to and become friends with your teammates, and the nature of the sport requires you to get up close and personal with a lot of sweaty people whose names you may or may not know. You’re unlikely to become BFFs with everyone you roll with, but if you’re getting overall “bad vibes” from the academy you’ve been rolling at, there’s nothing wrong with trying out another one (and if your instructor tells you that there is, that should be a giant red flag). If you try a class or two at one gym and get the feeling of “This is fun, but…“, try another gym. It may be that jiu-jitsu just isn’t your thing, but it could also be that you’d fit in better at another academy.

4. The community is huge, but also tiny.
Jiu-jitsu is like a fandom for a TV show that’s just big enough to have a healthy amount of fanart online. We all still freak out if we see someone we don’t know wearing a BJJ shirt in the grocery store, but really, it doesn’t take much to find thousands and thousands of other people who train. If you want to train on your work trip or vacation, you can find someone across the world who will offer you their gym and friendship. You’ll make friends with people you’d never cross paths with in normal day-to-day life all because you tried to choke each other for fun. It’s a beautiful, weird thing, and it can give you the extended family you never knew you wanted.

5. There’s no right or wrong body type.
You will find people of every shape and size on the mats. You aren’t “too fat” or “too skinny,” or “too tall” or “too short” to start training. There are also plenty of people with both visible and invisible disabilities who also train and compete. You can work with your coach (and doctor, if necessary) to find a style and intensity of grappling that works well for you, and you may be surprised to find that your own build offers you some advantages in jiu-jitsu instead of holding you back. Don’t let thoughts like “I’m too fat” or “I’m smaller than everyone else” or even “I can’t train with just one leg” hold you back from seeing what jiu-jitsu could offer you.

Featured image by Trinity SP Photography


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