Learning BJJ – Jiu Jitsu is the “human chess”

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  1. The warm-up is integral for avoiding injury and getting your body used to BJJ positioning. It depends where you train and can vary from Yoga, to human centipedes. Don’t be the lazy one fiddling with your Gi in the change room trying to avoid shrimping. The instructor will notice and you might be demo dummy as punishment
  2. Yes it’s intimate, but so what– Most people’s first roll is their most difficult, you are unskilled and getting owned by a guy 20kg lighter. Your natural intuition is wrong and you get tapped several times whilst bemoaning a guy laying on top of you. Sure it’s intimate, but this is your new reality
  3. Learn the etiquette– there is a secret mid 5 and fist bump before a roll. Whenever there is a photo you need to do a “Hang loose” sign, and some gyms combine belt gradings with convict floggings. Whatever is the tradition, learn it and display it. These are part of the history of your new sport.
  4. Be a good training partner– Make sure you don’t roll recklessly- you want to avoid injury and so does the guy underneath you. Practice good personal hygiene and if you are a sweater, use a towel. The best way for rapid improvement is to be a person that other people like rolling with.
  5. Stretch after class– After the usual sparring, most people limp to the training rooms to avoid the extra guy wanting a roll. Most classes have a warm down, and if you are feeling tight, spend another 10-15 minutes stretching out, or using a foam roller and/or lacross ball. This 10 minutes will make the walk to your dojo so much easier the next day.
  6. Ask questions– Some of the techniques in BJJ can be confusing. Sometimes you watch your instructor effortlessly demonstrate a technique and its still confusing. Ask. But don’t “over-ask”! There is a fine line between ensuring you are clear, and the guy getting demo’d passing out!
  7. Watch Youtube– BJJ videos will soon be your second favorite thing to watch on the internet. Try and look at the same techniques from your previous class. To get another demonstration and different angles. It all helps to improve your understanding.
  8. Breathing isn’t automatic in BJJ– you have gone your whole life without thinking about your breath. Now it’s time to understand that breathing is strategic. The white-belt “panic and exhaustion” can be alleviated by learning to relax and slow your heart rate. Keep it playful and you will last much longer.
  9. High’s and Lows– Drilling a technique helps you understand the body position, subtle intricacies, and allows you to practice over and over. But landing one of these techniques in a live sparring session is tough. When you are a beginner, most of the time you will be in a position and forget what to do, or miss a key component of the move. The only way to improve is mat time! Some days you will land a cool sub and be on a high, other days you will get tapped by something simple. It’s a roller coaster, but stay on the ride!
  10. Practice Gi and NoGi– there is always some debate about which one should be practiced more. The traditional Gi techniques, or the NoGi for MMA. Whichever theory you subscribe to, both sides understand the balance of training both. Body position and leverage is common in both and when beginning BJJ this is the main lesson to learn.

These are 10 lessons I have learning starting my journey, BJJ progression is a personal thing, but striving to be better each day is universal.

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