Dear Jiu Jiu,
I just started doing BJJ. Basically, I don’t know anything about anything, and I’m wondering if I made the right choice as far as a school goes. I don’t know anyone here on a personal level that can give me advice and honest opinions about starting BJJ.
I don’t want to ask people that work for the school because I’m not sure if they are telling me things in order to benefit the school and not ME and what I need to know. There are two women who train. The instructor is nice and charismatic, but he has a business to run, so I don’t know how much I can go off of.
I chose to buy a gi, but now I’m wondering if I even need it because I feel so clueless…. Like if I put a gi on I’m just an imposter, a poser!
I’ve got a lot of people telling me I can’t do this…. It makes me want it even more. My partner is not very supportive or impressed with me doing this. He thinks it’s fine that I go, but thats where it ends.
I suppose I’m asking, where do I start? What do I need to know? What research should I be doing/should already have done to prepare myself for this? In case you can’t tell I am a huge nerd and I feel like if i’m not studying I’m doing something wrong. What should I be doing on days I’m not going to the beginners classes? BJJ is taking over my mind right now.
–A slightly panicky newbie!
Hey Newbie! Welcome to jiujiubjj.com, and welcome to jiu jitsu. I love your questions, and hopefully you and others will find this helpful. I hope that others can chime in to add any of their two cents!
LACK OF WOMEN AT A GYM
It’s often considered a red flag if a gym has no women. I personally don’t care if there are no women–we are a rare thing, and I feel comfortable and confident judging a place on its treatment of me, rather on the presence or lack of women. Sure, it CAN be a red flag, but after training in Korea, for me it is simply a piece of the puzzle, and I don’t make assumptions based solely on that. I also will train at schools in Korea that have ONLY Koreans, and who only teach in Korean. I think I’m an outlier. It’s not that I’m beyond feeling like I’m an outsider – I have just come to expect that I will be an outsider, and anything more is an absolute delight.
ON FEELING LOST
Are you feeling lost because it’s too much information? Totally normal! Lost because you’re being ignored? Not cool. Personally, I would choose a school where I felt a good mesh with people. Are they friendly and accepting? Awesome! What about the instructor?
ON BJJ INSTRUCTORS
I look for BJJ instructors that are friendly, clear, and help me feel welcome. I also make sure that they know I want to visit other schools, but that’s my own thing. I’ve heard again and again that many Bjj instructors are often good instructors and terrible business people. Many times folks teach Bjj out of love of the sport rather than a money grab. It’s a big red flag if someone will ONLY tell about positive things. Not that they should be airing dirty laundry, but they should be truthful about Jiu Jitsu being a big struggle.
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW?
Imagine you have decided to take a Korean language class. Would you feel really worried about your lack of knowledge? Would you feel like a sucker for not knowing the alphabet? Would you feel you had to research between classes? Would you feel like a poser for buying a textbook? Maybe you would.
Jiu Jitsu is like learning a language for your body, and just as no one expects you can say hello, read Hangul (Korean letters), count to 10, and have eaten Korean food, no one in Bjj expects a beginner to be proficient, understand what it is, know how to move your body, and know names of moves. If I’m teaching a beginner, I start with the assumption that they know literally nothing about Jiu Jitsu. If they do, cool! If not, cool!
BUYING A GI
A Gi is a wonderful thing; I have about 10! It’s no different than buying a tennis racket when taking tennis lessons, a basketball for learning basketball, or a dictionary when studying a language. You are buying equipment for jiu Jitsu so that you can properly train. Period. In fact, I’d recommend that after a month, you buy a rash guard instead of wearing a t-shirt. That’s more “advanced gear” as in not needed, but super awesome.
WHAT TO DO BETWEEN CLASSES
- You can do nothing! That’s ok!
- You can study. Check out Stephan Kesting’s Roadmap for BJJ. It’s a good starting point. You can also google the moves your instructor taught, and review them.
- If you want to dish about Bjj, check out jiujitsuforums.com.
- If you want to read about others’ experiences in bjj, you can read blogs!
- You can learn to tie your belt and pants!
GOOD VOCABULARY TO LEARN
Okay, here’s the nitty gritty. If you really want to focus on something, learn these terms. You don’t need to know HOW to do them, just what they are. They will help build your jiu jitsu vocabulary so that you’re not floundering as I did. My first partner said “You have to pass my guard.” I responded with, “Dude, what the heck is a guard, and what does it mean to pass it?” Having a common vocabulary makes talking about jiu jitsu much easier.
This list is NOT comprehensive, nor is it mandatory to know all of these, but it gives you a good place to start!
Names of positions
- Closed guard
- Open guard
- Side control
- Full mount
- Having someone’s back
- Half guard
- Spider guard
Names of things
- Under hooks
Names of grips
- Monkey grip
- 4-fingers in
- Gun grip
- Gable grip
- Seat belt hold
Names of submissions
- Cross collar choke
- Americana (key lock)
- Arm bar
- Knee bar
- Leg lock
- Kimura (shoulder lock)
- Rear naked choke
WHAT TO SAY TO THE HATERS
I’m an advocate of deciding to do something for a specified amount of time. Deciding “I’ll do this for a month/6 months/1 year/until I get a stripe/until I get a blue belt.” I like it because then you can meet a goal and you’re not simply quitting because you suck–you’re quitting because you completed your goal! Can you stay longer? Hell yeah! But you’re not just quitting cuz it’s hard. “I’ve decided to do Bjj for X months because I think it’s a great challenge!” Who can argue with that?
As far as your partner–he may have zero feelings about jiu jitsu, and had you decided to learn to rubber stamp or play trumpet, he may also be totally indifferent. That’s ok. Better a lack of active support than actively sabotaging you.
To the active naysayers
- “That seems dangerous!” “My second choice was learning to wrangle alligators, and this seemed like a safer choice.”
- “That seems hard!” “Things in life worth doing are rarely easy.”
- “You’re going to quit.” “Maybe–lots of folks quit! But I’m excited to try!”
- “I don’t think you can do it.” “Maybe I can’t, but I’ll never know unless I try.”
Let it roll off your back. Their words are water, you are a badass duck.
Jiu Jiu’s Note: I hope this was helpful. If anyone else has some helpful things to add here, put them in the comments below! You can add your insight as a seasoned practitioner, or if you’re a beginner, you can put what things would have been super helpful for you. If you felt it was really helpful, please consider sharing it on the social media of your choice!