BJJ: To the fat person googling jiu jitsu

Yes, you, the person wondering if you’re too fat to do jiu jitsu (spoiler: you’re not!). We don’t know each other, so you wouldn’t know it now, but I was really fat when I started jiu jitsu, and I’d like to have a heart to heart. I’m 5’4″ and when I started BJJ I was 205, which is down from my high weight of 231. I don’t know you and what your personal issues are, but everyone’s got baggage and I’d like to share some emotional landmines you might have to deal with if you start doing BJJ. Note: this is NOT a weight loss post. And although the examples and experiences are all BJJ specific, most of this could be applicable for any larger person beginning any athletic endeavor.

“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” ―Vincent van Gogh

Lifestyle changes, not diets.

Lifestyle changes, not diets. Also, Koreans photoshop like crazy (re: the bottom two pics)

My assurances

You are NOT too fat to do jiu jitsu.
You DON’T need to lose weight to do jiu jitsu. You DON’T need to be in better shape to do jiu jitsu. Just start going. You will get in better shape. You will be starting your new, healthy lifestyle, and in the long run you will be glad that you started earlier rather than later. Just accept this and keep coming.

You WILL get better
It may take much longer than your peers, but it will eventually come. I promise. Just not any time soon. That tortoise and the hare – you’re the tortoise, and the inching along will pay off, but it may literally take years. But your story will be epic.

You need only to TRY, TAP, and KEEP COMING
This is the magic formula that will help you earn respect. I knew that I couldn’t make it through a whole warm up, but I did my best. My best was not nearly as good as that 21 year old athlete – I was an overweight 33 year old woman! But anyone who looked at me KNEW I was trying my best. Teammates will respect you when you’ve demonstrated you’re sticking around, that you’re not going to quit when things get rough, that you’re trying to the best of your ability, and that you have a good attitude. In fact, some will respect you more than they respect the young, fit athlete – simply because you’re trying harder and have a bigger battle in front of you.

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” ― Michael Jordan

Accept your reality

Please note: not all of the following may be true. My suggestion is to accept them as your reality and truth, then be pleasantly surprised if they are NOT your reality. I’m giving you the harshest reality that you may face.

Accept that you will feel excluded
I felt like the ugly girl at a school dance when I started. It felt like no one wanted to be partnered with the fat girl. And maybe it’s true, but it’s also going to be true that they won’t want to partner with you because you suck. I’m not being unkind – white belts by definition suck. They also won’t want to partner with you because they don’t know how awesome you are and that you tell the best jokes and that you try hard – because they don’t know you. White belts wash out at an alarming rate, and many upper belts may not want to invest personal energy into you until they see you’re going to stay. Just accept this and keep coming.

Accept that you will feel even fatter than you do now
When I was fat, I enjoyed the company of fat people and lazy people and geeks. I was overweight, sure, but in Seattle amongst the geek crowd, I was not that much of an outlier. In jiu jitsu class, however, I was the biggest woman, period. Sometimes I was the biggest person, and not just by a little bit – these guys were lean and muscled, which emphasized in MY brain how NOT lean and NOT muscled I was.  Just accept this and keep coming.

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy. ~Dale Carnegie

Accept that you will look and feel foolish
These folks will be moving their bodies with ease, executing moves that look like magic, and you’ll feel like the kid eating paste in the classroom. The secret: nearly everyone feels foolish when they start BJJ, and even beyond. Every one of those folks started out with almost no ability in BJJ. Just accept this and keep coming.

Accept that you will feel uncomfortable
Jiu jitsu puts you in weird positions that you probably don’t do with strangers (or not – no judgment!). There’s an intimacy factor that can be off-putting at first. This is normal and it passes. You may also feel physically uncomfortable – jiu jitsu uses a lot of muscles you likely haven’t been using – like the tops of your feet. You’ll also be sweating a lot, which was really uncomfortable for me. Just accept this and keep coming.

Accept that you will be the worst
The cool thing is that you will have a shiny white belt around your waist. This is the “I SUCK” belt, and being a white belt means never having to say “I’m sorry I’m not good.” Please believe that absolutely no one expects that you can do anything the first class, the second class, the third, and so on. I decided early on Someone has to be the worst – it may as well be me! And I was happy in that position because it allowed me the mental freedom to stop worrying about it. Just accept this and keep coming.

Accept that you will have emotional aspects will catch you off guard
When I received my first highlander medal, it felt like I got a gold medal for being a fat girl, and I sobbed at home about it. When I started, if I heard someone make an OOF sound because I had too much weight on them, I would feel really embarrassed. In jiu jitsu, being heavy is a good thing – but that heaviness is less related to size than to leverage. I also hadn’t realized that I immediately dismissed good looking people as dumb jerks. Jiu Jitsu is full of smart people with great bodies and good personalities. I had to adjust my world view. Just accept this and keep coming.

“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.” ― Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Suggestions

Only compare yourself to YOU
It’s crazy making to compare yourself with that athlete next to you. Instead, look back and marvel at how far you’ve come. Don’t just measure your progress by how awesome (or sucky) your jiu jitsu is or isn’t. Measure things like – your negative achievements, if movement is easier, if you were able to complete the warmup, or do a forward roll finally. Marvel at your accomplishments, don’t jealously envy those around you.

Make very small, reasonable goals
My goal was: go to class. If I did, I won. If I moved my body, I won. If I went to class, I won. The actual jiu jitsu was secondary to that. Even if I had a HORRIBLE time, I couldn’t do anything, I gassed out and had to sit out, and that blue belt just break-danced on my body, I still won because I’d gone to class. You should create wins for yourself so that you’re not overwhelmed by how bad your jiu jitsu is.

If you want to do jiu jitsu, DO IT! NOW!
No one says “Oh man, I’m glad I didn’t do that thing I really wanted to do, because then no one laughed at me.” Instead, they say “Oh man I wish I had done it. It’s SO STUPID that I didn’t do it out of fear people would laugh.” When you start pandering to your fears, they will overrun your life. They will hold you back from greatness. They will haunt you. Simply accept – okay – some people will laugh, and if they do, I’ll know they’re a shitty person.

Somebody should tell us…right at the start of our lives…that we are dying. Then we might live to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows. ~Michael Landon

I am SO THANKFUL I found jiu jitsu. I found a wonderful community, a new passion, thoughtful training partners, new friends, and a new relationship with my body. When I started jiu jitsu my attitude was: I have no effing clue what I’m doing – I suck, but I’m going to try, and I’m going to keep coming. My personal reality now is that I need a new attitude! I’m no longer a sucky newbie who has no clue! Sometimes I’m the person who knows the most in class. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN! Honestly, accepting that I DON’T suck is a lot harder for me than accepting that I DID suck.

Your path in jiu jitsu, as well as every other white belt’s, is a hard one. You have extra emotional crap you may have to deal with, but if you plan for it, I believe it will make for a better BJJ experience. Once you do, I hope you come back here and share your experience!

Jiu Jiu’s note: Were you fat or largely overweight when you started doing jiu jitsu, or any other sport for that matter? How did this affect your experience? What challenges were rough for you, and what words of encouragement do you have for larger folks starting BJJ or other sports?

Leave a reply! Please remember that you are replying to an actual human being.

    • I can always count on you to link to sites consistently. Out of curiosity, do you have a BJJ word file filled with copypasta and headers like “Women’s blogs” or “Motivation” to which you copy and paste into reddit or blogs? And yes, you are much appreciated – a pillar in our community and very consistent.

      • Linking this excellent article yet again, I realised I never replied to that comment. In case you’re still interested, I do indeed have just such a file. That’s what formed the basis of my FAQ: still updating that same file regularly to this day, a good 8 years or so after I started it. 🙂

        • I came across this page 2 years after it was originally posted, and I can’t begin to tell you the similarities. I’m 34, female, overweight, is without a question the biggest girl in class by leaps and bounds. I’ve too felt like “oh great, no one wants to grapple with the overweight, white belt short girl.”. But I go to class with my husband 2 or 3 nights a week (most of the time coming straight from a muy Thai class). I can usually only do about 2, maaaybe 3, six minute rounds of grappling and then I’m done. Like, stick a fork in me done. But I have been very open with my instructor and the other higher belts about my insecurities, and they are the NICEST, most supporting group of people you could work with. The instructor actually said it benefits them to because it helps them remember small pointers that they are showing me for the first time, but things they’ve might have forgotten.

          Sorry for the long winded response. Just everything you wrote was ‘omg that’s me!!’. And it makes me want to not give up and keep going.

          • Hey there, Megan! My sincere apologies that my blog has been a black hole for comments. You are now auto approved, so if you comment, it will show up immediately. I’m using this week to get my blog back up to speed – yay for spring break!

            Have you stuck with jiu jitsu? It’s now been – holy crap – almost 5 months since you wrote this comment. Shame on me. 🙁

  1. This is a true journey we are on. All facets are tested, pushed and pulled. It’s a tough sport.
    I tell myself “This is what I do” and simply go to class and train really FUN and hard. i laugh like a child but train like a warrior.
    Celebrate small stuff. Treat yourself! i bought a cool rashguard and some yummy chocolate when I got my stripe.
    *gratitude* -Doug @ Cville BJJ in Charlottesville VA

    • I had to learn not to reward myself with food alone. Cool BJJ gear – now that’s another story. Though it’s ended up being just a want it-buy it situation. ^_^ I agree with you – as soon as I start engaging in self-dialog, Sally will talk me out of going and straight into watching an episode of Merlin with a coffee and cookie. Autopilot – that’s the key.

  2. When I go to the gym and pick up a 20 kilo weight, the trainers give me a nod or a thumbs up. They don’t care if I’m fat. They care that I’m working. i hike on occasion, and i go for a walk or two every now and again. I may be slow, but I’m faster than the person still sitting on the couch. I ride my bike here and there. I can’t do the Tour de France, but at least the wind is blowing through my hair and not out my a$$.

    Thanks for this blog entry, J. You’re the bes!

  3. Right on!
    I’ve had a very similar experience with Thai Boxing.
    I was at 320 when I re-found it (I’ve been training, on and off, for 18+ years), and now sit at 260.
    When I have the privilege of teaching beginners I always tell them that it’s pointless to look at others in the class and be envious of their skill/talent/attributes; you can’t know what their journey is/has been.

    We talk a lot at my school about movement being life, and I really believe (regardless of your practice/discipline) you have to be moving!
    It’s no coincidence that so many the world’s older movement professionals (whether they be Martial Artists, Yogis, Aerobic Instructors, Climbers, Runners, or even Dancers) look so vital, sometimes decades younger.
    The agreement I have with myself is:
    If I feel good, I get in and train.
    If I feel blah, I get in and train.
    If I feel shitty, I get in and train.

    Ironically I always feel the best, afterwards, when I get in on those shitty days (I think of it as “walking the dog”).
    And that is my one piece of advice for a newbie: make it a habit.

    [P.S. Jiu, we met many years ago (nine I think) in Seattle, and it’s great to see you doing so well!
    Have Fun!
    Train Hard!]

    • Thank you so much for the compliments! I added you on FB, though I’m a bit fuzzy on our meeting details. Don’t take it personally – yesterday I had a hamburger for lunch with a friend and at dinner I said “We DID eat today, right? Wtf did we eat?”

      For me, it’s about setting dates with the gym and keeping track of days I go. After this holiday, my hope is to have no more than 2 days off of training in a row. To set how many days that week I plan to train, and stick with that. No self dialog to talk myself out of it.

      Congratulations so much on your fitness journey! Agreed on continued movement. It’s crazy how helpful even just walking 30 minutes per day can be on your health.

  4. Awesome post. This doesn’t just apply to overweight folks but to all folks with an “I’m too *insert reason* for jiu jitsu”. Mine was claustrophobia. I got over it with jiu jitsu. As I’m writing this I’m realizing all. The other things I’ve conquered while on the mat. Again, wonderfully insightful post. Thanks!

    • There was a gal who wrote an article about dealing with PTSD. That is a rough training situation. That’s really wonderful that BJJ was able to help you with your claustrophobia – I know that there’s so much panic that can set in when someone is laying on top of you, squishing you. Dealing with a fear of that to begin with – even rougher. Good on you for sticking with it!

      • You were speaking to me; a fat girl who loves MMA-and Jiu Jitsu in particular-wondering and Googling “Am I too fat for Jiu Jitsu?”.

        So thank you thank you thank you SO much. You are awesome, strong, foxy and still at it.

        I appreciate your sharing this, and admire your tenacity and your moxie!

        • Brandé, welcome to jiujiubjj.com! I’m so glad that you found this article helpful. When are you thinking about taking classes? I hope that you follow your dreams/loves and just do it! Please check back in with us!!

  5. Loved your post. I recently went through the same thing.

    Its been tough. Its been hard. Its been totally worth it. Hope your post inspires more people to do something to change their lifestyle.

    • That. Is. AWESOME! Congratulations on your journey!! And thank you for sharing it. It takes a lot of courage the first time you take a (semi) nude picture of yourself and post it online. I had to deal with some body shame issues I hadn’t been aware of – because it was quite different for me to wear flattering clothes at that size versus just let it all hang out there. High five, sir!

    • Wow – that is amazing! What exactly did you do to drop like that? I am pretty sure anyone reading this article, and digging through the threads would want to know 🙂

  6. I just started my jiu jitsu a little over a month ago weighing 218. Almost everything you said above I told myself. I didn’t care what others thought as I was happy knowing I was on the right track in life. After going to class I realized that there are some great and encouraging people there and it didn’t taken long to feel comfortable around them. I may not roll like a boss but I feel my body getting stronger and more flexible each week and that is the ultimate goal. Oh and did I mention how crazy fun it is and yes I sweat my ass off!!!

  7. In June i started BJJ after putting it off for so long. I’m 5’10” and WAS 389lbs. Now I’m three months in and can’t imagine not going. Lost close to 30 Lbs since then too. You’ll love the challenge, you just have to start first.

    Thanks for the great article. Pretty much reads as a timeline for any big person trying BJJ for the first time!

      • Gorilla Gi company puts out a very big gi. It’s $199 (plus extra if it’s the super XL). A heavy investment for just starting out.

        Additionally, they have extra large pants both in white and blue, but it looks like they’re out of stock. You may want to email them and ask if/when they’ll be coming back in stock.

        For a short term, I’d recommend judo pants. More people do judo, so you’ll have an easier time finding those I think. You could even ask the instructor for some help. You might need to get pants custom made – that’s an option.

        However, talk to your instructor. Ask them what you should do. They might have you wear different pants until you can find/wear gi pants. He might have you wear sweat pants. Now, if that happened to me, I’d feel really stupid, but just accept that you are doing what you CAN in order to do what you WANT. Think of how cool that story will be – “I couldn’t find any pants so I had to wear sweats my first X months, and I stuck with it!”

    • Hi Jon
      Im about to do the same travel starting at 375lbs.
      What gi (brand&size) did you use in the start?

      //Martin

  8. I wasn’t fat particularly when I started BJJ, but I was 53 and marginally but not horribly out of shape. When I was younger I did stand-up martial arts. BJJ wasn’t around back then and the idea that I’d be fighting on the ground was not something that appealed to me. I HATED when we did wrestling in PE in Junior High and High School, because I was awful at it and at that age I had so many self-esteem issues.

    I started training because of my daughter. I had put her in classes when she was five, and while at first she loved it a combination of some bigger and more aggressive kids, coupled with some cliquishness by some of them, caused her to lose confidence and not want to continue. I thought that if her much older than normal dad could do it, she could too. I didn’t expect it to be easy for me, but I had no idea how hard it was going to be. I was injured repeatedly, and after every class I’d go home so sore and bruised that I usually couldn’t sleep that night. I was completely outclassed by almost everyone there, including boys young enough to be my grandsons.

    Long story short, I did stay, and I’m now a blue belt. I lost 20 pounds and have excellent cardio and strength. I don’t move as fast as the youngsters and still get outclassed, but not nearly as often. One of the best compliments I’ve gotten about anything, anywhere was after sparring with one of my classmates at my new school, and he posted on my facebook wall, “you, sir, are tough as nails.”

    • Thank you for this post. I needed to hear from someone who started late, (and by late I don’t mean 35). I started at 49. I could stand to lose 25 but mostly I have no cardio. I have a foot issue and can’t run so in part that is how I chose BJJ. All my life I’ve felt left out of sports because I can’t run, (born with the issue). I’ve never seen or known anyone who practiced BJJ. It’s all Greek to me! They told me when I signed up I didn’t have to run-They lied. They run in warm ups almost every class. I stand in the corner and jog- Humiliating. I’m the oldest person in the building most days and a girl to boot! This stuff hurts HEAD to TOE! I hate to complain, but there is no one to commiserate with where I go. Anyone over 40 has been doing it for years. The new people are athletic 20 year olds. Losing weight was never my goal, I just want to be strong and feel good. However, I’ve lost exactly 4 lbs. Seriously. 4-5 hours a week and 4?. So I’m horrible. No reward from being good. No reward from the scale. The real challenge is mental. I can deal with being bad, but being the worst in every class for months on end is defeating.
      I needed to read this today. Class is in a couple of hours. I’m concentrating on the fact that I can do drop knee steps and forward rolls and that someone who started at my age is years in and can still move when he gets out of bed in the morning. Tough may be my new goal. “Tough as nails” quite a complement. Congratulations and thanks for sharing.

      • Chris, thank you so much for commenting. I did not realize I had taken this long of a hiatus on my blog, and I appreciated coming here to your comment.

        How is your jiu jitsu coming? Of COURSE we lie to you! You don’t HAVE to do it, but you feel weird and awkward if you don’t. 🙂 How is your journey going? Do you have any small or big victories to celebrate?

  9. I have a couple friends that decline my invitations to come to class for this very reason. “I need to lose some weight first, then I’ll come.” I briefly try to explain the fallacy in their thinking, but to no avail. I guess I never figured there could be a whole bunch of underlying self-doubt. Your post was inspiring, and something I’d like to point my friends towards. Maybe reading a post they can relate to will help.

    Thanks!

    • It always amazes me that people don’t know how hard it is for an overweight person to walk into a gym / dojo / dance class. The looks people give us (not all people, but there is ALWAYS someone!), the lack of information, the fears, and good G*d the sweat!

      When I was in high school, i was working out in the weight room, and one of the boys didn’t want “some damn fat girl” in there. He proceeded to hit me in the head with a small weight. Knocked me out. For me to walk into a gym is like walking into the scene of the crime.

      There are demons lots of people face, but with overweight people the results of the demons are more obvious than for some other folks. Sadly, these are the very people who need support. There is a reason people are nervous and have doubts – and often those reasons center around being unwanted… or being treated poorly in the past.

      I commend you on wanting to share something you enjoy and for wanting to share the article with your friends. That is probably one of the most supportive things you can do. Good on you.

      • I give people credit for walking in the door, and their attitude after that adds to that credit or takes it away. You contribute to the atmosphere with your mood, and you can be defeatist or positive.

        That dude in high school sucks. I want to knock him out with a weight. What an ass.

        I love you and I’m so glad you’re in my life. You’re amazing and I’m really glad that I’ve written things you enjoy. That means a lot to me.

        • These blogs are so important. I’m always really encouraging when women come in who are overweight because I do feel many of the gyms are condescending if you aren’t the right body type.

          Many years ago, I stopped going to a gym called “Equinox”. I went there all through my pregnancy – I did step areobics until I was past the 6 month mark and did a body sculpting class the day before I delivered my son. When I came back with the extra baby weight I noticed what I hadn’t noticed before — that all the women were wearing make up. Furthermore, those that were moms were talking about drastic diets to get the postpartum weight off fast. It was too much for me. Even though I was only 10 pounds over my pre-pregnancy weight I couldn’t face that crowd. I opted for chasing my kid around which worked because he learned to climb at the age of 9 months and he was very fast so I had to run to keep up with him. I don’t know how to put pics up, but that gym has gone farther and farther into exploiting body image issues. My teenage son considers their advertisements to be a sort of sketchy soft core porn.

          Here’s there latest iteration:
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03CjrX6Zr1U

          The one instructor at my dojo who gets all the moms to come in has a really diverse array of followers – of all body types and ethnic groups. She got me in the door when my son was doing more stuff on his own and I was gaining weight because I didn’t need to run around after him anymore. And I was at an age when I was getting complacent that it was OK to be a slouch because I was older. More important than the weight, I was starting to hunch over first from pregnancy, followed by breastfeeding, followed by pushing strollers, followed by getting comfortable with that abysmal posture. I love that she has a way of making it very welcoming for women of all body types to do her classes. And her classes look a lot more like the rest of New York City’s population than the gyms like Equinox.

  10. I was 321lbs an 39 years old when I started jiu jitsu. 3 years later I’m a 190lb blue belt. It can be done and the road is worth it.

  11. Thank you thank you thank you. I was 5’9″ and 230lbs when I started roller derby and extremely out of shape. Thank God that derby has a place for big girls in the sport because I never would have attempted it otherwise. There are many gem in this peice but this is my favorite: “Simply accept – okay – some people will laugh, and if they do, I’ll know they’re a shitty person.”

  12. This is an amazing post – possibly the best I’ve ever read on jiu-jitsu. Thanks so much for publishing it. I’m getting ready to share it on our Facebook pages (I hope that you don’t mind). And if you’re ever in the Pittsburgh area, stop by Steel City Martial Arts to train with us. You’re our kind of people!

  13. I love this article, I am a slightly rotund lady starting bjj but the guys I work out with are really supportive and I do feel like they respect me. It’s just like anything you do, you do it enough, you have no choice but to get better.

  14. This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. I started BJJ at 32, weighing about 330# ( I am 5’9″). I was 320# the day I was given my blue belt. I had my own style of BJJ that I called “Fat Guy Jiu Jitsu”. My motto was “Smother them into submission” (I even have a logo and T-Shirts). Now years later as a 215# purple belt, I still remember what it was like those early years. I agree with everything on your post.

    My additional comments.
    1. Be aware that your BJJ will not be the same as others. You will not be able to perform some movements or techniques. That’s OK. There is more than one way to triangle choke someone.
    2. Don’t get discouraged in the beginning. In 6 months, you will be terrorizing white belts and frustrating blues. Once you learn top control and a few basic submissions, you will be challenge for any one (being challenge is not the same as saying you are going to win a lot).
    2a. Don’t be surprised as you get better that LESS people want to train with you. As you master the basics of smash, pass, submit; people will be less willing to roll with you. Many times I was the big blue belt on the wall saying “No one wants to play with me”.
    2b. As you begin to dominate smaller players, play bottom. It will improve your game tremendously (you will already know how to smash from the the top position) and will make others more willing to roll with you.
    3. Be aware of the balance between between pinning and smothering. Using weight and pressure is invaluable, but just sitting on someone while they wiggle endlessly is boring, does not make you better, and will make the smaller folk less willing to play with you.
    4. Chances are you will not able to close guard on any one near your size; therefore, half guard is your friend (especially shielded half/Z guard).
    5. To reinforce JiuJiu, DON’T GIVE UP. Keep going to class, you will get better. In the end the personal pride and satisfaction is something that can not understood by those who have not shrimped escape our path.

    • Awesome for you!! And yes yes yes for number 1. I could not close a triangle because my thighs, calves and belly were too big. I was mortified when 3 people were physically trying to help me and it wasn’t working. It was SO EMBARRASSING to say “I’m to fat and inflexible to do this!”

      I never had to deal with being a bigger colored belt because I lost the weight by the time I got to mid blue. But my pressure is WAY better.

      • Thanks for the advice FatGuyBjj! Everything you said is absolutely true and it’s good to hear that someone else out there has gone through the same trial and tribulations as I am going through lol. Big man problems ;p. I’ll keep at it, thanks for the advice and motivational words.

    • Thank you so much for this!

      I am 6’1″, 330 pounds, I want to start BJJ but I am SCARED. I’m worried I’m too fat, worried I will puke on the mat, worried I will roll and take out someone’s knee, worried I will just get my ass kicked for the fun of beating up a big fat guy. Your post, and the original poster’s post, have been REALLY supportive. Gonna get some heart and give it a try.

      • I will say that in my entire five years doing BJJ, I have never seen anyone take pleasure in beating up people, let alone beating up the fat people. If it did happen, it would be an anomaly, and I’d avoid the guy. If it’s common practice at your gym, find a different gym. In general, we love our sport, and we want people to stay with it. Assholes rarely stay in the sport because they’ve been beat up so many times on the mats. Yes, bullies exist, but overwhelmingly you should meet kind folks who love the sport and want our numbers to grow. (one of us, one of us).

        So…when will your first class be? 🙂

  15. What a great post. Thank you for sharing!! It definitely is very hard to begin this sport, especially as a woman. I’ve stuck around for more than 3.5 years at this point and it’s been so worth it!

    • It’s amazing, isn’t it?! One of my friends (my new salsa dance partner in fact!) told me that lots of people TALK about getting healthy. He respects me because I’m DOING it. So, let me tell you, WCWB… i respect that you walk in the door and do it! I’m betting the folks at your gym feel the same way!

      • Words are cheap, actions are valuable. For example, how many times have you heard (eep even from me) “Yeah, I want to write a book” or “I plan to write a book.” Then write the damn book.

  16. This was an awesome post. I’ve never been a gifted athlete, and have struggled with weight problems my whole life. Much of what you’re describing—feeling like the worst one, getting gassed out—was exactly how I felt when i started, and to a degree, how I still feel now.

    But you’re also right: it feels awesome to have done it. To have stuck with it and to make those incremental improvements., Sure, a lot of other practitioners have passed me and gotten better, but you want to know who HASN’T gotten better than me? All those others who gave up and fell by the wayside. If you keep practicing, you WILL improve.

    Now, to some of your other points.

    Not everybody hates to roll with women; not everybody hates to roll with out-of-shape people. not everybody hates to roll with white belts.

    I enjoy training with everybody. When I train with people who are better than me, I get to work my defense as I defend, defend, defend the onslaught of attacks. When I train with someone as good as me, it’s often more exhausting, as the difference between victory and defeat can often be determined by who’s stronger, faster, or has better endurance.

    When with less experienced people, I get to try my crazy moves: the ones I wouldn’t dare try on a higher belt because he’d eat my lunch. I feel safe trying the new moves because if I mess up, I’m pretty confident I can recover.

    I like to train with women because a) it’s nice to train with someone other than another sweaty guy once in a while, b) women are usually smaller and weaker than I am, so they often have fantastically good technique—it can be quite a learning experience for me, and c) as someone who was bullied a lot when I was younger, I want to do my best to help people become bully-proof.

    This also applies to the out-of-shape people. You’d be amazed at the techniques we heavy people can come up with; when every move costs a tremendous amount of energy, you learn to be sneaky and judicious in your efforts!

    Anyway, fantastic post! Keep up the great work!
    Jeff

    • I totally agree with you that not everyone hates rolling with women, out of shape folks, or white belts. I do know that our own insecurity can make it feel that way.

      I’m all about helping new folks. If I pull off the same movement against them a number of times, I always show them afterward. One of my favorite quotes is: “Know yourself. Never forget where you came from, and reach back to help someone else come forward too.” — Alpha Alexander, Black Women in Sports Foundation
      I take that to heart and help new folks. I remember too well that feeling of being new and confused.

    • I think that’s the biggest thing for me – starting lifestyle changes. I love lifestyle changes. I can’t tell you how to go on a diet. You know how to do that. What you might not know how to do is change your lifestyle. ^_^

  17. I’d love to start bjj, but I can’t afford it. 🙁 I’m not worried about fat… I was fat when I started Dagorhir. I picked up my foam sword, went out, got my ass handed to me over and over and over ’til one day I looked around and realized I was doing more of the ass handing than having mine handed to me, and I’m 50 pounds lighter. I’m no longer (as) embarrassed to take off my shirt in public. Once I’m not blindingly white, I won’t be embarrassed at all.

    • Fantastic for you! Isn’t that weird when the tables turn? I have to now define a new reality for myself – one that does not include “I am awful at BJJ”.

    • That sucks that you can’t afford it. You might be able to work some deal out with the local coach – if you really want to do it, you may be able to find a way! Congrats on the health improvement! Good job!

      • Canthus13 – I know I’m a few months late but I think I may have an answer for your problem! Our buddy’s wife just lost her job and decided to back to school, which means he isn’t going to have the income to roll anymore. So a white belt (me), a purple belt and a blue belt (kind of sounds like the beginning of a bjj joke right?) pitched in a 10×10 mat and are using a friends empty building. The building is waiting on a tenant so we don’t have any power. To combat this we simply just use a camping lantern lol. We have been getting together twice a week to go over what we learned and to get some rolling in. It’s actually really fun and we are able to discuss and review whatever technique we want. I actually feel like I’m getting more out of this than class…but shhhh don’t tell anyone ;p.

        Anyway, I’m just saying all you need to do to roll is find a partner(s). You can deal with everything else later.

        On a side note, we are thinking about getting some rash guards made with our unofficial group name…Lamplight jujitsu…lol

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  19. Wanted to share this experience as a large woman training: it was unintuitive for me to learn to use my weight on someone, and my coach had to constantly remind me to do so in the beginning.

    I’m one of the larger people at my gym (5’10”, 200lb) and sometimes when I had side control on a dude, I would have a split-second insecure female thought of “OMG I’m huge and fat and ugly and am crushing this guy.” Yes, I even thought “ugly,” but the thought was coming from an irrational place.

    Before bjj, I guess I was unconsciously apologetic about how much space I was taking up in the world. So, when I started bjj, it was a foreign concept for me to start using my size to my advantage. (And, of course, when you’re brand new, it’s basically your only advantage.)

    I remember telling a drilling partner this once, that I felt weird putting all my weight on him, and he gave me a look like he thought I was the craziest person ever.

    Anyway, moral of the story: the thing you’re insecure about could be your advantage.

    • That was the look that the new gal I partnered with had – she got really good top pressure on me and I made that OOF sound and I could see her embarrassment. I wished we spoke a better common language together. I wanted to tell her that leverage is AWESOME. What I said was: “Pressure = good. Kilo =/= pressure. Me = good pressure, small kilo. Good job!” Now I want to laugh maniacally when I hear the OOF from my partner. MWA HA HA!!

      But yes, I actually sometimes take the time to have new people just put pressure on my chest to show them – dude, you’re NOT hurting me. You have to TRUST that I will tap if you hurt me.

    • YES YES YES! There is so much about BJJ that is totally not intuitive AND to the “the thing you’re insecure about could be your advantage!”

      Thank you so much for sharing your story about your insecurity. Irrational self-doubt sucks so much. I have had a few breakdowns where I went in the back and cried and said “omg I’ve been doing this for 3 years, why can a first day person shut me down so easily.” 🙁

      With newer, more insecure folks who are worried about hurting me with their weight – I’ll often stop and just have them put weight on me. I tell them to keep pressing harder until I say it’s too much (spoiler: it’s never too much with new folks). They’re really shocked, not realizing that those who have been doing it longer also have higher thresholds for what is “a lot of pressure.” ^_^

  20. What you have here is an awesome display of great attitude! I started my BJJ journey about 4 months ago, and have experienced pretty much everything you wrote about, it would be hard for me to relate more to this post 🙂

    I was one of the bigger guys in my class when I started, but I kept coming. In fact, I trained for two hours before reading this post, my teacher posted it a short bit ago. I have lost 25 pounds or so, and feel better now then I did in my military days, or even high school.

    When they say BJJ changes lives, it’s not some cliche practitioners use to recruit, it’s the truth, and I’m living proof. I have been at it a relatively short-term time, but I tell you the results to my physical, mental, and emotional well being are overwhelmingly positive.

    I salute you for sharing your story, and helping inspire people. BJJ is more then technique, it’s more then a 5 minute roll. BJJ is a lifestyle, and for those who encouraged me to give it a shot, I am eternally grateful!

    Thanks again, and don’t worry, I’ll keep coming! 🙂

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  22. Great article! The only thing I will add though, from a higher belt’s perspective (I’m a brown belt) is that although it’s understandable that you *feel* like you might be wasting the time of the higher belts, you most certainly aren’t. As you progress in this beautiful sport you begin to understand that one of the best ways you can improve yourself as a person, and improve yourself as a martial artist, is by helping someone else along on their journey. If I were to pair up with a white belt there might be nuances to the technique that I’m taking for granted, but when critically examining why they’re having a problem, I could uncover that. This helps my development as a martial artist AND an instructor.

    Of course this is over and above something that should already be the unspoken golden rule of jiu jitsu – that everyone was once a “useless” white belt. You should always be continually paying forward the kindnesses you were afforded when you started your journey. Perhaps this is one of the greatest gifts the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu community can provide us…that we’re all connected in a great, life-long journey of self-improvement.

    So glad to hear you’re doing well. Congratulations on sticking to it!

    • This is awesome! We talk about this issue a lot at the academy I attend. Not only is it amazing to help others, such as white belts, but you’re also helping yourself. You’re improving your competition in class and as such you’ll soon start to grow together and get better together. It’s the rising water mentality. We all help each other!

    • Woot woot! I don’t get a lot of you higher belt folks commenting!

      I get a bit indignant when people say “I’m wasting their time” and I put it into perspective – EVERYONE deserves to learn, even the new white belts. Now, yes, there are caveats – the brand new person paired with the person training for a tournament – yes, they’re wasting their training time.

      Thank you for sharing your insight!!

      • One of the other white belts made me pretty angry today. He’s a black belt in another martial art and has some joint problems. He had to sit out a bit today and said “Yeah, coach is saying to go like 30%. So I’ll pair with maybe you or another girl or someone else easy like a kid or something and then it’ll work out to be about right.”

        I didn’t say anything, but I was ripping mad. I’m 5’3″ and 175 pounds with 17 years of an unrelated martial experience. I’m only about 10 weeks in, but I’m not an “easy out”. I’m getting very good at sweeps and escapes, and I am getting WAY better at preventing being tapped.

        Grrr! Ok, I’m done. He was really just trying to make himself feel better about “wimping out” and having to sit on the sidelines. That’s no fun for anyone.

        • If he remains your teammate, may I suggest talking to him? “When you said that, it was frustrating. It’s fine to think these things, but please keep that to yourself.”

  23. Hey im 6″ 290 and im starting my class in january this post is amaziing and it covered most of my fears….and i know that if i ever feel them starting back up i can come back here.

    • Why wait until January? May I suggest starting before then? There will likely be a huge crop of new folks starting in January – why not get a head start on them?

      • Gryphix – just don’t rush into any “small man” moves. IE berimbolo ;p

        Remember big guys like us need to work up our flexibility and stability muscles to handle our full figures lol.

        Good luck bud!

  24. This is a great article! Just as more encouragement for people, I’m 6’0″ tall and when I started BJJ I weighed in at 265lbs. I’m now down to 200lbs and it’s amazing! I used to take naps every day because I was so tired and eating unhealthy from being overweight. BJJ made me change my diet, so that I eat really healthy now, and encouraged me to workout! BJJ is amazing!

    • Naps are awesome! Congrats on the health improvements! It’s weird – when BJJ becomes an important focus, other things tend to want to fall in line.

      • Trainingbjj – Thats great that bjj has inspired you to lose so much weight and make great life changes. Quick question though, how did losing the weight effect your bjj game? I’m curious how much weight I’ll need to lose before I can start doing some fancy stuff.

        Ever see a 5’10” 300lb man going inverted? Me either…but that doesn’t mean I have to stop trying ;p

  25. Wow I love that finally I can relate in full to what you said…almost like I wrote it myself… right now im still the new uncomfortable with my body jiu jitsu girl. I cant wait til I accept my body and can be confident. I love jiu jitsu and the way I feel when im on the mat.. the people at my gym are awesome as well. Sometimes I wish I could unzip the old me and be able to see the new me…im getting strong and stronger each day…thanks for your post it is truly inspiring.

    • Yep – I still remember being in that phase. The super cool thing – after you learn to use your body more efficiently, you will MARVEL at what you can do. Movement is a blessing. It’s awesome. Jedi hugs from Seoul!

      • Rhianna – I hope someday I can join you in your feeling of accomplishment! I’m at the beginning of my journey but it’s great to be able to see people who are getting positive results that are on the same path.

  26. Awesome article, thank you! I started Muay Thai first and circled around BJJ for a while. I would watch them roll from the Muay Thai class, but thought “I’m too big for this,” especially when the other girl in the class was probably around 110 wet. I lost 15lbs doing Muay Thai, so with a bit more confidence five weeks ago I started BJJ and I sucked! My new found confidence was rocked, hard. But I kept coming to class thanks to the encouragement of my coach. I still suck, but just last week during one of our drills my partner made a comment that I had big legs and for the first time I didn’t take a comment about my thighs as an insult, I said “thanks, I try to use it to my advantage” to this he said, good-natured, “yeah, you totally should”.

    After class I replayed the conversation and thought ‘wow I have come a long way’. I still suck at everything in jiu jitsu, but that was a huge victory… tapped one more insecurity. hollar!

    • Woot! Good for you!! BJJ has helped me be more body neutral – in that they are what they are. Some are bigger, some are stronger, some move faster, and some slower. One size is not intrinsically better or worse than another – and that’s a weird reconditioning after a lifetime of being taught there is an ideal size/weight.

      • I feel like BJJ, of all the sports and martial arts that I’ve tried, is the only one where body type isn’t a huge issue. I’m being taught that if a certain technique doesnt work, you just have to modify it to your body and your abilities. Like anything else, it’s just going to take a little practice and hard work.

        I love how bjj isn’t set in stone and is continually evolving.

        I <3 BJJ

  27. I started BJJ at the age of 56. Weight was not my issue. Age was. Everything you have written applies, except while you may lose pounds, I will never lose years. They just keep rollin’ on!

    But I can relate to feeling like the “fish out of water” and the frustration of not being able to do physically what others do without thought. I was concerned (and still am) that I looked silly out there trying to assert myself against “kids” a half or even a third my age.

    There was the feeling that no one wanted to roll with the old guy, but I just kept coming and doing my best. Three years later, BJJ has become an important part of my life and a source of great friendships and support. Jiu Jitsu is a sport intrinsically designed for all sizes, shapes and ages to participate and succeed.

    Your perseverance will be paid back ten-fold. Your story is inspiring, and it applies to many challenges beyond weight as well.

    • That is awesome – congratulations on your journey!! There’s a man in my club who is 50 and he just earned his blue belt. All the blue belts were in a round robin with the instructor and we were each saying something about our journey and he said that he felt a lot of pressure from himself to go really strong so that the young guys wouldn’t judge him for being old and weak. That mad me sad, but I understood it.

      Thank you so much for sharing your story!!

  28. Good advice. I give similar, less eloquent, advice regular to big and small guys. I learned a lot of this the hard way. And you couldn’t be more true. My professor wouldn’t let me roll with a lot of different people in the beginning due to the size mismatch. There was one whole class I couldn’t roll with anyone because the biggest person on the mat other than me was 150 lbs and I was 280. It gets better you get better and it becomes even more fun. Good for you and good article

    • I was, for a long time, paired with the biggest guy in the class. He was over a foot taller than me and a good deal heavier, but I was the one closest to his weight. Now I’m around everyone else’s weight and he’s also much better. But yes – it does occasionally mean that you have limited partners.

  29. I’m a 20 year old male athlete who is a little out of shape but still strong and fast. I weigh a relatively lean 185lbs and I’m 5ft9. In high school I was one of the fastest athletes and pound for pound one of the strongest.

    I got beaten up really badly this morning (my fourth class) by a 100 pound, 5ft2 woman – I got tapped like 8 times in 4 3 minute rounds (and the rest of the time I was holding on for my dear life trying to avoid getting tapped), so I can confirm that even someone athletic but untrained can get stomped on lol.

    Thanks for the writeup! Good advice for everyone starting the sport, not just the overweight.

  30. I can’t believe I just read the story of my life!!!! I’ve lost tons of weight with BJJ from size 10 to 4 in 5 months. BJJ made want to be better in every way . I had to eat good so I wouldn’t be burping fried junk and loss of energy! Girls!!! FAT OR SKINNY GET UR ASS TO THE MAT! Xxx

    • Good for you! This is the first time in my life I remember being a single digit dress size (8). I also cleaned up my diet a lot after starting BJJ – having that much intense exercise meant I needed to plan more, and dealing with timing of going to class. BJJ affected my life in so many ways. Congratulations, name-twin!

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  33. I’ve never done Jiu Jitsu. Instead, I found Kendo to be the love of my life. I’m also 5’4″ and at the moment roughly 125 pounds (at various points, during my kendo journey, I have been bordering 100 pounds, and also up at 135). Despite the fact that I am a tiny girl, I feel like we share a lot in common, and that’s kind of why I’m posting and what I wanted my post to highlight.

    I think, you’ve probably already found what I’m going to say, but maybe this will be helpful to others who are scared to start.

    When I first started, I sucked. Hardcore. I didn’t even *own* a gi at that point. I remember one of the sempai (one of my seniors), telling me how another never learned the names of anyone new until many, many, many lessons in, when he knew they were going to stick around. I remember, many times, when apologizing after practice for accidentally hitting someone’s throat, fingers, and other body parts not meant to be hit (or hitting meant to be hit parts too hard) that they would usually laugh and say it was something like penance for all the times they themselves had done the same thing when starting out. I still felt bad, and still felt like probably no one *wanted* to practice with the new girl.

    I remember when I’d get exhausted a quarter of the way into practice, sometimes on the first thing right after warm-ups. Or, many times, on my walk to the dojo. (Because nothing says, “Today will be a great practice!” like, “I’m falling over dead at the door before we’ve even started!”)

    Because, while I was a thin little whisp of a thing, I had no stamina, no muscle, no nothing to claim. Many times I’d have to stop partway through a group exercise because I was too exhausted to keep going. Several times, I had to stop practice early- I’d pushed so hard I’d be throwing up, weak, shaking, give myself heat sickness, and the whole works. The elderly sensei who trained with us did not do this. No one who was heavier who trained with us ever did this. But, there I was, lying in the corner of the dojo, struggling to breathe, unable to even make a fist, fairly certain I wasn’t going to be able to sit up, and definitely needing to call a friend for a ride home because walking was out of the question.

    It got better. But that’s not entirely the point I want to make, I mean, it partially is, but the other thing is, no matter how you feel, don’t let it hold you back, or fear everyone else is judging you. There’s a very strong likelihood that even us thin little things are feeling the exact same way you do (I mean, sure, less a hundred pounds, but years of body issues given by society regardless, and body out of shape from years of bad food and hours of internet gaming and TV, oh yeah.)

    So, pretty much, there’s a huge chance, while you’re afraid, that we’re just as afraid ourselves. And, more than likely, we’re more focused on trying to stay upright by the end of practice (or, hell, sometimes even the first exercise after warm-ups), than we are on anyone else. And at the end of the day, we don’t have the left over energy to judge anyone but ourselves (and might envy that you lose weight, since we tend to gain it. Given, it’s muscle, but it’s still pounds adding up on the scale, after a life time of people expecting us to not have them, immediately noticing we have them, sometimes shaming us for getting them, and so forth.)

    So, again, don’t let your issues hold you back, because, we’ve got issues also, and, in a twisted way, we understand. And, we’re all in it together. Because, by the time I finally had kohai (um, people I’m senior to) and would work with them, I wasn’t even worried about them hitting me wrong, I was worried about being a good example, not falling over on my face for the rest of practice, and likewise, helping them get through the practice in those tough first stages (and by tough first stages, I’m 4 years in, albeit inability to practice regularly anymore, and lately still cannot make it through a whole practice without an extra break, throwing up sometimes, or giving myself heat sickness. Or, hey, all three.) So yeah, we feel you too, and really f’ing admire and respect your suffering for your love, be it jiu jitsu, or kendo, or whichever art you do. We admire the strength it takes to start, and to continue, and any time you’re willing to work, and sweat, I’ve never found anyone yet who isn’t willing to work, and sweat, and do it all with you.

    • I agree – I think that most people have fears and concerns about being judged. Whether it’s because you’re too old, you’re a woman, you’re too young, or heck – even if you fall directly at the very very tippy top of the bell curve, you’re likely concerned that you may not be able to keep up in class or that you’re not progressing fast enough.

      Thank you so much for sharing your story. I do hope that your body is taken care of! It sounds like it was rebelling. And I hope you shoot anyone with your new guns if they start telling you you shouldn’t be packing! ^_^

  34. Great post and comments! I just recently started bjj and I think these things you mentioned can apply to anyone just staring out. My husband has been trying to get me to join for years but it took me so long because I was scared I might get hurt, getting into awkward positions and worried about what others would think of my suckiness. I guess I forgot that everyone started out as a white belt… I have also been boxing for a little over a year now and went through similar feelings when I first started and eventually overcame those insecurities as I put in the hard work and saw improvement. Having gone through that before I regret not having started bjj sooner. Showing up to class is half the battle so even if I suck in the beginning I’m going to give it my best and just have fun. So far no one has laughed at me and my classmates have been extremely helpful.

    I enjoy reading your blog and have picked up some very insightful tips, thanks Jiu Jiu!

    • I like to link BJJ to languages. If you started a Chinese class, would ANYONE expect you to be able to introduce yourself in Chinese on the first day, or to hold a basic conversation in the first week? Of course not. We don’t have that level of nervousness when it comes to doing a language class, and yet we do with something like BJJ. Enjoy your white belt – sincerely – it’s the no-pressure belt.

      CONGRATULATIONS for making it to BJJ. I’m really happy for you! I hope you check in from time to time and let us know how it’s going!

  35. What an inspiring post. I have heard a lot of people suggest jumping in to BJJ and it will get you into shape and build your strength versus trying to get into shape for BJJ. But to hear your experience and how you persevered really hit home. There was a great comment about adapting your BJJ game to what works for your body, that made me feel a lot more comfortable with trying BJJ. Knowing many other fat guys and girls have had success and fun. Thanks for the great post.

    • I know that jiu jitsu isn’t the best for losing weight – there are more efficient ways to do it, but damn if this isn’t a super fun and addictive way to get your body moving and set up amazing lifestyle changes for you! I’m really excited for you! I hope you’ll check in after you try it and let us know how it went!

  36. I’m 5’8, 333 pounds and tonight I had my very first BJJ class. I’ve been going to my gym for almost two years and I’ve done Muay Thai(had a amateur fight last October) and boxing and lost about 70 lbs. Every time I was in the gym, I always saw a few guys rolling on the mats. I would say to myself that I want to do that, but then I would talk myself out of it by saying your WAAAAYYYY to fat and you shouldn’t be on top of anyone. Well I finally said that I’m going to STOP depriving myself of things I want to do because I’m big. Class was awesome! I’m strong, but that class showed my how much stronger I need to be. I’m flexible, but need to get better and of course I have to continue to build my cardio up. My teammates were sooooooo excited to see me on the mats because they’ve heard me talk about it before. I love my gym and I had so much fun in the class. Now if I can just find some gi pants that fit, I’ll be ready to go. If not, I’ll work it out until I lose more weight.

    Thank you so much for posting this. You’re truly an inspiration!

    • That’s really exciting news! I’m so happy for you. And yes, once you start doing it, you will have to learn to control your weight and learn the difference between just laying on someone and using proper pressure. You’ll have to learn how to roll with smaller folks – someone mentioned this in the comments above yours – about once they got better, even fewer folks wanted to roll with him.

      I’m so glad you have supportive people in your life. Keep it up and I hope you come back and let me know how it goes!

  37. Hi Jiu Jiu,

    A friend of mine who has been doing BJJ for 15 years linked this randomly on his facebook page. I read it, found a school near to me and went to my first class two days later (last night!).

    I’ve been working hard on my weight (I am 28, 5″6′ and 250lb) but put off joining a martial arts school (I knew I wanted to do one of the Arts, just not which one!) until I was “more fit” and “healthy enough to sustain it.” It was pretty much bullshit. Your post gave me the courage to actually go and try it out.

    Thank you.

    I found my first lesson hard and painful and a crazy amount of fun. I feel like the 5 techniques shown to me have leaked out of my head already but I have the motivation to go back in a couple of days and get it forcibly rolled back on in there.

    Thank you.

    • Think of techniques as food, keeping “eating” them and some of them will “stick”; soon enough you will be “fat” with knowledge!

      • Or you’ll just be the weird skinny person who has a tapeworm and can never get fat no matter how much knowledge they consume. I EAT ALL THE TECHNIQUES! WHY DON’T NONE STICK!!!

    • Ah yes, the “my brain is a sieve” phenomenon. I have that except permanently. Don’t stress about trying to remember everything – it’s so common for people to beat themselves up for not remembering. Heck, it took a crapload of time for me to not forget between being showed and trying it out. In class the instructors are taking out the kitchen drawer and showing you how to use all the equipment. As a new “cook” you’re probably going to stick with a wooden spoon and maybe a whisk and think “when the eff would I ever use a springpan – I’ll never make cheesecake!” But don’t sweat it – just let them show you and try it out and eventually some day you’ll think – oh right – I was shown how to do this a long time ago. Someone once said they look at it as a preview of all the things that SOME DAY you’ll be able to do! ^_^

      CONGRATULATIONS ON DOING IT!!! Big high five on recognizing and cutting through your own bullshit. That is fantastic. I’m really excited for you. I hope you get addicted to BJJ as well!!

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  39. I have had a similar experience. … I was a college level athlete in my younger days playing soccer. My husband was killed in 2010 I went through a horrible depression and went from 5’3 145lbs with a muscular build to 210lbs pilsbury build. I started jiujitsu February of this year and I am down to 155…my coach now tells me you have to remember to use your weight now because I would be afraid of using my weight before.

    • Thank you so much for sharing. Big jedi hugs from Seoul. I read Flow with the Go by Elena Stowell and she talks about losing her daughter and working through the grief using BJJ. She’s such a wonderful woman. It was a tough book for me to read, even though I hadn’t lost anyone close to me. I’d still recommend it if you’re looking for good books to read.

      And congratulations for both starting BJJ and for the weight loss. Yes, you learn to have a different relationship with your body in BJJ. Every size and shape has positives and negatives. I started looking at bodies less as “good” vs “bad” and more as “features” – long and skinny = crazy guard and triangle chokes, but lots of space. ^_^

      Good luck to you! I hope you check in from time to time and share how you’re doing!

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  41. Hi there. Just read your article and it was awesome. I’m not gonna lie, I’m scared. I am 44 years old, 315 lbs and suffer from anxiety disorder. I have a real fear of rejection and failure now. I studied martial arts when I was younger, but that was 25 years ago. I don’t have a BJJ school near me, I live in a rural community, but I have a karate class with a pretty nice instructor. How did you get past the feeling or worry of looking stupid, if you had it?

    • Hi Tony! Thank you for writing. To be very frank, you have to just go for it and accept it. Yes, you’ll feel stupid, but if you just take that as a given and accept it, realizing that you’ll FEEL more stupid than you’ll look to others (well, probably), you will be okay. Perhaps in your case, if you’re seeing a doctor for the anxiety disorder they can recommend something for you?

      The failure thing – well, you stick with it long enough and you’ll eventually outpace everyone else. Heck – I’m nearly purple now – that wasn’t supposed to happen! ^_^

      I think that powerful things come from conquering fear. I think that in your case, your win is just GOING. Every day you go to class you WIN. And that’s REALLY cool. Or every day you get through a class is a win. In fact, you could set up several wins:
      * going to class
      * trying your best
      * focused on doing the technique
      * tried being a good partner
      * attempted sparring
      * made it through class
      * shook everyone’s hands

      Boom. Several easy wins for you! Just remember – you’re stepping into a group of friends where many have been training for years, and you’re the unknown. They may reject you because of your size, but they may reject you simply because you’re a white belt, or they don’t know if you’re sticking around. That’s the reality. But prove yourself by coming several times per week – 2 or 3. You can do it!

      If your instructor is very nice, you can ask a few things: who can be your accountability partner, or if there’s another brand new person perhaps they could be your karate buddy. Or you could go on Craigslist and ask for a karate partner.

      Anything new risks looking and feeling stupid. How do you want to live your life? With no change? Staying inside and taking no risks? For me, that’s not a life I want to live.

      Report back in within a month and tell me about your karate class!

  42. Your article is my mantra before going to class! I’m not overweight but i have all of the other disadvantages – short, only woman in class, badly coordinated, etc etc. So as u say. If i go, i win 😀

  43. ‘kay, I’m going to go girly right now. This actually made me cry. EVERY SINGLE THING YOU PUT HERE IS TRUE! I started BJJ 3 months ago at 210 lbs. and I felt every single thing you just wrote. Seriously, thank you!

      • STICK WITH IT, Jessi….you can do it. I KNOW it’s hard…and it sucks. but it gets better. make small goals for yourself…and when you achieve those goals…make some more small goals…and then achieve them…next thing you know…more than a year will have passed. you’ve made the most important decision…YOU STARTED.

  44. Hello Ms. Julia,

    I came across your article, “BJJ: To the fat person googling Jiu Jitsu”.  This is an awesome AWESOME article.  I hope you don’t mind that I’m linking to it from my FB page.  SOOO many times…I try to help the newbie, rookie, beginner, white belt…only to feel their discouragement flourishing.  I try to tell them MY personal story (which kind of reads like yours).  I was 250lbs when I started in the april 2011. I had been sedintary and not done ANYTHING athletic since high school (which was more than 20 years previous).  The first week of practice, I threw up every single day…but I kept going to class.  I got demolished and destroyed by the upper belts every single day…but I kept going to class.  Some part of my face bled during every practice….but I kept going to class.  I found out that a lot of the punishment that they were putting me through was to see if I was going to just quit…or if I was going to stick around.  Once they realized that I wasn’t going to quit…(after about a month or 2)….they started to take me under their wings and help me…rather than just smash me every day.

    Everything…EVERYTHING in this article is true.  You ARE going to be the worst one in class….JUST KEEP COMING TO CLASS.  I do not allow ANYONE in my school to make fun of the newbies…especially the overweight guys and girls…just because of the fact that they DO have bigger obstacles to overcome.  You don’t know this person yet…they might be a single mother/father of 3…who is working double shifts to pay for food and clothes…and is trying to make a change in his/her life by trying to get in shape and do Jiu Jitsu.

    Thanks a bunch for this article.  I hope that by letting others see this…they will keep coming to class and going down the path….on this journey with us.

    Lance

  45. Honestly, I am walking the road right now. As a 32 year old fat guy, I look every once in a while for inspiration and your blog has definitely inspired me. Thanks for that and congrats on your progress. I started 4 months ago at 345 lbs. and now I am down to 315 lbs. I still suck to a point but I can tell a difference in the breakdance moves I can put on kids half my age now. I am still big and slow but improvement is coming, sometimes at an alarming rate, which is truly an awesome experience. You are absolutely right though, never give up. Even when the knee-jerk reaction is to tap because you’re gassed and your opponent’s got you in side control, shrimp out and roll that fool and fight on.

    Sorry for the cheesy Jiu-Jitsu analogy but I couldn’t resist. Truly though, I did find your story parallel to my own and it is nice to know that there are others out there fighting the good fight. Again, thank you for sharing and take care.

    Jeff

    • Welcome to my blog! I’m really excited for you. Our journey may be slower, but it’s so amazing how much we can better appreciate what our bodies can do. I wrote recently about how grateful I was to have movement in my life – to be able to do freaking handstands now, and I was crying while writing it. Our bodies are such gifts, and we can put them away and never take them out, or we can try to wrest as much as we can out of them.

      Congratulations on your jiu jitsu journey! I hope you keep checking in over here!

  46. Thank you so much! My second class is tomorrow. Last week I missed it because my babysitter was sick and this week gap has me second guessing and getting nervous. I make daft jokes to break the awkwardness I’m sure only I feel. I’m overweight, inflexible and completely awkward. I might read this every time I have a class. I really appreciate this 🙂

  47. Thank you for this post. I went to boxing class at the YMCA tonight. It kicked my butt, I didn’t make it past the half hour warmup. It was an hour and a half long, one hour of physical conditioning and a half hour of boxing technique.

    One of the other guys there said he lost 91 pounds in about a year of doing boxing. Just what I need. The group calisthenics was good, and people were welcoming and encouraging.

    Thank you for encouraging us to keep going back even though we such, even though we can’t make it through everything. I’m going to keep going back two or three times a week.

    • Oh, forgot to mention, I’m a guy, almost 40 years old, 330 – 345 pounds currently, 6 feet tall.

      Also, I reread your post again and the “showing up to class = win” idea is something I’m taking with me from your post.

      • Went twice more this week. My goal is twice a week until I think I can do consecutive days. I didn’t want to go Friday, but I did go and I felt accomplished afterward. I noticed some progress on the abs and I have hope that there is a small chance I might eventually learn footwork. Next week work, family and fire department schedule only allow one class meeting (on Valentine’s Day!) for me, but I will go that day and hit a gym sometime, somewhere for some weight lifting.

  48. THANKS for this! It’s how I feel about recently starting Krav Maga. I lack coordination. I am not particularly athletic. “Basics” are a challenge. I cannot do a side plank push-up thingy and I am so slow at mountain climbers. I do sissy push-ups. I WILL keep going and some day folks won’t groan at partnering with me for practice. 🙂

  49. Have you ever seen Kung Fu Panda? Heart goes a LOOOOOONNNNGGGGG way. Once people start seeing your dedication and the effort you are putting forth the help will come pouring in. That’s what I’ve learned anyway. I’m not as quick, strong, flexible or in shape as I used to be but I am more open minded and willing to learn that I used to be. I’m still wearing my I SUCK belt but when I see that big (wo)/man giving it their all, I’ll be there helping them out all the way. I’ve been known to do extra sprints/push ups with them to encourage them. At first glance, this may look like an individual sport. But when you look closer you see that it is very much a team sport, your partners (no matter how big or how small) are invaluable.

  50. Maybe I’ll create a meme. You might be too fat for (_____), but you’re not too fat to start Jiujitsu. Ehhhh maybe not, it might be counterproductive. I had let myself go during my 15 year bulk phase & I gained almost 50lbs. 1 year in & I’m down 25lbs & getting fitter everyday. Holy crap, I just realized that I just hit my 1st Jits anniversary. This calls for some chocolate cake. Oh yeah, you are never too (____) to start BJJ. Oss.

  51. I am so impressed with everyone’s stories, but then I started wondering whether I really wanted the outcome to be me-the-skinny-lean-martial-arts-person. I went to a seminar a couple of weeks ago with my instructor’s instructor’s instructor, and I was struck, more than anything else, by the variety of bodies on display. Sadly, there weren’t many women there – actually, only me – but the guys were shorter than 5 foot and as tall as 6 foot 6, and anything from 120lb up to nearly 400lb. I didn’t weigh him, but I’m convinced he must have weighed at least that much, and he had a nice colored belt and did everything everyone else did just fine. So – I’m planning to continue cleaning up my diet, though without abandoning chocolate and beer – but, as I said to my personal trainer when I finally could afford him – losing weight is NOT the goal. The goal is strength, endurance and flexibility. If I lose weight that’s a bonus, but if I don’t at least I can continue wearing my existing wardrobe. Hurray for that stripey suit I’ve been wearing for twenty years!

  52. I love this article! I saved it so I can read it whenever I need a little boost in morale. I just started BJJ two months ago and am the only female. After two months of just 2 classes a week and some extra cardio work, I finally come to class excited to do warm ups rather than fearing how loud I will huff and puff to get through them. My next hope is to make it through two matches without feeling like I need an ice bath and a bottle of Motrin, but everyone I train with is great. Even the big guys that crush me give me some slack once in a while to try techniques, so I do the same for anyone newer or less strong. So much to relate to here, but my biggest cheer is for the folks posting their experiences and positive replies. I love that! Thank you all for being such awesome people! 😀

  53. I am living this blog post. I started BJJ after I got robbed at gun point. That barrel up against my forehead left me with anxiety that forced me to make a decision…medication and therapy or self defense. 6 months later, I am a measly one stripe white belt. I train 4 days a week in the advanced class with a bunch of guys…who are all smaller then me. I am the fat girl (with really big boobs, which helps me kick major butt at side control 🙂 I am currently at 230 pounds, and stand 5’8″ tall. I was utterly terrified to start this journey, but it has been life changing for me. Every week, I see my body change, my muscles are firming up, my stomach is flatter, Im slowly losing years of accumulated fat from sitting on my butt being lazy, and baby weight. I am training for my first competition right now, its in a month, and lord help me if I wasn’t terrified that I would be a viral sensation for being the fat girl there, but this amazing thing happened…my entire school has rallied for me. They have all made it clear that me going, and trying, says more about my character and will then if I go out there and get submitted in 5 seconds, my peers are proud of me and I have yet to even compete. I am the guppy in a shark tank, every class I get arm barred, every class I get the crap kicked out of me, I am the lone white belt in a sea of blue, purple, and brown belts. I am covered in bruises..feet, shins, arms, sides, I have ugly torn up mat feet, and I have to puff on my inhaler every single class, but I go out there and I leave my heart…and about a bucket of sweat, on those mats. My team mates have been nothing but supportive, and even though Im the fat girl, I get better everyday. I will never give up this sport, it has change my life, and I am living proof that if a fat 31 year old stay at home mom can practice jui jitsu and survive, then anyone can do it. I was so happy to find this post, every word spoken is how I felt the first few months, and Im still not completely over my fears, but this is long journey and I have plenty of time. Touche for talking about something that no one else has. Now…can I get a post about big boobs and BJJ?

      • I would love to, but unfortunately, the only thing I blog about is romance novels so I don’t have the proper platform for it…lol. But if JiuJiu wants me to guest blog about it, Im down for that!

        • Hey Jennifer! I totally take guest blogs, and this would be a good subject. I have been doing research on breasts and sports – trying to get a good research article together, similar to my Periods and Jiu Jitsu article. However, an anecdotal guest article would pair well with that, and be very welcomed! Send me a PM if you’re interested – I have a few points I like to be addressed if you would be interested in writing about this. julia @ jiujiubjj.com

    • Jennifer! I’m SO THANKFUL that you’re okay! And hooray for finding a wonderful, healthy sport! I’m so glad that you have supportive teammates and a supportive family. It’s really exciting!

      I don’t think we ever totally get over our fears, but we learn not to let them control us, and every time we “beat” them, that aspect of us gets stronger. Those fears quiet down to a low whisper. Sure, the whisper is still there, but the volume is much lower.

      When your body shape starts changing more, you will find that your jiu jitsu will change as well. It’s weird to have to update your mental picture of yourself and how you express that. For example, there are many things I can do now that I couldn’t at the beginning – and I love it! But I also don’t have the extra boob size or weight now, so I’ve had to learn to better use position or leverage. It was weird to realize that had changed. It’s also SUPER COOL to be able to make it entirely through warmups and see others have to take breaks. Mwa ha ha! I’m not longer the least fit! How did that happen!

      Big high fives to you, lady! Thanks for commenting!

      • Am I over my fears…yes and no. I no longer hyperventilate when strangers approach me, nor do I experience panic attacks so intense that I feel as if my heart is about to explode. I find that I am far more aware of my surroundings and of putting myself in unsafe situations, but I also know that at this point, I have enough knowledge to protect myself if I ever need to.

        I was extremely lucky in the fact that my school and my coach are both amazing. I live at an Air Force base in North Texas and most of my training partners are all active duty. For the most part, they are respectful married men, and it is a small school, so we function as extended family. They have welcomed me into their school, and treat me no different from my skinnier peers.

        There is so much that I cant really do comfortably, but I find that most of it has to do more with my size then with my boobs. I have also found that the more that I have trained, the more limber I have become, and I occasionally do yoga which has all contributed to me being more successful at carrying out the moves and at nailing the techniques, regardless of my slze. I might not look as graceful doing most of the moves, but Im still doing them properly and effectively and that is all that matters to me. I power through all of my classes. I do the warm ups which leave me red, sweaty, and gasping for air, like a fat woman…go figure, but I still do them. I have never let my size or weight factor into my will and desire to succeed in this sport and I kill myself during hour and a half training classes 3 to 4 nights a week. I have been mortified when my warm ups were over and all of the fit people were hardly winded, and I was breathing erratically and about to pass out before we even started drilling and grappling. I just hope that my weight loss speeds up a bit more and that I start to see more positive changes so that my body will reflect how amazing I feel on the inside that I am able to do this.

        • It is nice when your classmates respect you for trying to better yourself isn’t it? I still can’t make it through the whole warmup at my class [boxing], but this is a good thing, as it means the class will get you to a high level of general fitness in addition to teaching the martial skills. My coach still frequently travels overseas to give workshops and my classmates say he has said that many amateur boxers cannot make it through the warmup we do everyday at the Y.

  54. Been continuing to go to class twice a week. For the last four classes, I can do all 100 of the crunches where you reach arms between legs. The first time I was all jazzed, but now it is still hard, but I feel I need to maintain success, bittersweet.

    We have a few MMA folks that train with us, and I wrestled in high school a couple decades ago, so maybe next year I’ll start training some grappling and have stuff to comment about on other posts here. I want to get a solid fitness level and get decent with footwork before adding new styles though.

    Before going to the first class, I had read the Fit2Fat2Fit ebook and the author talked about the importance of a support network to maintain compliance. This is part of the reason I posted here, but I’ve also been posting my progress on Facebook and making a big deal of going to boxing class at work and the fire department. There have been a couple days that I didn’t want to go to class, but thinking that I don’t want to say, I didn’t go, at work the next day got me through the door into the boxing room.

    • Hey congratulations!! I know that I still sometimes MARVEL at being able to get through warmups!!

      I’ve had a bad month so far, but I look at it in the long term – it’s a long distance run, not a sprint. Thankfully I have a longer, nearly 4 year run of consistent goings to look back on.

  55. Love this post! Just stumbled upon it thanks to fenom kimonos. I am the out of shape fat girl in the room and all points were perfectly suited for me!! I just have to tell myself to show up and have fun, and MAYBE. I will actually learn (and retain) something!

  56. Pingback: Is Brazilian Jiu jitsu a good way to lose weight?

  57. It’s all misjudgement, I honestly wouldn’t mind
    Sparring with a heavier person. We all have the same goal at Gracie Barra Northridge and that’s to better ourselves individually.

  58. OK… So I literally googled “Am I too fat to do jiu-jitsu” and your thread popped up.

    I did an intro class at a local place and bought a Gi and a full month unlimited membership. When the day arrived I became anxious and worried about the social aspects of the class as well as my fitness.

    However, after reading this post, it encouraged me to go to that first class. I am SO glad I did! It was an amazing class. I was drained and exhausted afterwards but was “high” on exercise and my mind was spinning with jiu-jitsu. I am officially hooked. Thank you SO much for providing the words of encouragement.

    What you said about the social aspects are true. When I did my first intro lesson I met many regulars. They had encouraging things to say but then quickly distanced themselves. When I showed up to my first class they all seemed surprised to see me there and were helpful.

    I rolled with a younger and smaller guy. I felt guilty for him having to teach me various things. One thing that helped was that we each had about 2 minutes to practice the current technique before switching. So his helping me was on MY time to practice, and not his. I also made sure to thank him for his patience and he stuck with me for the duration.

    It’s a wonderful thing to be addicted to and I foresee it changing my life in many ways. I am excited to have found this art.

    For those who do wonder about their weight and lack of physical fitness… just get there, every class you can, and commit yourself. It makes you feel great about yourself and the people (usually) are very helpful and understanding. I talked to 5 different members who came in like me. They were overweight, slow, sweating constantly but are now more physically fit then they have ever been.

    Thank you for your encouragement!

  59. Pingback: Brazilian jiu jitsu for weight loss

  60. Pingback: Surviving Myself | nogigirl

  61. I just finished my first class yesterday morning. I don’t have much shame, so I wasn’t too worried about not being good at it. At 5’8″ and 300lbs, I was worried about the huge weight difference though and I didn’t want to be that huge fat guy no one wants to partner with. The instructor had me work in with a pair of guys who were supportive though. The first drill of the day was a gi choke from the mount… man, that first OOF and his obvious discomfort as my legs are too short, my thighs too thick, and my butt too big to not have a lot of my weight on his chest… that was a low point for me where I began telling myself that I didn’t want to be some guy they have to dread partnering with. I don’t want to be the one they have to suffer me being all fat all over them.

    I tried shifting from both knees on the ground to one knee and one foot, but my partner insisted I try to do it the other way and to not worry about using my weight. He saved me from just not wanting to feel like a burden to others. I can’t wait for my next class tomorrow.

    • That insecurity will really jump out of nowhere sometimes!! Congratulations on finishing your first class!! Have you gone back yet? Did you make it to that next class? How are you holding up?

      I moved countries, which is why the late reply!!

      • I finished my fifth hour this morning where I got osoto gari’d so many times that my butt cheek is sore, lost every takedown in a King of the Hill drill we did, and had a purple belt faux-roll with me and walk me through escaping each position he kept getting me in. I love it! And I’m really motivated to work on cardio now because I was annoyed at running out of stream three minutes in.

        Congrats on your move!

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    • Jaqueline, I’m so glad to hear it was what you needed! I hope that if you LIKED jiu jitsu, and you WANTED to do it, that you go back. It sucks when your anxieties and fears prevent you from doing the things that you love. Check back in with us!

    • I’m so glad to hear it!! (the inspiring part, not the crying part). For me, it really does help to remember that overall, folks tend to be very self-centered, so either you are COMPLETELY off your radar, or if they notice you it’s because they’re assholes who are looking for reasons to be assholes, or they’re really excited by a larger person working out – a “keep up the good fight” kind of thing or a “wow – if they can do it, so can I.” Regardless of what you do, assholes will be assholes. Thank fully about 90% of the folks just simply don’t notice or care. heh.

  63. Thank you so much for this posting!
    It was exactly the inspiration I was looking for.
    At 6’1″ and 330 pounds, I am scared of being too fat to start, hurting people by accident, puking on the mat, not being able to finish a 60-minute class. Your post has given me a bit of courage that was badly needed.

    • I’m so glad to hear you have more courage now! Take that courage and get thee to a BJJ gym! Don’t let your fears stop you from doing what you actually want to do!

      When will you go?

      1. You’re not too fat. Yes, you are big and will likely be the biggest, but you still aren’t too fat.
      2. You might hurt someone by accident – white belts are clumsy. Your instructor, knowing this, will likely pair you with someone else big or strong.
      3. Run off the mats and puke in the trash cans. Better yet, be aware of your body, and don’t push yourself past the puking point. Last week a big dude puked in the bathroom after class – my only feeling was empathy, and I gave him some celery. Protip: celery is nature’s gum! If you honestly think you’ll puke, bring celery and some ginger (celery for the breath, ginger for the nausea).
      4. Even if you can’t finish a 60 minute class, you’ve still got a win in you. You went to class. Maybe you could do 10 minutes of the class, then watched. Next time aim for 12 minutes. Or take frequent breaks. Let the instructor know you’ll do what you can.

      Doing jiu jitsu, in my opinion, will help you be a better person – if not just physically, because you are confronting your fears. Take yourself as you are, accept it, and do whatever the hell YOU want to do!! 🙂

      Ps. Check back in with us after your frist class!

  64. I am so glad I found this page as a “fat person googling jiu jitsu” ! I am 5’4 and 205 lbs female and I would see this bjj place near a local market and I kept thinking go for it! Why not? Everyone has to start somewhere, but I was too nervous then I read this and clicked to other posts and so on and even reading the comments encouraged me to sign up. So today I’ve finally signed up for the free week trial but I already think I’m going to stay and go back again and again if I can afford it. Thank you so much for creating such a positive resource for people but I identify so much especially given the similar height and weight that I’ll come back to this post periodically I think to reinforce myself if negative energies take over.

    • HEY TWIN! ARE YOU ME?? How bizarre that we are the exact same height and started BJJ at the exact same weight!!

      Come back even if you find love welling up from within! Yes, absolutely come for support when you “should” all over yourself and need a pick-me-up, but also come to spread the love!

      I hope you share about your experiences! I’ll make a post this week encouraging folks to tell about their current training experiences. Yay!

  65. I have been lurking this forum for the past few months. I even printed out this article and pinned it to my wall to get me to join! Well I finally did it today! I’m not extremely overweight but I’m 5 2 and 160lbs. I’m a 36 years old, married with kids. The whole family joined jiu jitsu months ago, but I flaked out. I would take the kids to their classes and would get intimidated by the moves. I thought I was in shape….boy was I wrong! I do exercise and run, plus go to the gym but this has been the most intense experience ever! Today was my first day. I wasn’t great. I got choked out, arm barred and pretty much twisted like a pretzel. But I left that place with a smile on my face and some sense of accomplishment. Thank you so much for sharing your own personal experience! I do plan on going back. I’m sure I will still be nervous. I’m hoping this will grow on me and I can turn other peoples bodies into pretzels in the near future! 🙂

    • Kat, that’s SO EXCITING! Welcome to the addiction. Sincerely thank you for your kind words.

      Of course you weren’t great – you were brand new! Don’t put any pressure on yourself. The only things you should remember right away: tap if it hurts, and stop if someone taps. Those are THE most important rules. Other than that, there is the wonderful white belt wrapped around your waist that signals “No expectations.” You will literally only meet or exceed expectations! 🙂 It is the no pressure belt.

      It sounds like you found a great gym. We have a family that trains together, and they always have so much fun. I sometimes practice moves on my fiance when I’m getting ready to teach, but other than that, he is mostly just a runner.

      I hope you check back in with us and let us know how you are!! Congratulations!!!

  66. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing – I found your post a few weeks ago when I first entertained the idea of trying jiu jitsu. I finally went to my first class last night – your words helped me mentally prepare for what I was going into. Walking into a gym full of fit men (I’m a 5’10, 200lb, 32yo female) was intimidating. I made it through the class and felt like an awkward, sweaty mess – but I remembered that this is what they expect me to be and it’s OK because everyone has to start somewhere. I walked out feeling good with a smile on my face and am going back tonight – and the next 6mos apparently. I signed up! Thanks again!

    • Hi Jen! I’m so glad you found it helpful! I am so happy for you. It’s a difficult journey but absolutely worth it, in my opinion. Congratulations on your new addiction. I hope to see you “round these parts” again. 🙂

  67. Thanks for writing this! I feel so stupid in class, If some move has more than 3 steps I need the instructor to talk me through it and I’m constantly using the wrong arm/moving in the wrong direction. No one else seems to have similar issues! I also gas out really quickly so it must look like I’m giving up but really I have nothing left to give. I’m going to take your advice about the small goals and consider just going to class and sucking (but still coming back) a win.

    • Hi Kim! Welcome to jiu jitsu, and welcome to my site! Congratulations on your awesome journey!

      I just got back from my honeymoon, and I will tell you – it is embarrassing at times when I see how slooooowly I’m going – I lost all my conditioning. 🙁

      You’ll eventually find that these get easier for you for a few reasons: 1. you’ll figure out a method that works for you 2. you’ll have a better base understanding, so this will be building on top of that.

      Good luck!!

  68. I realize this is a 2 year old post,but glad I found it. Our small gym agreed to open a women’s class!being large it scares me,but I want to so it. I am now:)

  69. I’ve wanted to try jiu jitsu for a while. I’ve been nervous bc I’m very overweight and told myself that I would have to lose weight before I could even start. Your post helped me a lot. Thanks! 🙂

    • Ashlee – I’m so glad! I really hope you check back in after your first class? week? month? Congratulations on pursuing something you really want to do and not letting fear get the better of you!

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  71. This was the first thing that popped up in my google search for “fat girls and jujitsu” and I’m thankful that it did. This post just solidified my decision to just do it. Just try. Just go. So, thank you!

  72. Hi Julia, I’m an overweight if not obese person, with very much interest to martial arts. I trained TKD for several months and Judo for several weeks. Eventually I quit all of them thinking, I was no good in martial arts, might as well drop it completely. I’m now 37 yo, still fat, still interested in martial arts. So I started researching about grappling and BJJ. And this… I literally cried when I read your posts on age and weight. This is bigger than the fat person and BJJ topic for me. Thank you so much. – Indra

    • Hi Indra! You’re now auto-approved, so you can comment freely and it will be approved immediately.

      Have you yet gone to class? Have you found a gym? I think that googling is step one, making the decision is step two, calling/stopping by is step three, going to the first class is step four, and continuing is step five. Which step are you on?

      Just remember – it’s NORMAL to suck at things when you’re a beginner! It’s NORMAL. The hard part about jiu jitsu is that the other white belts look like beginners to you, but they might have been doing it for months now, or have a background in something else, or be better physically fit, etc. Because of that, their journey is different than yours.

      Please keep us in the loop with your journey!!

  73. Thank you for posting this! I am so encouraged and you hit some tough spots within myself …my whole family does jitsu my husband and my son and I feel so fat and left out a lot of the times.. I just didn’t know what I was going to do to get in shape . I HATE THE GYM…,I was online looking at all types of Adult sports, but with being a mom and working and everything else in life I did not see how I was going to fit in my own separate sport from them… then I was looking up on Google “does women doing Jiu-Jitsu help you get in shape” and I found your post I thank God I did because I’m going to give it a try it makes sense my whole family goes there and I just sit and watch all the skinny people sweat and bend all around and just think I could never do that I would look so stupid!.. but now I feel so differently it’s still going to suck though I’m still nervous I’m still scared I’m still kinda unconfident but I’m going to give it a try thank you for this article!

    • Hello Micah! It’s completely okay to feel a lack of confidence in something you don’t know how to do, and even more so when you are completely out of your element! You absolutely will get in shape if you are more active. You will stop feeling stupid the more you do it. Plus, you can physically bond with your son! It’s really a win-win-win-win!

      So…did you get out on the mats and try jiu jitsu? What did you think?

    • I hear you. It does suck to have a very narrow range of options, so hopefully that’ll open up in some way or another in the near future.

  74. Great Post! I’m sorry you didn’t feel accepted when you first started. It makes a huge difference when the people you train with actually show interest in your improvement! Most higher belts I train with are much more forgiving. They help me learn and they use me to practice new moves before trying it on higher belts. It’s a win-win!!!

    If you are in the area or thinking of trying out bjj, come check us out! >>>> M-Theory Martial Arts, Minnesota!

    I’m a girl and a white belt! In case you were wondering 🙂

    • Hey there! I will fully admit that a lot of the “feel accepted” had a ton to do with me being so very different than everyone, as well as being a beginner – it can be very difficult for folks to bond with people who don’t speak their language. After having lived in Korea for 5 years, I came to realize that a lot of Korean folks are very shy about interacting with foreigners, so I had that working against me.

      It’s also very possible that a lot of it came from ME! I’ve learned that people will often mistake not overtly welcoming behaviors as unwelcoming. Meaning – if people don’t walk up to you and try to make you feel welcome – it can be interpreted as them being unwelcoming, hostile, cold, etc. Neutral behavior can easily be interpreted as negative. It’s taken me a few years to realize that, though.

      Thank you for the comment!!

  75. Pingback: Getting ready for the love/hate – theoldladysbjj

  76. I signed up to try bjj as a birthday present when I turned 38 (200lbs). I just wanted to let you know that this article really helped me to get through the door for my first bjj class. I literally had it open on my phone so it was the last thing I saw before I walked in…and I told myself that I won when I walked through the door and anytime I tried. It was a fun class and going back tonight for my second class. I wanted to thank you for writing this and let you know that it helped to encourage me all these years later. Thanks!

    • Congratulations!! I’m really glad to hear that this was helpful! You are absolutely a winner, and you win every time you go to class. Thank you for the kind words!

  77. Hello! I would just like to say that I’ve been curious about BJJ but also apprehensive. I’m 14 and maybe 5’4, around 140 lbs, but of course that’s ‘not fat’ blah blah insecurities blah blah but I’m scared of a few things.
    1.)I’m afraid of, well, people. I’m serious. the whole silent judging thing and looking at me. Wow.
    2.) I haven’t done a sport in my life, besides soft ball when I was maybe 5-6. How the hell am I supposed to do this?
    Mostly I want to start this ‘for self defense’ and I do. But I also just want to feel better about my tummy and be able to defend myself in some way. I want to do it, but it’s one of those “want to but can’t do it” additudes. I’m not sure this makes sense as it’s mostly babble, but still.

    • Hey J! I hope that you give it a chance. Do things you want to do – don’t be ruled by fear!!

      1. I don’t care what private thoughts people have in their heads. I care how they interact with me. Even if someone thinks “Wow that woman is weird and sucks at jiu jitsu” but is polite and kind to me, it really doesn’t matter. If, however, they’re rude and actually say “you suck at jiu jitsu” or says unkind things, THAT matters. People will think what they want to think.

      The reality, you will never TRULY know what someone thinks unless they flat out tell you, and even then, there’s a chance they won’t tell you the truth. We interpret their glances through the lens of our own insecurity, when in fact, they may be thinking “dang I shouldn’t have skipped breakfast” or “this is really confusing” or “I think my girlfriend might break up with me today”. Things that have ZERO to do with you. You can take comfort in the fact that you don’t matter enough to strangers for them to care enough about you to judge you.

      However, as a young woman in jiu jitsu, you will likely get more positive thoughts, encouragement, and care than a boy your age. Take heart in that.

      2. I was about as far from a sports-minded person when I started jiu jitsu as you can get. I was anti-sports. How the hell you’re supposed to do this: Go to class. Wear the required uniform. TRY to do what is asked of you. Do your best. Don’t bitch and moan. Shower and wash your gi. Repeat. That’s it.

      Don’t fall into the “want to but can’t do it” trap. It’s shitty thinking, full stop. The reality is it’s “want to do it but am insecure” thinking. It’s not “can’t.” Do what you want to do. Period.

  78. Hi Julia,

    Thanks for writing one of the more ‘real’ posts that I’ve read on the web over the last several years. Your words gave me some hope… and perspective.

    I’m older, have a bad back, and am terribly out of shape. I’d wanted to do Jiu Jitsu for years, but I was worried that I’d get killed on the mat, my back would go out, and I’d miss weeks/months of work all because I was attempting something that I was pretty sure that I had no business attempting.

    I was also reasonably sure that I’d make an ass out of myself and be the worst student in the class.

    But after reading your post I was able to set aside most of my ego, and I went to my first class with the idea that my only 2 goals were to 1. Actually show up, and 2. Be the best worst student in the class – accepting that I’m older, over weight, out of shape, and just make the best of it by focusing my attention on small victories like completing the warm up, getting through a lesson, learning a new technique, and managing not to throw up when I realized that I’d been pushing too hard and was now on the verge of losing my lunch while in my instructor’s closed guard…

    Anyhow, thanks for giving me a much needed nudge and helping me to step a little outside of my comfort zone. After all, just outside of your comfort zone is where all the magic in life actually happens.

    Ian

    • Hey Ian – thank you so much for the kind words! It’s really a blessing to hear real people make real changes and do what they actually want to do – this just gives them a tiny kick in the rear to actually get going. 🙂 It’s you who actually do the thing.

      If you’re worried about your back, I’d definitely suggest planks! They’ll help strengthen it in the right position. There are quite a few “back injuries and jiu jitsu” exercises you can work through if it’s a real concern. For puking – oy. You’ll need to figure out the right formula for when and how much to eat. Husband can’t eat within an hour of any exercise or he is pukey. If I DON’T eat within an hour of exercise, I get pukey. Also, protip – don’t gorge yourself on water on the days when you’re practicing knee on belly. You will regret EVERYTHING.

      Congrats!!

  79. Hello,

    Thank you for writing this. I’m in the third week of my 3 classes per week journey in BJJ. I’m just a hair under 5’8″ and at just shy of 260lb (I think) at 35 years old. Luckily I’ve done a similar fitness journey several years ago when I decided to get my butt in shape at 315lb and began weight training.

    I went down to 215 and that included lots of muscle mass that i’d packed on. I was getting really close to being “fit” but then I let old excuses get in the way. That’s been my story for the last year and a half, and it’s been scary how fast the weight has come back. Even getting into the gym for a month here and there.

    Don’t laugh but- Pokemon Go got me out of the house and into a regular bit of activity walking around, up hills and whatnot. Then I met a dude who happens to be a BJJ instructor, who was also out collecting cartoon animals. We met up here and there and he let me know about a class he was starting in a couple of days so I went and checked it out.

    My mind instantly tried to play those tricks on me:

    “You can’t move like them.”
    “You’ll never pull that move off.”
    “You’ll look so stupid trying that one.”
    “Your belly will poke out.”
    “Nobody should sweat that much that’s nasty.”
    “Look how far behind the group you are during warmups.”

    But I remembered my lifting journey and how over time I felt less and less of those negative emotions and became comfortable with my environment. I remembered how nobody is really looking at the fat person because they’re there working hard trying to accomplish their own goals. I remembered all the people who I thought were probably douches before who were friendly once I talked to them and had advice to give.

    So I did my best to keep up during warmups. I didn’t let myself get psyched out or intimidated by the forward roll and surprised the crap out of myself when I pulled it off almost from the beginning. I failed at the backward/over the head rolls and have never felt more like a fat blob trying to get my legs to come over, but I tried every damn class regardless and finally pulled a couple off last night in class #8. THAT’s what I’m measuring myself by as hard as I can, not the image of the fat guy who is waiting on his gi next to all the lean gi-clad students in the dojang mirror.

    Frustration has tried to set in every class. Shame has tried to set in every class. I watched a drop of sweat hit my instructor in the face and almost died of embarrassment and apologized. More than once. He says its okay. Sometimes the people I’m rolling with when we’re supposed to resist, sometimes I KNOW they let me have a setup because they are kind people. A couple times I’ve been manhandled a little bit too much and arm barred a little too aggressively by a visitor who doesn’t normally come around, using moves I’d never seen or knew how to react to.

    But you know what? I’m seeing myself pull off arm bars and moving in ways I didn’t know my body quite could. Yes it’s tough to pull off those triangles, but I try my damndest to pull them off every time and I know eventually I will.

    I’ve already promised myself I’ll stick to it, and even though I’m a little nervous before each warmup (especially those over the head rolls), I look forward to learning and trying to only use the technique I’ve been shown and avoiding trying to make classes into a wrestling match.

    The soreness, the occasional joint pain help me remember to make my nutrition reflect the effort I’m putting in. I haven’t turned on the TV or bought a video game or any of that.

    I decided I’m going to make my first gi a pricey one, because I want to really invest into this. Not for the flash. Now I can’t wait to get it. My only concern is whether or not it will fit, which I’m just trying to think ahead and decide I won’t let it bother me if it doesn’t.

    Didn’t mean to make this so long, but I literally typed in “Jiu Jitsu” and “fat” into Google just to see if there were any other experiences like mine out there and was so happy to find this and have all of those sneaky thoughts and feelings validated from people who have stuck it out. Makes me even more determined, so thank you.

    Luis

    • Hooray! I’m so glad you found us, Luis! I have a funny sweat story for you. One of the highest ranked BJJ guys in Korea is super sweaty – pours off him. He’s just a super sweaty guy, and he’s not overweight. Yes, sweat drips in your eyes and mouth (so gross!) but believe me – it’s not the grossest thing that’s happened, and it’ll happen again – you get used to it. It definitely is not a big deal – just a “gross! sorry!” and move on.

      I agree with you that it should be a concern as to which gi will fit. Because of THAT specific thing, I’d suggest holding off on getting a super spendy one until you KNOW it fits. Getting a cheaper Fuji gi (which is still a great gi!) will help you figure out if you need wider, longer, etc. You’ll have something to compare it to.

      Btw, no hate for Pokemon Go here! (and no haters will reply – if they do, BAN HAMMER!). I think that gamifying exercise is amazing and awesome! What got me into a proper gym was Fitocracy! I wanted to earn some of the quests, which required picking up actual weights! gasp! I personally don’t play Pokemon Go, but that’s because I’m an Ingress gal (same company, same idea, and the pokestops are Ingress portals).

      Please feel validated and heard! Enjoy your path!

  80. I know this is a really old blog post, but my son was talking about learning a MMA, but as he is on the autistic spectrum I didn’t know what was out there for him (he finally settled on wrestling after watching a few session, by the way). Long story short, he decided it wasn’t for him – fair enough, but as a Type 2 diabetic, and a seriously overweight female (5′ 8″, 350lbs)I was really hypnotised by the BJJ they had going on. However, for all the reasons people have already said, I talked myself out of it.

    However, after reading other people’s comments (and yes, I was the one thinking “surely someone is fatter than me, I’m afraid!) and seeing people who are in my weight category, it has really just made me think “Well, I am a long time dead, let’s see if I can’t postpone the inevitable a bit longer!” and want to jump right in.

    I will be calling a few MMA centres tomorrow, and have already ordered myself a cheap pair of leggings and a T -Shirt to start off in, and am of the opinion “I suck, so at least I can’t get any worse than that” mentality, after reading this post.

    So firstly, I want to thank JiuJiu for sharing her experiences in this blog, and for everyone who has commented (especially on this article) for making me realise that the only person stopping me going for it is me. Hopefully I can find classes that fit in with my life obligations (single parenting duties, work etc. etc.) and, before long, will be getting sweaty with the best (and worst!) of them!

    Fingers crossed for me please, folks. I am so glad that I (virtually!) found you JiuJiu!

    • Hahaha I love it – I can’t get worse than I am today! My friend called yesterday and wanted me to talk her through her concern/fear of joining a kickboxing class. “The warmup looks really rough – they do burpees!” I reminded her of most of the things in this post, and yes, by the end she realized it was her own brain getting in the way of what she really wants to do. Bad brain! Scumbag brain!

      Good luck to you!! Please check back in with us!

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