Wednesday, December 14, 2011

10 Tips To Survive Your First Year In BJJ

It has been a year since I started training, so I wanted to take a minute and highlight some areas that will help some beginners make it through their first couple of months or years in training. If you have never trained in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu before, as I had, it can be a shock to your body and mind. You will be frustrated, wanting to quit, and sore and tired from training.

1) Check your ego at the door-
“Egotism is the glue with which you get stuck in yourself”-Dan Post

An ego can be one thing that make or breaks a person when they walk through those academy doors. If someone walks in with the expectations of tapping out everyone on the mat, you are going to be disappointed rather quickly. This is a new experience for you, go into with an open mind and be humble. You will learn more than you could ever imagine about yourself and the art.

2) Make some friends- 
When you get frustrated with BJJ and the thought of quitting and burning your gi runs through your mind every day after class. It is extremely useful to chill out after class and discuss your frustrations with a friend. Just wait and see how fast a complete stranger will help you through the issues and quickly become a close friend and training partner. Some of my best friends I have met on the mats.

3) Be a reliable training partner- 
If you have people that want to roll on different days, at odd times, or they are training for a competition and you can do it and help them prepare, step up and make it. Make sure, when you commit, you show up and train. If you keep being a reliable training partner, you will always have someone to help you in the end when you need a training partner or you are struggling with something.

4) Tapping is a technique- 
This is probably the biggest issue with just starting out and having an issue with ego getting in the way. Tapping is not a defeat; it is an opportunity to learn from your mistake. My rules when I started were, tap early and tap often. I did not know how to escape an arm bar, and I would quickly tap to avoid injury, and then I would ask, “How do I get out of that?” Then next time I would try to understand the escape. I found this to be the best learning experience.

5) Mat time- 
Outside of Jiu Jitsu everyone has a life and it is difficult to find time to get on the mats. Once you get through the initial shock of starting, then work out a schedule to insure that you get the most mat time possible. This helps you improve your muscle memory and will put you in situations where you realize you need help. When I started, I would feel frustrated when someone would play open guard, now I love the game of trying to work a pass and passing someone’s open guard.

6) Drill, baby, drill- 
Drilling is a key to succeeding in Jiu Jitsu. It helps you commit moves to muscle memory. Once someone starts to move towards mount position, your body will instinctively react to the movement. The next thing you know you are pulling off a beautiful knee to elbow escape. I will admit I do not drill as much as I should have, but there are times that I wish I would have drilled more when I started, but it is never to late to start drilling techniques.

  7) Warm-ups and stretching
I cannot stress this one enough! These are critical to remaining injury free and being able to train more often. Stretch before and after class, this will help reduce muscle soreness the next morning. I went through around 10 boxes of Epson salt, walked around smelling like icy hot, and slept with heat patches on my back and knees for weeks when I started. Warm-ups are fun! You can start by doing some basic shrimp drills, running or sprinting around the mats, jumping jacks, push ups, or burpees.

8) Write it down 
Buy you a one-subject notebook and head to class. Write down your first experience in Jiu Jitsu, jot down techniques, write down where you struggled at during open mat, and write down what you would like to improve on for next class. This is a magnificent way to reflect on your growth. Being able to put pen to paper will help you remember techniques. This is something I wish I had started when I first started training. This will benefit you tremendously and will give you a complete record of your progress.

9) Progress will come 
Slowly but surely over a course of weeks and months, you will begin to see progress. You will go from being in someone's guard, to being able to pass right into side control, flow into the mount and set up a submission attempt. One day you will have that “Ah, Ha” moment and you will begin to see some results. Do not worry how long it will take to get a stripe or blue belt. Most people get distracted on when they are going to get a promotion. It will come, but for now just enjoy learning and all the rest will fall into place.

10) Set small goals to succeed 
Everyone steps into Jiu Jitsu with the goal of becoming a black belt, getting in shape, or losing weight, but what about setting small, realistic goals. I went into each class for the first 6 months and got caught in triangles. I immediately set a goal to avoid getting caught in triangles while rolling. To do this, I stopped putting myself into dangerous positions, I watched my posture when in someone’s guard, I started to become aware of my hand and arm placement during rolling. Now after practicing and learning, triangles are something that I have become skilled at avoiding. If you are struggling with arm bars, go into each class and do nothing but arm bar set ups and attempts. The small successes will help give you the motivation to continue.

I am sure there are 100 other ways, but these 10 I think will help set the initial groundwork and give you some motivation to train hard and leave it all on the mats. When I started I was not doing any of these things, and as the year progressed I started doing them and I am still developing some of these tools as I am still new to Jiu Jitsu. But as they say, "Starting is always the hardest part of anything" or "tomorrow is always a good day to do any job."  Do not fall into that trap, find a routine and enjoy your first year.

What has helped you survive the first year, fifth year, or tenth year? Please feel free to leave comments or follow this blog on Facebook.


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  2. Of course, starting doing something new is always the hardest part of anything! Remember that these tips will help you to survive first week at new job.