What Would You Say to Someone Completely New to BJJ?

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I saw this post in a BJJ Facebook group:

“Hi everyone. Did my 3rd class tonight, hate being the new guy and hate not knowing what I’m doing. I’m super impatient!! Anyone have any tips, any videos they recommend etc?”

The original poster received many comments. They are not necessarily wrong or bad pieces of advice, but most of them repeated the same things over and over without going into detail.

“Just show up.”

“Just focus on the basics.”

“Watch John Danaher’s videos.”

“Be patient.”

Comments like these as well as comments intended to be funny.

Probably most people had good intentions and just didn’t realize 50 other people had already said “Just show up” to the original poster.

That’s how things often go on the internet after all.

Anyway, I decided to write a slightly lengthy reply and go a bit further than other posts…

… because I actually want to be helpful rather than making myself sound cool by throwing not-wrong-but-not-that-useful advice around.

I don’t think anyone reading this email is as fresh as someone who just finished their 3rd BJJ session ever, and most of what I wrote will sound familiar to you…

… but hey, let me share my answer with you as well.

Here’s my answer:

It can take some time even just to grasp the big picture of BJJ when you’re new to it.

I have some practical tips as well, but none of them are more important than enjoying your learning process and having fun.

When you spar, you are most likely to get smashed by most people at your gym.

Don’t see it as “losing”, but see it as learning experience. Try observing what they do to you and how they do it, especially when you get to roll with senior belts (purple, brown, and black belts).

Even if you don’t understand what exactly is going on, this observational skill is important for your development.

So, consider it as your practice to sharpen this skill.

It helps to set tiny goals as well. If you get tapped out by someone 5 times in 5 minutes, try to get tapped out less next time.

Survival should be your first goal. I’m a black belt, but when I work on a new position, I focus on this survival aspect first as well (i.e. being comfortable in this new position).

Also, don’t hesitate to ask questions. Most senior belts would be happy to help you.

It would be better to be specific though, instead of asking something like “OK, what are my mistakes and how can I get better”.

Now… I haven’t read every comment here, but it looks like no one has mentioned warmup moves.

I suppose most BJJ gyms use similar warmup moves, and these warmup moves actually provide a solid basis for many of movements present in BJJ.

It might sound boring, but try to get better at movements like shrimping, leg circling, bear crawl, rolling backwards, break falls, etc.

You cannot control your opponent’s movements without controlling your own movements.

The trick here is to understand how each movement is connected with certain positions/movements. And it’s better to ask your coach/es about this.

One of the biggest gifts you can get from BJJ is a lifetime journey of learning.

From time to time, I find new details about the main moves I’ve been using for 18 years. And new techniques come up often enough… and I need to adapt to them or learn how to counter them.

There’s always room for improvement, and that will be the case for the rest of my BJJ life.

Many others share the same path, and you make friends with them along the way.

Anyway, have fun and I hope you will keep training!