Starting BJJ – 6 Things You Should Know

Starting Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is likely one of the best decisions you’ve ever made, but it can also be a bit intimidating. Here is a short guide to help you get the most benefit from your training and start your Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu journey off right!

Understand your reasons for starting BJJ

Identifying your reasons for starting Jiu-Jitsu will ultimately help you get the most out of your training. Having clearly defined goals will give your instructors a better understanding of how they can help you achieve them. Share your goals with your coaches and take advantage of their expertise.

As you progress through your Jiu-Jitsu journey, you are likely going to change in ways you never expected. So too will your goals and reasons for training. When I started Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I wanted to be a good fighter. Now, I’m more interested in improving my health and becoming a more well-rounded person.

Don’t be afraid to change your goals to accommodate your new direction.

Don’t compare your progress with others

Jiu-Jitsu is a highly individualized activity and everybody progresses through it differently. If you use others as a benchmark, you will likely find yourself disappointed, or worse, overconfident. This goes back to understanding your reasons for training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Just because someone is getting better faster doesn’t mean that you are less successful. It’s easy to lose sight of your goals and get caught up in competition. If you were interested in losing weight from the start, and you’ve lost 10 pounds in your first 6 weeks of training, that’s a huge success!

Mentally review your short and long term goals from time to time to help yourself stay focused.

The most important thing to remember when setting these goals is to have patience with yourself. There are going to be times in which you are frustrated and want to give up. This is when it’s most critical to take a look at your goals and remind yourself of all the progress you have made.

Set reasonable expectations

If you think you’re going to lose 25lbs in your first week of class, or that you going to tap out the instructor, you’re going to be in for a surprise, and by surprise, I mean disappointment. Achieving important goals takes time and effort. Be realistic about what you want to achieve and set a reasonable timeframe in which to do it.

Using weight loss as an example, it’s absolutely possible to lose 50 pounds doing BJJ (I lost more than that myself!).

  • First, set a timeframe. If you wanted to lose 50 pounds, a reasonable timeframe would be 6 – 9 months. I know that sounds like a long time, but success happens in small increments over periods of time.
  • Second, set intermediate goals to help keep you motivated for your major goals. 1.5 pounds per week will surely get you to your ultimate goal of 50 pounds.
  • Third, find an accountability partner. You have plenty of those in the gym! Let your coaches or teammates know that you’re trying to achieve a specific goal and you need some help staying on track. This will give you added incentive to keep moving towards your goals.

Training Frequency

How often should you train? The general rule is once a week to maintain, twice a week to get better, and three times a week to get better faster. If you’re just starting BJJ, I would stick to at least twice a week. This will be enough time on the mats to improve and also enough time to digest what you have learned.

Of course, the more you train, the better you will become, but be careful not to overtrain and get burned out. Finding that balance between your training and the rest of your life is important. Remember, Jiu-Jitsu should be improving your life, no straining it.

To compete, or not to compete

No matter what anyone else tells you, you DO NOT have any obligation to compete in any grappling tournament if you don’t want to. That being said, I believe competition is good for some people regardless of their goals. You can use as a motivational tool. If you have something to work towards, it makes training seem more meaningful and worthwhile.

I personally wouldn’t suggest jumping into your first tournament within your first three months of starting Jiu-Jitsu, but others may disagree. Again, it all depends on what you are trying to accomplish. If your goal is to have fun and you think doing a tournament would be fun, then go for it, but consult your instructors first to make sure you are prepared.

Have fun

This is by far the most important bit of advice anyone in Jiu-Jitsu can give you. Nobody likes to do things that make them miserable. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed with you training, or you’re not making progress as quickly as you’d like, take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

You’re surrounded by tons of new friends, you’re improving your physical and mental health, and slowly but surely becoming better than you were before.  Take your time, be patient with yourself, and above all, have fun!