Saturday, August 7, 2010

Beginner's Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

August 1st marked my one year BJJ anniversary! Woohoo! It is hard to believe that one year has passed so quickly and that so much has happened in that time. I am still a beginner in the world of Jiu-jitsu, but I thought I would share some of the major ideas that I have learned in the last year, in regard to getting the most out of training Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. Like I said, I am still a newbie, so take it as you will. :)

The first thing I did when I decided I was going to write this blog was to ask Fabio, my instructor, what he would say to beginners coming into BJJ. He knew what he wanted to say right away. Here are the basics of what he told me.

1. Don't think about the belt! Thinking about the belt will get in the way of you growing. Just think about learning.

2. Don't worry about doing the "right thing". No one knows what the right thing is when they first come in. You won't do the right thing. Don't worry about it. You need to try. That's how you learn what the right thing is.

3. Everybody's different. It's not about learning slow or fast. People learn differently and some people pick it up faster than others. But don't worry about how fast or slow you are picking it up. It depends on how much you move and how open you are to learning.

4. Nothing good comes easy. Jiu-jitsu takes time.

As for me, I am an uber nerd, so I have a lot to say about everything. ;) So here is my list of things that I learned about training BJJ that have helped me.

1. Jiu-jitsu is not about strength. It's not even about speed. IMHO, It's about control, leverage, balance and adaptation. If you are straining when you're trying to do something or if you are having to use a lot of strength, you aren't doing the technique correctly.

2. Relax while you're grappling. It seems counter-intuitive, I know. But you will not be able to move like you need to if you are tense and straining.

3. Don't worry about doing moves "fast" during drilling. Doing it fast does not prove that you are doing it right. In fact, you may miss important details if you are trying to go fast. If a technique works, it will work when you are moving in a relaxed, smooth way. Speed will come later, after your muscles are used to making the motions. That happens naturally, over time, with lots and lots of repetition.

4. Expect to be on defense a lot. For a long time. It doesn't mean you suck. It means you go to a school with people who know more BJJ than you. That's a GOOD thing. :) It means they have a lot to teach you.

5. Don't be afraid of getting in bad positions or of getting submitted. Try things. Learn what works and what doesn't. If you get into a bad position, use it as an opportunity to practice your escapes. Once you are in a bad position, relax. You are already there. Don't waste energy trying to explode out of it. Take a deep breath and start working your escapes.

6. In the same vein, don't look at your grapples in terms of "winning" and "losing". Instead, focus more on trying to take one or two things away from that grapple that you can learn from. That way, every grapple is a mini-lesson in and of itself.

7. If someone has a style that frustrates you, don't avoid them. Roll with them more!! This has been a huge thing for me. They are frustrating you because they are doing something that you don't know how to deal with. If you keep working, keep trying things, keep presenting yourself with that situation, eventually you will adapt to whatever it is they are doing. Think of that frustrating person as an opportunity to refine a certain part of your game that needs attention.

8. Don't worry when you feel like you aren't progressing. Everyone feels like that from time to time. It's normal. You ARE growing, even if it doesn't feel that way. You will notice it when you grapple someone who is newer than you. :)

9. If you want to get better "quickly" the best thing to do is to grapple. Get as much mat time as you can. There are no "secret techniques" or "short cuts" that can help you get better faster. Watching videos on YouTube and reading books are helpful, but they can't replace live grappling. The only way to progress is to put in the time on the mat.

10. Ask lots of questions to your instructors and higher belts. They will most likely be eager to help you.

11. Find one or two people who you can just "try stuff" with on a regular basis.

12. If you get an injury, give it time to heal. I know you don't want to sit out. It sucks. But you will be out longer if you don't give your injury time to heal and it becomes something that needs surgery to be corrected.

13. Don't talk crap about people. Don't brag. It's a fast way to lose friends and help from your training partners.

14. Go to tournaments. I hate them, because I put to much pressure on myself. But I still go because it is a good way to test myself, to see where my bjj is working and where it isn't. Don't wait until you're "ready" to go to a tournament. You're never "ready". At whatever level you compete, it will be a challenge. That's why it's so enlightening! :)

15. This last one is more of a personal learning style. For me, it is more beneficial to to understand the concept behind a move--why a certain move works--than to just memorize steps. BJJ rarely happens exactly like the technique demonstration. Grapples are fast moving and positions change quickly. If you understand the concept behind a move, you will be able to use that move in multiple situations, instead of just in the situation that it was demonstrated in. For example, if you learn an armbar from mount, try to understand why the armbar works. Then, you will be able to get an armbar in many other positions: from guard, from side control, etc. Details are important, but for me, concept is primary.

Anyways, that's my $.02 on the first year in BJJ. Hope it is helpful in some minute way!! ;) BJJ veterans and fellow newbies alike, feel free to add more to the list!


Megan said...

Great post and great advice...a lot of things I really need to keep in mind.

Jiujitsunista said...

Sorry, I have to laugh at your number 12. Unless of course you mean good advice that I don't take myself. lol Yes, yes, pot kettle.. I know, but I laughed anyway. =)

Meerkatsu said...

16. Blog about it :)

Dev said...

Fantastic post, Allie. I can't even think of anything to add right now. :)

Bjj Rob said...

Happy anniversary!

Liam H Wandi said...

Happy anniversary!!!

I'd like to echo Meerkatsu's comment :)

NinjaEditor said...

Congrats on your BJJ anniversary! Great post—the points on learning speed, what jits is really about, and progression were quite helpful. I've been doing BJJ for about five or six months and I feel like I should be further along than I am. This was a good reality check.

I liked you point about tournaments too—I just went to my first one and was incredibly hard on myself until my guys gave me an outside perspective. said...

Great points - I like number one. After almost 2 years of training, I FINALLY, understand that I'm not trying to move the other person, I need to move myself. I'm sure my instructor is happy that this finally sunk in with me. (jen)

AbbyBJJ said...

I 100% agree that you need to relax when you are grappling. Sometimes we don't even realize we are trying to out muscle the other guy... I've found that rolling with my eyes closed helps me relax. It allows me to flow from one position to another and use technique rather than strength. Try it!!!

Michael said...

Couldn't agree more, nice share!
Good luck in your venture.

QatarBJJ said...

I'm exactly the same if I know why a move works I can use it in more than one scenario - if I just do the move and don't why and normally end up missing it cause I don't know why and how to make up for struggling opponents.

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Staten Island MMA said...

hey,A.D. MCCLISH,,,,,,,,,,,,,,you published fantastic about Beginner's Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, such a biggest motivations for everyone. Thanks for sharing.

Muay Thai Brooklyn said...

Thumbs up to Fabio for all the things he mentioned. These are some important things to keep in mind for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Brooklyn beginners.

Staten Island Kickboxing said...

These are some good tips that one needs to keep in mind while starting the BJJ program. Things don't come easy but they eventually do with hard work and determination.

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