What to Expect at Your First Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Class
You’re ready to take your first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or BJJ class. You’re probably wondering about a few things, like what to expect and what to bring. Here are some helpful tips for taking your first BJJ class.
Can I just stop by any BJJ school?
Most people just assume that all schools welcome walk-ins (no appointment needed), and the majority of them do. But some do not accept them at all. It’s not because they don’t want your business. It’s usually because they want to ensure they have enough time to give you a tour and answer all your questions, and to make sure the other students and classes are not disturbed.
Do I have to pay for my first BJJ class?
Find out if the school offers free introductory classes, and if so, how many you can take before having to make a commitment. Most schools will offer at least one freebie. Some schools even offer one or two week trials. Just find out what they offer first.
You may not be able to tell if you want to join that school after one class. If they’re only offering one free class, then what? You can ask if they might increase that to two or three. If they say no, but you really want to try another class before making a commitment, ask the owner or instructor if they’ll accept a daily fee for one or two more classes. Chances are they’ll let you take them for free, but it’s good to know these things before you go.
Do I Have to Bring a Gi?
Most likely not. You can probably wear a loaner gi from the school you are going to visit. If the thought of wearing a gi that has been sweat in and on by multiple people freaks you out, then you might want to bring your own gi.
This is tricky though, because some schools have policies about what kind of gi you can wear. They also might only allow students to wear gis that feature their branding, logo and patches. So before you spend $100 or $200 on a new gi, check with the school about their dress code. The same applies to rashguards.
Do I need to bring anything to my first BJJ class?
If they have a gi you can borrow, then the answer is not really. Some practitioners choose to wear a mouthguard, a cup or both. Some don’t use either. The choice is yours. But make sure your finger and toenails are clipped and don’t have any jagged points. And since you’re using a loaner gi — one that someone will likely use after you — make sure you’re clean before going. You will be in bare feet, so if you have any cuts or sores, make sure you cover them with bandages or athletic tape.
You could just wear a t-shirt under the gi, but you might want to wear a rashguard. BJJ rashguards protect your skin from chafing and absorb sweat much better than a t-shirt. They are also great under a gi because they are form-fitting, so they don’t ride up your back like a t-shirt will.
What should I expect at the beginning of BJJ class?
Every BJJ class begins with some combination of conditioning and stretching. This depends on the school and the instructor, and it’s another thing you should ask about before your visit if it’s a concern for you. If you are completely fit, you’ll be able to handle anything that comes your way, or at least enjoy the challenge. If you’re out of shape, this is probably going to be the hardest part of the class.
I was definitely a bit shell-shocked at the amount of conditioning at my first BJJ class. We started with jumping jacks, moved to squats and then push-ups. We did 20 of each. I was happy to get through those sets, and was ready to start learning technique when the instructor yelled out, “Again!” We did a second set of each of those. Then a third set. Then we moved on to hip escapes or shrimps. And bridges. And ab work. And stretching. It was a grind, but I got through it.
One instructor told me he likes to exhaust his students before instruction and drills because then they have to focus on performing the techniques with focus and precision. And of course, they want their students to be in shape and healthy.
But some instructors will just run you through some light calisthenics and stretching because they want to give you as much instruction as they can, and leave time for students to drill those techniques. BJJ black belt Jay Pages, who teaches in Arizona, adheres to this philosophy.
“I don’t do warm-ups prior to class. If anything, a quick technique specific stretch but that’s about it. I count on my students to be stretched out and warmed up prior to the class. I want them to get as much technical drilling as possible,” Pages said.
Will I be competing with other students right away?
This also depends on the school and instructor. Ultimately though, it’s your choice. It’s not boot camp and you haven’t been drafted. It’s your first class. If you don’t feel comfortable doing something, then don’t do it.
Is it possible you’ll be locking up a triangle choke on someone on day one? Sure. But most likely the instructor will show you a few techniques, then you’ll work on those techniques with another student, generally the same size as you. Live training or all-out grappling is usually reserved for students with at least a few stripes on their white belt. Some schools will let you get out there and do that right away.
Will I be working with Blue Belts, Brown Belts and Black Belts right away?
You should hope so. Training technique with those higher-level guys is the best way to get better. They know what it’s like to be new and love to pass on what they’ve learned. It’s part of the beauty that is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. If you have a question, ask away. They’ll be happy to help you.
The best part about working with blue, brown or black belts is that while you are learning or drilling a technique, they’ll point out what you are doing well, and explain how to make quick adjustments to things you’re not doing correctly.
Is there anything I shouldn’t do if I spar during my first BJJ class?
I was paired up with a new student once, and he continually tried to dismember my head from my body as we worked on a choke technique. After the third time he did that, I sat up and said, “I have to work tomorrow.” Then I laughed, and he got the message. He was just trying to make a good impression and show he wasn’t a pushover.
But if you work technique on your first day, just remember you are not fighting anyone, and also remember these three words: not too hard. Don’t jerk anything too hard. Don’t crank anything too hard. Don’t twist anything too hard. Work the technique. You’re not trying to win a competition, you’re trying to learn. And you’re never, ever trying to hurt someone. Just stay composed and go slow. The other student or instructor will tell you if you should apply more force or pressure, depending on the technique.
Anything I should do after my first class?
Thank the people that shared their knowledge with you. You’ll probably bow and shake hands with the other students. Go home and shower. Drink a lot of water. And prepare to be really sore the next day. It’s not because you’re injured, it’s just that you are using muscles you haven’t used for a while and doing movements you’ve never done.
I loved my first class. I can’t wait to go back and I want a gi!
That’s how most people feel after their first class: energized, empowered and ready for more. If you want to buy a gi, check outThe Best Jiu Jitsu Gi Buying Guide. That will trach you about different sizes and styles, and help you make a decision. You can also watch our BJJ Gi Reviews, which are highly-detailed and informative. Just remember to check with your school about any policies they might have about gis.
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