A Guide to Everything You Should Expect in Your First Jiu-Jitsu Class
Get rid of those first class jitters with these tips on how to get through your first bjj class
Doing anything for the first time is daunting! You’re in your own head, thinking about everything that needs to go right, not embarrassing yourself and just surviving. This is definitely true for your first jiu-jitsu class. We’ve all been through this feeling both on and off the mats. But I’m here to help you get through the class and help you shake off those nerves.
My first jiu-jitsu class was awkward for a few reasons: I wasn’t dressed to grapple, I was the only woman in the gym, and I moved clumsily. I lucked out because it was almost like a private class so no one except the gym owner had to experience my awkwardness up close.
I got through it and started a now (as I write this) 10-year love-hate relationship with Brazilian jiu-jitsu. I hope you’ll feel more comfortable than I did in my first BJJ class, so the following is how a class goes and how you’ll feel during it.
Here’s the Order of a Jiu-Jitsu Class
Like any other physical activity, you’re going to start the class with a warm-up. The type of warm-up you do depends on the academy or school you go to, but most schools will have basic movements that are common in jiu-jitsu techniques.
If you’re not used to the movements, it’s going to be weird but usually the coach, an upper belt, or some kind person at your gym will help and explain how to do the movements. It’s important that you do these movements properly and not try to rush them, so your body gets familiar with how to move in any situation that requires these basic movements.
Next, it’s time to learn some techniques. Some gyms have the luxury of having a separate beginner class where you will learn every basic technique and solidify them as you go into your BJJ journey. But, if you’re in a class where everyone is learning everything at the same time, don’t worry. A great coach will break down all the moves to make it understandable for beginners.
In addition, the coach will make sure you’re partnered up with an experienced upper belt. Depending on the length of the class, you will learn three to four techniques which are all connected in some way. While you’re drilling or practicing the techniques, the coach will pay extra attention to you to make sure you understand.
Positional sparring is the best part of the class (in my opinion). It gives you an opportunity to practice the techniques you learned in class in real life. This is the time to recall some of details the coach mentioned during class.
Positional Sparring can be quite intense, but my tip is to try and focus on what you learned and not spaz out. Instinct is great but sometimes you can injure someone. In some cases, the coach will just have first timers do some more drilling depending on your comfort level.
Right after some stretching (again depending on your academy) and the official end of class, there is open mat. This is a time to ask questions, go over techniques you did in class, and roll(spar) with your training partners. To prevent injuries , the coach will not have you roll with anyone.
Great coaches will answer any questions you might have, ask you about how your first class went, and about any martial arts or grappling experience you’ve had in the past.
This is also a time that you can get to know some of the other people at the gym. You’ll get a mix of personalities, including some people who can’t be bothered to talk to beginners (just being honest). But most people are friendly and will want to get to know you.
What is Expected of You During A BJJ Class
Like anything else you do for the first time, you’re going to be going through a lot of emotions. Add these emotions to the fact there will be a lot going on. Here are some of the things you should expect and that will be expected from/of you during your first Brazilian jiu-jitsu class.
1. That You’ll be Confused and Nervous
These feelings are the most suboptimal feelings to have doing anything. You will be doing movements that your body may not be used to and of course you don’t want to mess them up. But, of course this is okay! It's going to happen.
2. To Get A Lot of Attention
While you feel awkward doing these body movements, you’re going to have the coach paying a lot of attention to you to make sure you understand the movements and why you’re doing them, as well as to make sure you don’t get hurt. Also, I won’t lie, the students who come are going to be watching you too out of curiosity.
3. To Be Partnered up with an Upper Belt
If the jiu-jitsu class you’re attending is big or if there are many beginners in attendance, the head coach might pair you up with an upper belt to make sure you’re getting attention and that someone can guide you the right way. If you come with a friend, the main coach will most likely split you up so you can learn with another upper belt just so there isn’t a “blind leading the blind” situation.
4. That You’ll Respect All the Rules, The Coaches, and Your Teammates
You are a paying customer, and you’ll get all the training you need to be successful in jiu-jitsu as long as you keep coming. But, there are gym rules and etiquette that everyone needs to follow. It’s important to know that you should check your ego at the door when you come in. No one is better than the rules or anyone else. Just keep in mind the rules set by the gym owners and coaches are there to make sure you and the other people training there are safe.
First BJJ Class Tips
I know that there is a lot that goes into a BJJ class and a lot to think about. But here are some tips on how you can have a successful first class and be excited for the next one.
1. Don’t Go Crazy
You are new to a combat sport where people do get injured. That being said, try not to do so much crazy and spazzy movements in your first class. Just try your best to remember the moves taught in the class and of course go an instinct when it comes to defending yourself in positional sparring.
2. Don’t be Afraid to Talk and Ask Questions
As I mentioned before, the coaches and even students at the gym are there to help you. If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask the coach or someone else. It doesn’t help anyone if you keep your thoughts to yourself. You’re not detracting from anyone else’s experience. In fact, by asking a fellow student how to do something (pending on how long they’ve been training), it helps them figure out their own understanding of the technique.
In addition, if you ask the question out loud during the class, your question might be something someone had a question about but was too afraid to ask. Just make sure you’re not talking when the coach is talking.
3. You Might Bruise or Feel Sore
Like doing any other new sport or workout, you might feel sore after your first class or even bruise (#cantrelate with the bruising… I’m black. I barely bruise). Your body is moving in ways that might be unfamiliar. In addition, if you’re rolling with people and moving fast and grabbing on to each other, you’re more than likely going to get a pinch or two from your partner. If you’re experiencing delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS from the class the next day, you can try some stretching or even an Epsom salt bath that helps with muscle soreness.
Go into Your First BJJ Class Without Fear
Experiencing your first BJJ class is one of the scariest but most exciting things you'll do in your life. Just taking that first step to learn how to defend yourself, get fit, or try something you’ve never tried before shows that you got unprecedented power inside of you. Once you get through that first class and decide to make BJJ part of your life, it is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.
What was your first jiu-jitsu class like? What tips do you have for beginners to help them get through their first class? Share below or talk to me on Instagram @blackgirlwhitegi_bjj