Hello people, welcome back to the Beginners perspective. Today, I wanna talk about that first class. The first toe into shark infested water. It can be daunting for anyone. Remember, anyone and everyone involved in BJJ has been there at some stage.
The first time you swing open the gym doors, sharply inhale those dissonant aromas of bleach and salty body fluids (sweat of course!!). Look across the shiny mat, draped in a blanket of tangled limbs and drenched in the feverish banter of the regular students, all eyes turn in concert at the new blood on offer at the signing in desk!!! mwwwahhahaha !!! Well, not quite, but thats how it can feel.
Hopefully, this edition will help alleviate some of the initial nerves you can expect from your first class in BJJ.
The First Class - What to expect
Most gyms will always have a generous mixed bag of experience attending each class. Unless specified as an “experienced class”, there will be other beginners.
You don't need all the gear at this stage. Shorts and T-shirt are perfectly fine for your first few classes but you may wanna invest in a rash guard in the near future to help prevent any nasty infections (something I will discuss more in depth in the future) and a mouth guard is normally a good idea too. One thing I will say, “please God”, ensure your T-shirt of choice is NOT overly baggy. From experience, there is nothing worse than having somebodies saggy, sweat soaked shirt stuff down your throat during class, Ive nearly “tapped” to that, on a few occasions.
In a Gi class of course, you may be expected to have already bought your own in advance, with belt, however if you don’t, I'm sure there will be an old smelly spare GI you can chisel yourself into.
Not all gyms will run their classes the same way with the same routines exactly but a lot will be structured very similar.
Normally, there is a warm up routine to stretch and loosen up. This can involve anything from star jumps to basic forward rolls. For me, the warm up is an integral part of my BJJ training. Preparing my marble sculpted muscles (yea what?) ready to be pushed and pulled is what keeps me able to train regularly and also helps prevent feeling like I've been ran over by a bus the next day.
Once warmed up, the coach will normally run through the lesson techniques. Listening attentively should be an obvious step at this point, some people like to take notes. The important thing is to understand the technique you are being shown. Not just the steps of motion to the technique, but understand how it works and why it works, the mechanics to the movement and the little details are the difference between learning the technique or just running through the motions and never being able to apply it in sparring. Don't be afraid to ask questions, or ask to to be shown again if you don't get it.
You will then be given the opportunity to “drill” the techniques, with a partner. Run through what you have learnt, ask your partner for help if you need it, ask your coach for help if you need it, that is why you are there, to learn. You will not be expected to get it all perfectly, first time. Even the experienced student will wont get it 100% right away. Once, you have the move down, ask your partner to increase resistance to see how you can apply your new technique under different levels.
Err did he just say sparring?
Hell yes he did. Sparring or live rolling is where everything you learn can be tried and tested in a live situation. This is where the steepest learning curve begins and is essential for you to develop in BJJ. Obviously, this is also the scariest part of the class for beginners and if this is your first class? You can sit out and watch to give yourself an idea of what to expect. But, saying that, the best experience you can have is to just throw yourself in at the deep end and learn. Here is a few quick tips for beginners in their first rolls :
1 - Tell your partner you are a beginner. Unless they are too, they will more than likely take it easy on you, and may even help you with tips and pointers during your roll.
2 - Unless competition sparring, most class rolls will start from the knees. Don’t be afraid to stand to pass guard, but if your partner stands, sit down and let them try pass your guard, don’t get embroiled in a wrestling match at this stage.
3 - Try what you have learnt. Thats why you are there. Even if you only know one move, get to the position you know it from and try it out. Make it your goal to try to use it.
4 - Rolling BJJ is grappling. NO KICKING - PUNCHING - PINCHING - SCRATCHING - PULLING OF HAIR OR CLOTHES AND NO SLAMMING .
5 - Try to relax, and not spas out, BJJ is technique over strength, you may be able to out muscle or just bench press that skinny blue belt ( prob me ) off you sometimes, but technique will prevail and they will make you pay for it :)
6 - If something hurts or is too uncomfortable, TAP. “Tapping” is a distinctive patting on your opponent to let him know you want to stop. You can also tap verbally by yelling “TAP” or tap the mat with any limb you have free. Ideally, you want to tap onto your partner so that he feels the tap as a noisy gym can hide the sound of you frantically tapping the mat. Do not be embarrassed to Tap, the roll will restart, and you can continue. If you don't tap, you could get injured and wont be able to train at all. Like wise, if your partners taps, immediately stop applying the submission.
7- Enjoy yourself, ask questions and learn off everyone you meet on the mat.
Make sure you warm down, stretch off to prevent muscle stiffness and soreness the next morning and you did it. You survived the deep waters on your first class, hopefully leading to an all out addiction and journey towards black belt and beyond.