BJJ is widely known as one of the most challenging martial arts in the world. To become proficient, one must spend years on the mats and learning the science behind every move. So, it’s not a surprise that BJJ beginnings are hard as well. What’s more, they are perhaps the hardest ones compared to the other martial art styles.
As a beginner, you must eat many humble pies. Also, you will feel overwhelmed by the amount of stuff you must learn. Although the beginnings are hard and painful, they are just a test you must pass in order to succeed and really enjoy the BJJ experience.
The truth is, many students leave the mats and never come back after just a couple of sessions. But, if your body and ego manage to survive the first couple of months, you will breathe BJJ until the rest of your life. Let me put it this way, the journey of every BJJ student begins as a roller-coaster ride of emotions and ends up as the smartest life decision.
The BJJ goal is to enter the gym with a smile and leave with the one. So, we have decided to make your beginnings more pleasant by bringing you the best tips and tricks on how to deal with all the difficulties.
10. Leave your ego behind and embrace the struggles
The opening months of your BJJ experience represent the time in which you must shift all your focus on learning. We know, being submitted and dominated all the time can be frustrating at times. Also, the anger can get even bigger when you are not seeing any progress despite all the work.
Instead of feeling nervous every time you come to the class, take a moment to remind yourself that your only task is to learn and nothing else. Nobody is expecting you to start dominating people right from the start. As the famous expression says: A black belt is a white belt that never gave up The truth is, it takes some time for your body to adapt to the exhausting training sessions. Also, your mind and ego need to learn how to deal with all those failures.
We have all been there, and the best advice is to stay humble and embrace the struggles. If BJJ was that easy, everybody would wear a black belt around their waist. Instead, it is a never-ending learning process that can help you grow as a person and an athlete.
9. Set your own goals and be patient
Every beginner must learn how to navigate through the classes. Also, you need to keep yourself motivated to survive the white belt days.
Sometimes, you will experience that terrible feeling of being stuck. Despite all the work and effort, there is a feeling you are not making any progress. This is the moment in which the frustration and the anxiety are kicking in. But, being nervous and overwhelmed with negative emotions is counterproductive and very bad for you.
Regardless of the combat style, we all have that desperate desire and energy to improve ourselves on the mats. Yet, don’t set the bar too high. As a beginner, it’s very important to be realistic and true to yourself. Instead of thinking about the promotion to the higher ranks, look at everything from a positive perspective and set your own goals.
For example, write down that you want to become more flexible one month from now and start working on it. Achieving those small tasks will give you that constant feeling that you are moving forward. Also, it is a great way to boost your motivation. Like in life, it’s all about achieving the small goals that are leading to much bigger ones.
8. Stay productive outside the gym
Whether you are a total beginner or a more experienced student, being productive outside the gym can help you improve faster and stay in top shape. Also, this is a great way to keep up with the classes if you can’t attend them more than once or twice a week. But remember, nothing can replace the endless rolling on the mats and the live sessions with the instructor.
In this internet era, finding the quality BJJ content on the web has never been easier. So, any BJJ students are using instructional videos to test their knowledge from the previous session. Also, this helps them remember the moves. Usually, these videos are short, understandable and not that expensive. What’s more, there are a couple of great YouTube channels you can follow and watch for free.
In case you are into reading, there are plenty of well-written books you can find. They will help you understand the science behind BJJ techniques. The truth is, we can all find a bit of time during the day to stay productive outside the gym. Sometimes, just a simple stretching session before the bed or a five-minute instructional video can be enough to enhance your game.
7. Improve flexibility
It’s very important to have a high level of flexibility in BJJ. Training includes a lot of rolling sessions in which you are twisting the joints and putting the body in awkward positions. Thus, the injuries are very common among beginners who still need to learn how to keep their bodies safe.
So, you must stretch before and after the training session to prevent any injuries.Also, regularly stretching will boost your progress on the mats as well. As you may know, most BJJ techniques and positions need high flexibility.
So, stretching improves your skills as well. It allows you to switch between the positions faster and execute finishing moves much easier. It also strengthens the body and improves balance.If you want to learn more and discover some stretching routines, you are in the right place. We have already done the research for you and you can check our article on how to improve flexibility for BJJ right here.
6. Learn how to escape
If you learn a couple of escaping techniques, your time on the mats will become much more pleasant. Escapes are defensive moves that you can use to prevent the opponent from securing the dominant position. Also, you can use escapes to create scrambles and reverse the position.
In BJJ competition, many fighters have built their game and success on escapes and great scrambles. One of the most famous is the BJJ world no-gi champion, Jeff Glover. Most of the beginner drills are focusing on finishing techniques or transitions between the positions. Of course, these drills are great, and you must know how to perform them.
But, you can’t expect to submit anyone higher than your level in the opening months. So, switching a bit of focus on improving your defense can make a lot of difference. Being good at escapes will certainly boost your survival rates against more experienced students. This way, you can quickly gain the respect of the more senior grapplers as well.
5. Focus on improving strength and conditioning
BJJ is a technique that allows a smaller person to defeat a much bigger opponent without using much strength. Despite this being true, modern BJJ requires certain levels of strength and conditioning. In training, your body and mind are going through huge stresses.
So, it’s important to keep yourself healthy and competitive. One of the ways is to begin working out and lifting weights. This will improve your skills on the mats and prevent potential injuries. Just imagine going through the session without exhaustion and waking up the next morning without feeling any pain.
After a few months of training, you will notice that everything has become much easier. Better core strength improves the speed of your takedowns and transitions during the rolls. Also, higher endurance allows you to go through the training without exhaustion.
Yet, you don’t have to train like a bodybuilder and put too much effort. Too much muscle mass can affect flexibility and agility. If you want to explore more about this topic, be sure to check our article on how to build explosive strength for BJJ here.
4. Analyze your strengths and weaknesses
To succeed in BJJ, you must always be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. Having that self-awareness will boost your progress on the mats and confidence in your abilities. Also, you will have a clear picture of the areas that are seeking improvements.
The reality is, every person is different and we can’t all be good in every aspect of BJJ. Some students are good at escapes and creating scrambles while others have better takedowns.
These differences in skills are especially common among beginners. But, the key of BJJ is to grow into a well-rounded grappler. The one-dimensional approach will cost you at the more advanced stages of your grappling career.
Yet, focusing on improving weak areas is always challenging. For many, it takes twice as much effort to correct the mistakes. But from a long-term perspective, it is the best decision you can make.
Most importantly, this allows you to step on the right track right from the start. You don’t want to spend years on the mats before finally realizing you have to get back to fundamentals.
3. Stick with the fundamentals
Jiu-jitsu is evolving at a rapid pace and we can see things changing all the time. Yet, all beginners must stick with the basic moves before they proceed on learning more complex ones.
So, you must concentrate on drilling the fundamental techniques and developing a solid base. Like in most sports, you need a good base on which you can add more techniques and tricks in the future.
But many students are doing the total opposite. They are distracting themselves by trying to develop some new moves without the necessary knowledge of the basics. Sooner or later, every hole in your game will get exposed during the sparring or competition. We know, practicing some flashy moves with your partner is very exciting. What’s more, it’s actually good to step outside of the comfort zone and try new things.
But, it’s very easy for a beginner to step off the right track and get lost in the crucial process of learning. Remember, the complex techniques will come later when you are fully prepared for it. For now, focus on the fundamentals that will actually improve your BJJ game.
2. Take every tap as a lesson
As said above, every beginner must tap a thousand times in the first months. So, being submitted is just a process of learning and tapping should be a regular thing. We are not sure why, but many white belts and new students are simply refusing to tap. It’s unbelievable how many injuries have happened simply because the student didn’t know when to tap. Also, there are plenty of overconfident ones that are trying to prove they are the next Gracie by refusing to tap.
The only logical explanation for this is they have never seen or experienced consequences before. If you end up being in a deep armbar and you refuse to tap, do you know what will happen next?
So, if you get caught into submission or feel any kind of discomfort, tap! Tap as fast as you can! Tapping out is just a regular thing in the minds of most black belts. You don’t want to experience some serious injury that will force you out from the gym for a long time. What’s more, some injuries can end your BJJ dream, think about that.
1. Be consistent
The lack of consistency and time spent on mats is the main reason why some beginners are struggling. Like every other combat style, BJJ requires a lot of sacrifice, dedication, and consistency if you want to improve. This may sound formal, but being consistent is the best way to go through the white belt struggles.
Many people are coming to BJJ classes once or twice a week and that approach has its own benefits. Basically, some people don’t have time for more, and that is fine. But if you are serious about becoming proficient in BJJ, training once or twice a week is not enough. In the opening months, the instructors will bombard you with millions of information. So, you must spend as much time as you can rolling on the mats and drilling the techniques.
Without consistency, it’s almost impossible for you to remember everything and learn the technique. That said, you should train at least three times a week to gain some quality knowledge and practice.