Starting BJJ: What to expect on your first class?
We are having a busy week at BJJ Academy. Coach Ivam Maciel asked me to write this article to answer any questions you might have about starting to train in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with us, and your first class in particular. Every school is different, but this article will help you understand how we roll at Ivam Maciel BJJ Academy! I hope it helps you!
You’ll find a glossary of basic Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu terms at the bottom of this article. This is to help you understand any technical words used here or in your first class.
→ Just visiting?
At BJJ Academy you can watch a class, meet the teacher and ask some questions before ever getting on the mats. If you prefer, you can call us on 01273 411486 to book your first class.
→ What to wear? Before you come to your first class, you’ll need to figure out what to wear.
You don’t need to own a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gi for your first class. T-shirts, board shorts and sweat trousers are all fine. Sometimes you can wear a gi or uniform from another martial art (ask the instructor about this issue). You will need to buy a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gi if you continue training.
Do NOT wear anything with extra pockets, belt loops or baggy fabric. These are dangerous since fingers and toes can get caught in them. Baggy cargo shorts are a common example of what not to wear.
If you already own them, you can wear any protective gear (knee braces, ear guards, mouth guard, cup, etc.) you feel you need, with the exception of wrestling shoes (some clubs allow shoes, we don’t). Athletic tape can be used to protect injured fingers or toes.
Make sure your finger and toe nails are well-groomed. If you have long hair, you’ll want to put it up in a ponytail or bun during class. You should also remove any piercings to prevent injuries.
→ Your First Class
We advise to show up earlier to introduce yourself to the instructor and check out the Academy (if you haven’t visited already).
Before class starts, you’ll have a chance to get dressed. Be sure to get everything ready before class starts so you don’t have to miss anything.
Most classes start with a group warm-up, such as running laps and doing push-ups, followed by solo drills like forward and backward breakfalls and shrimping. Those last three moves will probably be new to you, so just watch what everyone else is doing and try to copy them. These are to help you learn how to fall safely and move your hips on the ground.
Don’t worry if you don’t get the exercises correct at first—no one does on their first day, and they take a little practise. Just give it your best try and the instructor or a higher belt will make sure you learn to do it right.
After warm-ups, you’ll be partnered with someone and go to your own section of the mats to be taught your first lesson. An example a beginner will be learning and drilling the following three techniques:
Guard pass to side control;
Taking mount from side control;
Each technique flows one into another, from position to position, and it ends with a submission.
While these techniques may seem basic, if you could consistently perform them successfully against resisting opponents, you’d be well on your way in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
→ Positional Drilling
Usually resistance drills and sparring follow the instruction and repetition of techniques. This will be your first chance to try out what you just learned against a fully resisting partner in a live drill. And as such, it’s important that you understand some basic rules for all live drilling and sparring:
→ Basic Rules
** No striking, punching or kicking.
** No eye gouging or hair pulling.
** No twisting or grabbing fingers.
** No slamming (picking someone up and dropping them).
** No heelhooks (twisting the foot or knee).
** No neck cranks.
Remember that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is designed to be trained safely without serious injury. These rules are to help keep you and your training partners safe and healthy.
The normal way you signal submission in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is to tap your opponent three times. When you tap, make sure you do it hard enough that your partner can feel it; or tap yourself or the mat where they can see and/or hear it; or verbally tap by saying “Tap!”; or loudly tap the mat with your foot so they can hear it.
Likewise, be aware of your training partner tapping and stop whatever you are doing when he does so.
Tapping is just part of training and there is no shame in it. Don’t worry about winning or losing. Just try the techniques you’ve learned to the best of your ability and tap when you need to, ideally before it hurts.
The class concludes with live sparring. Depending on your ability, your performance during the class, you may be assigned a sparring partner(s) for a light “roll”.
At the start of, you’ll begin by facing your partner on your knees. When you’re both ready shake hands and start to “roll”: try out your techniques, stopping whenever one of you taps and restarting from knees.
→ After Class
With class over, you might have more questions, now you’ve trained for the first time. If you enjoyed the class and want to continue training, you can also discuss prices and setup a schedule.
You will need a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gi for continued training. For more info about it, ask to your instructor.
I hope this answers any questions you might have about what your first day at Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy will be like. Good luck in your future training!
Americana — A basic submission where the arm is bent and twisted towards the head in order to crank the shoulder. Also called American armbar, bent armlock, chicken wing, hammer lock, paint brush, top wrist lock, ude garami, and v-lock.
Breakfall — The techiques for safely falling to the ground, such as after a throw. To breakfall means to execute a safe fall to the mat. Also called rollovers and ukemi.
Gi — The uniform worn when training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Also called kimono.
Guard — A number of positions in grappling where the person on bottom is defending themselves and controlling the person on top using their legs. Closed guard is where the position is held with one’s legs wrapped around their opponent’s waist with their ankles crossed. Open guard
Guard pass — A technique done in order to get around or “pass” someone’s guard, ending with them securely holding a dominant position. Attempting to perform these techniques against an opponent is called passing the guard.
Heelhook — A submission where the heel is used to twist the leg and possibly tear the knee.
mount — A dominant position in grappling where the person on top sits straddled across the torso of the person on bottom. In a self defense situation, the person with mount would be able to strike without much threat of being struck back. In grappling, mount offers the leverage and control to effect chokes and armlocks. The person on the bottom is considered mounted.
No-gi — Refers to training without the gi, usually wearing shorts and a T-shirt
Shrimp — A drill done to train proper hip movement while on one’s back. It is an important part of many escapes and techniques. It is called “shrimping” because one bends in half like a shrimp as they scoot along the mat. Also called elbow escape or hip escape because of it is used in combination with the elbow in several escapes.
Side control — A number of dominant positions in grappling where the person on top pins the opponent, usually with chest to chest contact. Also called crossbody, cross-side and side mount. Many particular holds from side control have specific names, such as 100 kilos and scarf hold.
Sweep — A technique done from guard to put an opponent on their back and allow one to come up on top. To sweep means to successfully perform such a technique.
Take the back — To gain one of the most dominant positions in grappling (called rear mount) on an opponent’s back. From here, one can strike (in self defense situations) or choke with little fear of retaliation.
Weave — The type of fabric a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gi is made from. Single weave is one of the thinnest types, making it good for hot weather training. Double weave is twice the thickness of single, and gold weave is somewhere between the two. Summer weave is the lightest and most easily torn.
Upa — A bridging movement where you lie on your back and lift your hips off of the ground. Used in the basic bridge-and-roll mount escape.