So you want to get into martial arts and landed on jiu-jitsu – a combat sport based on ground
fighting and submission holds such as joint locks and chokes. This sport can be fun, intense and
complex, with plenty of sparring and competition opportunities, but before you step on the
mat for the first time, here is a guide to prepare yourself.
First Day – or Week, or Month or Year
Your first day stepping into a gym can be daunting; when it’s a jiu-jitsu gym, that level is
heightened significantly. This sport isn’t something you can just pick up and do. The movements
required aren’t normal to everyday life and the technique is precise. Additionally, it’s important
to understand that you have to listen to your body in a whole new way – gym cardio is far
different from jiu-jitsu cardio; plus, you have the responsibility to accept a loss and tap when a
partner submits you to avoid injury.
Many gyms follow the same three components during a regular class. First is warm-ups. Jiu-jitsu
can be rough on your body, so it’s good to take time to get your blood pumping and muscles
warm. These warm-ups can range from regular cardio options you’d see at the gym such as
running, jumping jacks and push-ups or jiu-jitsu movements such as hip escapes and shoulder
rolls. No matter what, these warm-ups are essential to preventing injuries and should never be
skipped. Next in class comes drilling and technique. The coach will show a technique and
everyone will partner off to practice for an allotted time. After reconvening, the coach will
either clean up details of the first drill, or add another move to the sequence. Finally, live
grappling begins. Here you will find a partner to train with and utilize techniques from that day
or past knowledge. The goal is to submit your partner or win on points by the end of the match.
This is the time to see where you are in terms of technique, strength, endurance and so much
Not every gym structures its classes like this, but most will resemble this in some capacity.
Other class options include open mats, where there is no guided techniques, just live rolling.
Etiquette & Hygiene
It is also important to understand that respect plays a big role in jiu-jitsu. Respect to coaches,
teammates and yourself are huge. There is also a hierarchy of belt rank and while everyone,
even white belts, has value to add, the belt system is put in place for a reason. Additionally,
students must be mindful of basic discipline. It’s okay to tap, and it’s not okay to take
aggression out on your partner and attempt to hurt them with strength or illegal moves.
Hygiene is also important. You are in close contact with multiple people every time you train
and infections can spread quickly. It’s important to make sure you yourself are always clean, as
well as your clothes and gi. Wash your gi and other uniform pieces after every practice – even if
you think you didn’t sweat. Always ensure your nails are cut short to avoid scratching your
partner and stay home if you notice any rashes or oncoming illnesses.
So… Now What?
Next up, find a gym near you. Some things to look out for: high-ranked instructors (brown and
black belts), competition team affiliation, positive reviews, price, convenient schedule and a
good environment. You’ll want to ensure the gym you go to is one where you can not only
achieve your goals – whether it be self-defense, weight loss or being a world champion – but
also build a community of friends and family. Many gyms offer a free trial, so try to narrow
down your list to two or three and feel out which is the best fit for you and your success.