Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu sucks. It’s legitimately one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. Every time. The old saying goes that “BJJ doesn’t get any easier, you just get better at it” hasn’t seemed to have clicked with me.
And that’s exactly why I love it.
BJJ is a mind game as much as anything. Some people can’t handle the fact that they will have someone smaller than them sitting on their chest for 6 minutes straight. Some people can’t handle the fact that they will be very horrible at something for nearly 6 months before they even start to begin to understand what they are doing. In fact, the same reason people don’t try BJJ is the same reason they don’t try most things- FEAR. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of getting made fun of. Fear of walking into a class of people you’ve never met, putting on a “karate suit” (legit what I called it the first day) and getting right to it. Fear of being judged. Fear of meeting new people. Fear of having another man hug you and sweat on you and smash you into the mat (this is actually a legit fear). But what you find out is that none of this is remotely true. EVERYONE is terrible at it in the beginning, EVERYONE is incredibly kind, helpful, a teacher and friend. I was horrified the first day too and that’s ok. JUST GO AND DO IT! It’s the best workout you’ll ever get.
They say that BJJ is life. Once you find the way in BJJ, you find the way in life. You begin to understand that life is a struggle as is BJJ. You begin to understand that everything you do during a round is symbolic to situations in life. What are the decisions you make when it gets tough? Do you give up? Do you freak out and panic? Do you scream like a child? Or do you focus, work on the problem, slow your mind, think and act towards a soultion?
BJJ is as much about preparation, practice, decision making, timing, pressure, technique and knowledge as is life. When you have a difficult coworker, boss, etc., you have to play mental BJJ with them. You have to work with them, use their energy and force, keep calm, apply pressure where needed, and eventually get yourself into an advantageous position to take control of the situation.
There have been countless questions on BJJ and what it entails so I am going to drop into a little more detail and hopefully pick up some new people along the way. I’m going to divide it into three different posts because, as was my experience, there are three levels to being a white belt. The first section is below.
Level 1 (~0-8 months): You are really really really bad. You are exhausted, you can’t move, you can’t breathe. You are tapped out every 30-45 seconds. You hate life. You are destroyed EVERY SINGLE TIME. AND…It’s amazing! Having a real, no BS, evaluation of your skill set, finding your biggest weaknesses and developing skill around those is amazing. Your first 6-8 months is really about understanding what you natural skill set is and putting a plan on getting better.
As you guys can tell, I’m the big guy in the class so, naturally, everyone that knew anything about BJJ wanted to teach me what they had learned. And, honestly, I liked it that way. There was no coddling, slow play, going easy on me, etc. People went hard and went hard fast. It was the best way to learn- trial by fire!
Level one is basically about learning the very very basics of breathing and staying calm, holding guard, grips, very basic sweeps and trying to last as long as possible. Here is a guide for anyone interested in starting: BJJ Beginners Guide.
What I learned in my first ~ 8 months
- Discipline- You have to work your butt off to get better. Period. The matt brings it all out. Either you are getting better and preparing or you are getting worse. You can’t hide when it’s just you on the mat.
- Patience- is a virtue. It’s also a necessity in BJJ. You are going to get pinned. You are going to miss a submission. You are going to get beat over and over and over again. So what. Be patient and work hard and it will come.
- Flexibility- not just physically, which is hugely important in BJJ, but mental flexibility. Every move has multiple approaches and ways to accomplish the same thing. Having to learn and grow on the fly increases your creativity and mental flexibility. This helps to solve real-world problems too!
- Dealing with Adversity- you are going to get exhausted, very frustrated, experience extreme discomfort and become tougher as a result. Learning that this is a direct reflection of the fact that BJJ (read: life) is a struggle, overcoming that struggle and growing personally will bring you some of the greatest treasures of life.
Side note: I recently had the pleasure of going 6 minutes with a gnarly black belt last Saturday that quickly reminded me of all the emotions listed above. He submitted me 8 times in 7 minutes and I (after the fact, of course) couldn’t have loved it any more. Now, I’m not going to lie, I was PISSED. And I mean fuming mad, which made me go harder, which made him go harder, which very quickly reminded me I am a blue belt and he’s a black belt for a reason. The point is that we aren’t going to get it right all of the time. We are going to forget the lessons that we have learned. And it takes perspective to be able to remember that that’s just life. You’re going to win, but you’re going to lose a lot. As long as you get back up, give it your best, and never, ever give up, you can’t lose.
Here are some other resources:
- My Gym, Team Octopus, is obviously the best in ATL! They have multiple locations as well as Kickboxing, CrossFit, etc. all included in the monthly fee. Also, they give a free month to people trying out.
- Gi- they will set you up with a gi and a belt at most gyms. I personally like The Kingz Kimonos because they fit me properly.
- Tape– make sure to tape fingers. It will save tons of scrapes, cuts and potentially broken fingers.
- Youtube- I watch a TON of different submissions on youtube and whatnot because I’m a visual learner. Watch this three-part series on youtube: HERE
- Email me- I would love to talk to you and get you to join!