For new students to jiu-jitsu the amount of information that you will be exposed to will often leave you feeling overwhelmed. Combine that with the physical adaptations (e.g. flexibility and hip mobility) that need to improve before your body can effectively perform many of the guard movements and the mental aspect of rolling with and being dominated by a much lighter training partner and you can feel like you need some advice.
A request for advice on training BJJ might be met with the succinct answer “Just keep showing up!” While accurate, it is unsatisfying and not particularly helpful for the specific challenges of being a new student.
Here are 3 common challenges faced by new students and some advice on how to deal with them.
1) “I have difficulty remembering my techniques!”
This is the #1 frustration of starting jiu-jitsu. But think about it, would you start learning Spanish or how to play guitar and expect to remember all of the new information flawlessly after seeing it one time? You are not alone.
Aside from the obvious experience of sticking around long enough to become very familiar with the core techniques and positions I would recommend taking notes. This can be as simple as using a school notebook and pen or as convenient as using a phone note taking app (I use Evernote on my phone) to note the key points of the moves that you just saw in class.
Many students who tried taking notes reported that it helped them retain the information. Not only because they reviewed the notes later as homework, but when you know that you will be recording the steps of the technique later, you will pay attention and break it down in a different way mentally.
2) “I can’t do anything against the blue belts in rolling!”
This might be the single toughest challenge students of jiu-jitsu face in their 1st year. Legend Renzo Gracie often says with his trademark laugh “Sometimes you are the hammer and sometimes you are the nail!” That 1st year you will get a lot more experience as a nail than as a hammer.
Many students lose their enthusiasm for training out of this sense of frustration. Our egos must find a way to deal with getting tapped. Especially by a training partner who may be much smaller!
It is useful to think of getting tapped in training as learning. Ask “What mistake did I make that led to getting submitted?” and “What technique can I use to defend and counter that move next time?”
Secondly, instead of taking it personally try to see that if these positions are effective against you, then you KNOW they work! How good can you be once you learn the same techniques?
3) “My cardio is terrible! I need to get in better shape!”
There are few athletic activities as exhausting as grappling with an advanced jiu-jitsu practitioner. I’ve witnessed superbly conditioned athletes from other sports come to jiu-jitsu and gas out completely before the end of a 5 minute round.
They gasp “I need to get in better shape!” Truth is they ARE in solid physical condition. But lacking enough techniques, they are fighting using strength, explosiveness and tensing every muscle in their bodies. Anyone would rapidly fatigue regardless of their fitness level.
The ability to relax, breath and be more efficient while rolling comes with familiarity in the various positions. And how do we get familiar? Well, by coming to class regularly and accumulating mat time in those positions.
Remind yourself to breath and look for a technical solution to your situation on the mat.
Oh, and most importantly…”Just keep showing up!”
See also on Gracie Barra : Gracie Barra Instructors : Advice For New Students
Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Saigon, Vietnam