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New jujitsukas who enter their first few sessions a bit too confidently often find themselves humbled soon enough. BJJ is an incredibly popular, incredibly effective martial art, but it's also a great way to give yourself an ego check.
So it's okay to admit that you don't know everything, and you definitely won't learn everything all too quickly. Take advice from as many people as you can, learn from as many sources as possible, and then you'll really start to improve.
With that said, here are a few healthy tips to really get a head start on your BJJ journey!
Know What You Can handle
For your first few months in BJJ, you can expect to be overwhelmed.
Your instructor will likely take things slowly, but there are a lot of factors that go into BJJ being difficult for newcomers--the intensity of the drills, the difficulty of the techniques, and even just the general awkwardness of your first few rolls.
This is all part of the process. Beginners often feel intimidated by it all, from the experienced practitioners performing seemingly terrifying moves to the intensity found when conditioning.
But if you take things one step at a time, focus on your small victories, and let go of your fears and anxieties, then gradually, you'll be able to build your confidence and start really honing your skills.
We want to put a strong emphasis on that last bit: the sooner you can really get your hands dirty, the more you'll be able to cope with all of BJJ's hefty requirements. Because it's worth keeping in mind, BJJ will never get easier. You'll just become stronger.
Bring a Friend!
One of the best--and most fun!--ways you can improve in BJJ is to have a buddy tag along. They don't need to be experienced, but they should definitely be just as enthusiastic about the martial art as you are.
It's a great way to make the entire process more enjoyable overall, since you can push each other to do better, give each other feedback, and just share your love for BJJ with one another!
There are even concrete benefits to this as well. They can act as a dedicated spotter for you, making sure that nothing goes wrong for you while you're rolling.
And you can have a bit of friendly competition too! You'll likely have this with your fellow jujitsukas eventually, but it'd be a good to form that kind of competitive spirit with a close friend.
And if they're already experienced with BJJ? Even better, because then you'll have a trusted person giving you tips and constructive feedback on how to improve your game.
Regardless, it's always nice to have a person you're actually genuinely friends with sparring with you. It's both a wonderful bonding experience and an effective way to get better results at training.
Do Extra Conditioning
One of the best things you can do to help you go through the first few months of BJJ is to do conditioning training outside of your dojo.
For example, you can do cardio. You'll quickly realize that Brazilian jiu-jitsu is awfully tiring, and you'll find yourself out of breath fairly often. So finding a way to improve your endurance, like cardio, is a great way to improve.
The great thing about this tip is that you can do it even if you're not in your dojo. A simple jog on a treadmill or around your neighborhood, especially if it involves switching between lighter running and higher-intensity sprinting, will already be really effective.
And if you can go beyond just normal running, all the better! You can even use this as an avenue for getting into other sports. Boxing and swimming, for example, are both excellent ways to improve endurance, and they'll serve you just as well as a good sprint, if not better.
It's a wonderful way to improve your endurance, and it'll help you last that much longer when you're rolling.
There's more you can do than just cardio though. Flexibility training will also prove vital. You'll soon notice that lots of BJJ techniques and maneuvers require you to twist your limbs, and your body in general, into strange, unfamiliar angles.
They won't hurt you when done properly, of course, but they'll feel awkward at first. For example, the triangle choke is a particularly brutal move that involves wrapping your legs around an opponent's neck and arm.
Done correctly, your opponent will be left unconscious in mere seconds, usually less than 10--but that's the thing, doing them correctly requires a fair amount of flexibility.
In fact, one of the most common things you might hear an instructor say is to "put your hips into it." That'll sound strange to the uninitiated, but he's really trying to tell you to watch your hips and encourage flexibility in that area of your body.
Maintain a Healthy Mindset
BJJ is not linear. Not everyone learns at the same pace, and you're not at fault for lagging behind when you do. Setbacks and failures are part of the learning process, and the sooner you realize that, the better.
Some people can take hundreds of tries over dozens of sessions to master just one move, and it's understood that this is just how things are.
It's a heavily technical sport that demands a lot out of both your mind and your body, and both need to work in unison for you to succeed. This is a tandem that isn't easy to achieve.
So remember: BJJ is not about being better than everyone else. It's about being better than you were yesterday. It's about the path towards self-improvement that will allow you to become the best version of yourself that you can be.
If you're going to be competitive, keep it healthy! Don't try to one-up anyone, and use competition to motivate both you and your partner.
And for what it's worth, the opposite scenario can happen too. You may not be overly confident at all--or even confident in general. You may be anxious and scared, and you may continue to feel anxious and scared when you realize you will fail constantly in this sport.
But it's these failures that will allow you improve at the sport. There's a common saying in BJJ, after all: when you spar, you either win, or you learn. Never assume that a loss is just a loss--it's always an opportunity for you to get better!
The first few months of BJJ will be brutal. You will land on the ground, get tapped out, and won't always have a good time. But it's these first few months that will define what kind of jujitsuka you'll become.
If you get them wrong, then you may end up giving up too easily. But if you follow these tips, keep a healthy mindset, and stay focused on your goals, then you'll find yourself headed for a long, fulfilling journey.
Curious how BJJ holds up against its sister sport, judo? We've tackled that and more here!