2 Ways to Prepare Yourself Before You Start Training BJJ (2023)
Author: XMartial Editorial | Published Date: | Tags: bjj, bjj beginner tips, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
How to Prepare yourself for BJJ
I would say there are two distinct answers to this question. It is important that we attack each one separately in order to fully grasp the situation. Let’s break it down:
- Prepare your Body for Jiu Jitsu.
- Prepare your Mind for Jiu Jitsu.
1. Prepare your Body for BJJ:
Let’s first talk about how to prepare your body for Jiu Jitsu (and grappling in general).
This is an answer I do not think you are going to like. Therefore, I apologize in advance. Many of you may have come here with the hopes of some sort of workout routine or training regimen.
Perhaps you are looking for some finish line achievement to say, “Now that I have accomplished these tasks, I am ready to walk into a Jiu Jitsu gym.”
Unfortunately, this is not like a physical fitness exam for the military where there is a pass/fail objective measurement.
How does Grappling Training work?
Grappling is unlike anything else out there in the world for comparison. It requires another living soul, and capable body, in order to execute.
Runners can just go run. Basketball players can dribble and shoot. Tennis players and practice serving and volleying with the wall. There is just no replacement training in terms of grappling. Sure, there are “solo drills” that exist, which you could definitely do (and we will discuss further down the line).
Yet, if you think that you are going to be physically prepared for Jiu Jitsu by practicing solo drills on the floor of your living room, then it might be a giant slap in the face when you go to your first Jiu Jitsu class.
Most Common Misconceptions in Grappling?
Allow me to break some misconceptions about grappling.
You have to be in amazing shape to be a good grappler. False.
You have to be efficient with your movements. I wouldn’t consider myself in shape, however I have no problem grappling for hours at a time.
The reason being is due to the fact that I have become efficient with my movements. If you ask me to run a mile right now, I will probably throw up. There ARE grapplers who utilize athleticism in order to achieve positions in grappling.
I would strongly advise against this. Technique will stop them in their tracks every time.
You have to be super strong to be a good grappler. False.
With proper techniques, frames, and total body utilization you can become a very powerful grappler. I am 145lbs and I have no issue keeping larger and stronger grapplers at bay.
I try to use almost no muscle when grappling. It is about utilizing the strongest parts of your body against the weakest part of theirs. I haven’t lifted a heavy weight consistently in years, but I frequently take on larger grapplers in competition. I will say this every time, technique will stop them in their tracks every time.
You have to be crazy flexible to be a good grappler. False.
I cannot even touch my toes. I am not going to lie to you, having some flexibility does not hurt, and can improve your game. However, it is definitely not a requirement to become a good grappler. I have seen some of the most inflexible people win tournaments consistently. The key, once again, is technique above all.
This is all to say, you don’t need to be an athlete, you don’t need to be strong, and you don’t need to be flexible to train Jiu Jitsu.
What Grappling does to your body?
This is going to sound counterintuitive, because when you start training you are going to feel weak, out of shape, out of breath, and like everyone else around you are made of rubber. THAT’S OKAY! That is EXACTLY how everyone else feels in your position!
Grappling is going to exhaust muscles that you never realized you had. You are going to be sore in places that you never thought existed, which is why it is also very important to find the right BJJ rash guards and BJJ shorts that are perfect for you. Grappling is just so unique in its application and exercise that it feels impossible to get physically prepared for it. Plus, each combat sport is different in itself. Wrestlers walk into Jiu Jitsu gyms thinking that nothing can stop them. Then we hear reports the next day that they feel like they’ve been hit by a train.
What is happening is that you are trying to unnaturally use your body to make up for techniques that you simply do not have yet. The best way to get your body ready for grappling is to grapple. Period. SO, GET YOUR BUTT IN THE GYM!
Is Training for BJJ easy?
If you think you are going to have a walk in the park because you are strong and/or athletic, you are going to have a rude awakening going against any seasoned grappler. Experienced Jiu Jitsu practitioners know how to harness your weakness with ease. This is going to be a giant ego blow for the alpha male attitudes walking into the gym.
In cases like this, I STRONGLY suggest reading the second half of this article if you want to be successful in making Jiu Jitsu a regular part of your life. Now let’s talk about something that might have a better answer.
2. How to prepare your mind for Jiu Jitsu
The fastest way to adapt your body for Jiu Jitsu is by focusing on technique as early as possible. This is going to take a series of steps. Allow me to explain.
When you first get on the mats and some other human is trying to physically restrain you and harm you, your mind goes into fight or flight. The animal part of your brain that has conditioned your mind to survive for millions of years, takes over instinctually.
That is understandable. This is why you feel exhausted, overwhelmed, and terrified at first. You are being put in situations and positions you have never come across before and your brain goes right into survival mode. Survival mode requires more oxygen, which requires more breathing, requires adrenaline, which increases panic, which triggers your fight or flight even more, and it becomes a horrible feedback loop.
BJJ Beginner Tips to be a Better Martial Artist?
Becoming a Martial Artist is the mastery of escaping that loop and entering a dangerous scenario without turning into an animal.
Step 1: Take control your Mind
Therefore, Step 1 is staying calm and not allowing ourselves to become taken over by our instincts. When we get put into positions that are extremely uncomfortable, we naturally respond with panic, but that is only because the situation is foreign to us. The brain does not like foreign situations. Learning technique allows us to find the most efficient path to putting ourselves back into a comfortable and controlled position.
As someone who is brand new, you just simply do not know that path yet. However, that is what training is for. This is why I am not the strongest, most athletic, flexible Jiu Jitsu practitioner, but I can still train for hours at a time without emptying the gas tank.
What I have done, over the years, is I learned to stay calm in as many scenarios as possible and train my body to be as efficient as possible with my movements. This is why you could argue that these “solo drills” for Jiu Jitsu could be a way to prepare yourself for Jiu Jitsu.
What is happening here is that you are training your mind to be aware of the right movements early on. That way when you go into the gym for the first time you already have some exposure to the intent of what you want your body to do and understand what purpose it has. This will help with the efficiency of your movements and help prevent you from going into fight or flight more.
Step 2: Take control of your Body
Therefore, it starts off as a mental challenge. The next step will be getting your body to do those movements without your mind even having to think about it. I know! I just said don’t focus on the body!
However, we have to reset everything before it goes back into the body. You will see a lot of Martial Arts movies and quotes describe this. “Empty your mind…” by Bruce Lee. “Too many mind” in The Last Samurai.
It is a recurring motif in Martial Arts, not to allow the mind to get in the way.
Well, how do we do this? This all seems very confusing and contradictory. At first, I completely understand how you are feeling. We have all been there. Allow me to elaborate once again.
First we must wrangle our mind and tame it. Domesticate it. Then have it work for us in every way possible. When you first start off a Martial Art, your mind will be like a wild animal. It is a lot of work figuring out how to wrangle it, much less control it.
You will feel this with how exhausted your body is. How calm your Jiu Jitsu is, is usually a reflection of how calm your mind is. Then once your mind is under control, your body will work for you without you even having to try.
Step 3: Get used to Losing
Your next step is to instill in your mind that it is okay to lose. In fact, you are going to lose a lot! You are going to lose most, if not all your matches. You are likely going to lose weight. You are going to lose your mind. Most importantly, you should lose your ego.
There is no room for B.S. in the Jiu Jitsu world. Every grappler has gone through what it feels like to be the worst person on the mats. Every grappler has had their butt kicked six ways to Sunday.
There is no pretending here. Everyone knows the best grappler in the room because they have proved it through battling. There’s no question. And usually (not all the time) this person is extremely humble, because they have been beaten up more times than we can count in order to get to that point. The hierarchy is extremely clear in this world.
The better grapplers deliver beatings and the lower level grapplers beat up. Plain and simple.
If you want to get better at grappling, get used to losing, get used to getting beat up, get used to knowing you are not the toughest guy around (and the deadliest guy in the room might look like a little dweeb with glasses who is always smiling. Not exactly the Hollywood icon you might expect).
Which leads me to your next step in preparing you for starting Jiu Jitsu. Rather than taking every loss as an ego check, take it as a learning experience.
Ask yourself, “How did they do that? How do I prevent that? How can I mimic that?” Jiu Jitsu is a Martial Art that allows you to spar every single day if you want. That is where the real learning takes place. Do not treat rolls as a record of winning and losing. Try to take each roll as learning material.
It is going to feel like drinking from the firehose. This means you are going to feel overwhelmed, and that’s okay. Everyone started out just like you. Ask lots of questions. It’s your job to be confused. Generally, people in the Jiu Jitsu community want to help you. They want to pass on what they know.
Teaching someone else is a demonstration to themselves of their development and their advancement. They want to help you through it. We tend to naturally teach our weaknesses. The things that were the hardest for us to learn are what we tend to focus on when teaching others and everyone is different. Therefore, ask lots of questions to lots of different people. Each person is going to have different insight on how to do the same exact move.
Advice: Select your GYM Carefully
This leads me into some advice I would like to put out there that I wish I knew. Make sure to find a gym that fits you. Each gym is very different in terms of community, vibe, coaching, routines, etc.
The first gym you walk into is not the end all be all of what Jiu Jitsu is. If you want to learn Jiu Jitsu and did not like your experience walking into a gym, then PLEASE go try another gym. You are likely going to have a completely different experience. Even day by day at a gym can be different. I remember, a long time ago, one of my friends came to try my gym but they came in on Judo day. My poor friend was getting thrown around and getting overwhelmed.
The next day he told me he could barely move and that “Jiu Jitsu sucks, man!” He was convinced he would never come back. However, after some time I convinced him to come back and now he is a killer purple belt and is in the gym almost as much as I am. Coaching and working at a Jiu Jitsu gym in the town he lives in.
The lesson here is that your experience can vary widely based on the gym you walk into, or even the day you go. Give your experience at least a full week at each gym (most gyms should have a free week. If they do not, try to avoid that gym. You want to avoid gyms that do not offer an ample amount of time for a free trial and who try to lock you down in a contract right away. You also want to avoid gyms that frown upon training at different gyms).
If you have the luxury, try a few different gyms no matter what. Make sure your gym is the right fit. I have multiple people at my gym that commute 45 minutes or more, one way, just to train with us. Even though there are other gyms much closer to his home. Many people find their community in Jiu Jitsu. They find their peace of mind. Some even find their purpose. They take it very seriously, almost like picking out which church they want to attend.
That might sound ridiculous now, but you will see as you get into the Jiu Jitsu world how serious people take it. All this to say, for something that has the potential to make such a powerful impact on your life, try and make sure you are in the best place for you.
Also, while you're in your best place, make sure the shoe is properly fitted and comfortable before you start this journey.
Step 4: Eliminate Self Doubt
The last step is to remember that YOU ARE GETTING BETTER! In those first few weeks you will feel like not too much is happening, but I promise you are progressing quicker than you realize.
It will become apparent once a brand-new person walks in, and you are able to give them a few pointers. That being said, remember to have as much fun as possible. Enjoy getting beat up. Enjoy the ego checks. Enjoy the culture. Enjoy the mat burn. Enjoy the soreness. Enjoy the jokes. Enjoy the plateaus. Enjoy the journey.
As long as you are showing up, the progress is happening. Just sit back and enjoy the growing pains as they happen.
This may not have been the article you were expecting to read. However, if you have the proper expectations when walking into a Jiu Jitsu gym, I think it will greatly increase your chances of staying. Most white belts quit. We have all seen faces come and go in our gyms.
I think the reason is due to the difference in expectations that people have, or just not knowing what to expect.
Becoming overwhelmed or embarrassed. Learning a new skill requires that you suck at it at first, and Jiu Jitsu is NOT something that you will become good at quickly.
It takes a long time, and the learning curve is long and painful. That is the reality. However, the benefits are immeasurable. That’s why the ones who stay are all addicted. That can be very frustrating for people, and people like to avoid difficult situations.
What I can promise you, is that if you make it through the beginning, the Jiu Jitsu journey is beyond worth it.