Here is a small list of tips and recommendations for the beginner student, aimed to help them make the most out of classes, stay injury free, and stick with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for the long run, based on my 23 years of experience with this beautiful martial art.
1. Be a good drilling partner.
Allow your partner to learn the mechanics and timing of the technique, help them, give them your feedback.
Move naturally offering just enough resistance, so they can practice the technique and develop their reflexes.
Drilling is different than live rolling, so don’t try to counter the technique they are just learning, but at the same time, don’t be too lazy and just lie down like a dead man. Find a good balance where both of you are engaged in the activity.
2. Tap on your partner, NOT on the mat.
This is a big one, especially if you are rolling with another beginner.
Chances are that your partner is so focused on the submission that they won’t hear or see you tapping if you tap on the mat.
They won’t even know that the submission is getting tighter, so you may end up getting hurt or choked out unconscious.
On the rare occasion where both of your arms are trapped, and you can’t tap on your partner with your hands, make sure you stomp your feet hard on the mat repeatedly so they can hear it and stop the submission. Verbally submitting is also another option if you are able to.
3. Don’t wait until it hurts.
As a beginner, you are still discovering the limits of your body.
You may think that just because a joint lock submission is not “hurting enough,” you should keep trying to escape and not tap. You may be able to escape, but that’s gonna take a toll on your body, keeping you on the sidelines for weeks or even months.
Remember, if it’s hurting it is because it’s already damaging. By the way, some submissions don’t even hurt that much, like toeholds and heel hooks, so if you wait too long, something is gonna pop!
4. Master the bridge and the hip escapes.
These are the 2 most important movements to master in order to develop a great escaping game.
If you are a beginner, you are gonna find yourself under Mount and Side Control quite often, and a lot of your time is gonna be spent trying to escape from these positions.
The good news is that almost all escapes are based on those 2 movements.
Execute the Bridge to unbalance your opponent, and Hip Escape to create distance between you and them. I cover all of that in detail in my online course called The Ace Of Escapes.
5. There is no magic pill.
I often hear students asking “what’s the secret to becoming good at Jiu Jitsu?”
Well, it’s the same secret of becoming good/successful at anything: persistence, consistency, resilience, hard work, dedication, willingness to learn… that’s how you get good at Jiu Jitsu.
Jiu Jitsu can be very complex and overwhelming at times, even after receiving your Black Belt you still feel like there is so much more to learn and master… it’s definitely a lifelong journey.
6. Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.
When you are drilling techniques make sure you don’t skip any steps, drill them slowly so that the correct motor patterns are ingrained.
If you don’t remember a step or detail, ask your instructor for help. Quality reps are more important than quantity.
Once you have been able to execute the move perfectly several times, then you can start adding speed, as long as you are maintaining perfect form.
Pushing your nervous system to perform faster than it’s trained to will simply cause you to fumble what you’re doing.
7. Master how to do break falls and forward/backwards rolls.
These are the 2 most important drills to be learned in order to prevent injuries.
Learning how to break fall is absolutely crucial in Jiu Jitsu, as otherwise you will get hurt sooner or later, guaranteed.
Also, it’s an important skill to have in your daily life. It saved me a few times when I was skateboarding for example.
Learning how to execute forward and backwards rolls are also essential for your safety. Knowing how to tuck your chin and roll over your shoulder will save your neck from devastating injuries.
8. Be open-minded.
The more you know, the better.
Learn all aspects of Jiu Jitsu, with no judgement. Self-defense, sport, gi, no-gi, leg locks, takedowns, top game, bottom game.
Sure, eventually you may have your preferences, but why limit your knowledge?
9. Don’t compare your progress to others.
You are unique and have your own journey.
Some students train 3x per week, some train 3x a day. Some are athletic and young, some are older and have physical limitations. Some will get their blue belts in under a year, some will take 10 years.
Just do the best you can do, be the best you can be, and remember tip #5.
10. Don’t let your emotions take over, especially when you are in a bad position.
If you panic or let your opponent know that you are tired or feeling uncomfortable, they will be able to exploit that and make things even worse, eventually overwhelming you.
Train your mind to stay calm and relaxed while working your way out using the techniques you have learned, step by step, so if you ever need to use them in a real-life situation outside of the gym, you will be able to think and act sharply under pressure.
11. Bonus tip.
If you are a complete beginner or are considering starting BJJ, then make sure to watch my Jiu Jitsu For Dummies video, where I break down in detail how our martial art works.