Starting any new sport can be intimidating. Just getting over the fear of going in and signing up for lessons is sometimes too much for many people. The fact is trying something new can be scary, but the payoff can also be huge. Trying Jiu Jitsu for the first time can also be intimidating, but with some patience and work it can also have a ton of benefits. The following are six things you should expect when starting jiu jitsu.
1. You will likely be confused.
If someone tells you trying a new sport is easy, they have been doing it too long and don’t understand the struggles of the beginner. Jiu Jitsu is no different. There are physical and mental difficulties you will experience, but all of them can be overcome with some patience and practice. Some schools will have beginner classes to help you with this learning curve, but often a beginner class will not be available. Think of it like on the job training.
The first few times you are in class you will likely be confused during the warm up, and you should be. When people are running around the mat in a big circle saying ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ and ‘two and two’ it is ridiculous to expect a newbie to know what to do. Look to the people around you and just copy what they’re doing. When the class is wiggling across the mat on their backs doing something called shrimping or hip escape just go along with it and try your best. Your senior classmates or instructor should help. If they don’t you may want to think about a private lesson or a different school.
2. You will feel out of shape.
Even if you are an experienced athlete you will likely find something about Jiu Jitsu that crushes you physically. Some people get exhausted during the warm up, some people have troubles with the technique portion of the class, and almost everyone struggles through the live rolling portion. Just know you’re not alone.
For example, when I first start Jiu Jitsu I was active in CrossFit. I worked out four to five days a week. I also have a history of martial arts including Judo and I was a wrestler for nearly six years. The warm ups were nothing to me, the skill and technique portions were new to me but not overly difficult. The rolling killed me. It is one thing to lift at a high intensity and combine several different movements to get a great workout, it is entirely something else trying to stop a person from passing your guard or getting someone off you when they are actively trying to resist you.
No matter what sport you have experience in, it will be different and it will be hard. But if you stick through it you will see the benefits.
3. You will be sore.
Just like any sport, the first few times you do it you will be sore. The muscles and joints used in Jiu Jitsu may cause you to feel a lot of soreness and stiffness in your hips, shoulders, and abdomen. Depending on your age, general flexibility, and fitness level it may take a long time for this to change.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu requires a decent amount of hip flexibility, especially external rotation, which will cause you to be sore and the muscles of your inner thigh will be very sore. When I first started Jiu Jitsu I was sore almost every night and waking up in the morning was accompanied by a lot of stiffness. At the recommendation of a friend I began working on my flexibility and mobility more, especially after class, and have a lot less soreness. The experience is different for everyone, but a little prevention can go a long way. I am forty one years old and my stretching and mobility have helped me keep up with people half my age.
4. You will make friends.
Regardless of how introverted or extroverted you are, you will likely get to know and look forward to training with the group of people at your school. This is of course assuming you like your school, but if you are training at a place you don’t like I suspect you will not be there for very long. Jiu Jitsu brings people together from all walks of life. At my school, we have construction workers, physical therapists, teachers, doctors, and a variety of other people. We all get along and have formed a sort of bond or community.
For nearly five years I was in the military and have had problems ever since making close friends. I am not sure why, but most (not all) of the friends I made after then seemed to be almost shallow friendships. It might have something to do with the idea of ‘a brotherhood born of adversity’ or a common struggle bringing people closer. I am not sure, but the people I have rolled with on the mats and struggled against while sparring have developed into these relationships. Be prepared to become friends with that guy or girl trying to choke you out.
5. You will spend money.
Every hobby or passion has gear and Jiu Jitsu is no different. Depending on where you live you could be paying anywhere between $100 to $200 per month for a membership. In addition to the membership you will probably buy an extra Gi, some rashguards, spats, a big bag to carry it all, and any number of other small items. In addition to the gear there are seminars with famous Jiu Jitsu instructors or competitors which will run you $40 to $200 depending on who it is. If you really get into it there are camps and trips for people into Jiu Jitsu. Those can get expensive! Also, a big part of Jiu Jitsu are the competitions which can cost as much as your monthly membership to enter.
I know many people who get by with the minimum gear and don’t compete. I also know people who have a dozen rashguards and a Gi for everyday of the week. Sadly, I am closer to the latter.
6. You may become addicted.
You may find this hard to believe, but if I miss more than 2 days in a row I start to get anxious. I don’t like missing class and I enjoy training with my friends. Like any other physical activity, you get a certain number of physical and mental benefits from Jiu Jitsu. When I spend too much time away I feel slower and my mental focus off the mat diminishes. This creates a certain level of dependence.
This list of six things to expect are not all inclusive, but they are the ones I see most often. Don’t believe me, fine. I challenge you to give it a try. Sign up for your local Jiu Jitsu class and go for at least two days a week for a month. Don’t miss any days. No excuses. At the end of the thirty days tell me if you feel better and if you like the idea of stopping.