One of my goals has been to get my black belt. In any martial arts discipline. The interesting thing is, it would probably be MUCH easier to get it in another discipline. But since I discovered jiu jitsu from my uncle when I studied under him, and then saw the practical application of it while watching the UFC, I have decided that this is the discipline I am going to get my black belt in. No matter if it takes me 15 years. I'll only be 48!
My one and only goal
- Get My Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Choose the right discipline:
I played around with a few different disciplines over the years. I took some Kenpo early on for a few years as a kid. I was half way to a black belt in Tang Soo Doo. And in that class, we did some simple self defense ju jitsu training as well. I even took a few months of Tae Kwon Do a few years back.
I chose Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for a few reasons.
- First, I wanted to choose a discipline that was practical in it's application in the street. It is a fact that almost all street fights end on the ground, so I wanted a discipline that was focused on training in that aspect of fighting.
- Second, I wanted something that would utilize my size and strength in a favorable way.
- Third, I wanted something that was difficult to acheive a Black Belt in. If you see 6 year olds earning a black belt, then it's not the discipline for me.
- Lastly, I wanted something that would get me in and keep me in shape.
Choose the right School:
This is perhaps the most important part of getting started in martial arts. A good teacher makes all the difference. Certain disciplines area easier to determine weak from strong instruction. Luckily BJJ is one of them, as very few Black Belts are handed out (at least in the US).
I chose Renzo Grazie Jiu Jitsu for a few reasons.
- The Gracies were the family that started Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
- Renzo Gracie Jiu Jitsu is right in NYC where I work and is one of the most respected schools in NYC, if not THE MOST respected.
- I actually joined the Renzo Gracie Hoboken academy since it is closer to my house in Jersey City
Other notable schools in my area include
Martial Arts is a discipline requiring you to put the time in if you want to get anything out of it.
If you are just starting out in BJJ, this is typically what you can expect from your first class. Every school is different, but this is how MOST Brazilian Jiu-jitsu schools operate.
Visit or Take a Free Introductory Class
At most schools you can watch a class, meet the teacher and ask some questions before training. They will most likely also allow you to take an introductory class. These are typically of two different types. You will be able to just join in a class and "audit" it, doing the same exercises and work that the other members of the class do. The other type is a private or semi-private class where an instructor or high ranking belt will walk you through a number of differnt excercises, positions and instruction to introduce you to what the classes will generally be like.
What to Wear
You most likely don’t need to own a gi (jiu jitsu uniform) for your first class. T-shirts, board shorts and sweat pants are fine. Usually you can wear a gi or uniform from other martial art disciplines, but before you do ask the instructor if this is ok.
Do NOT wear anything baggy, with belt loops or extra pockets where fingers or toes can get caught in.
If you already own them, wear any protective gear such as knee braces or pads, ear guards, mouth guard, cup, etc. you feel you need. Most jiu jitsu training is done on mats with no shoes or socks. Athletic tape can be used to protect injured fingers or toes.
If you are going to continue training, you will need to buy a proper Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gi. These gis are similar other martial arts unifiorms in cut. The large difference is that the jacket, specifically in the sleeve, lapels and shoulder areas, is reinforced so that the repeated pulling and gripping of the gi does not rip it.
Jiu Jitsu is grapling in close contact with other so hygiene is very important to respect your opponents by being as clean and well groomed as possible. Make sure your finger and toe nails are well-groomed, cleaned and clipped. Long hair you’ll want to put up in a ponytail or bun. Any piercings should be removed to prevent injuries. And brush your teeth! :-)
Your First Class
Show up a few minutes early to introduce yourself to the instructor and check out the school (if you haven’t visited already). You’ll most likely need to sign a waiver.
Before class starts, you’ll have a chance to get dressed and stretch out on the mats. Be sure to get everything ready before class starts so you don’t have to miss anything.
Make sure to follow along with what other members are doing. If studenst bow before walking on the mats, do so as well. Observe any other school traditions students observe.
3. Positional Drilling
4. Sparring or Randori
Some teachers use a very light warmup, whereas others start the class with a serious conditioning session. Most classes start with a group warm-up, such as running laps and doing push-ups, followed by solo drills like forward and backward breakfalls and shrimping or hip escape drills. Watch what everyone else is doing and try to copy them. Getting the excercises right the first time is not important. Just try your best and the instructor or a higher belt will help you learn it. After warmups, you'll begin the lesson. typically this is the scructure
Some instructors have specific patterns they teach with, for instance they always start with takedown drills first. Some just have a list of techniques they want to work with that day. Either way, typically the instructor will demo the excercise on one of the students, then have the students practice the move. You may be partnered with someone and go to your own section of the mats, work in groups or do a round robin approach where you switch opponents every so many tries of the specified move.
Usually resistance drills and sparring follow the instruction and repetition of techniques. This will be your first chance to try out what you just learned against a fully resisting partner in a live drill. And as such, it’s important that you understand some basic rules for all live drilling and sparring:
Passing the Guard
The most common group drill is Passing the Guard. It’s purpose is to develop a strong guard passing game.
The person with guard has the goal of sweeping, submitting or taking the back of the person on top.
The person on top has the goal of passing guard to a dominant position and holding it for at least 3 seconds. Dominant positions include side control and mount.
At most schools the class concludes with live sparring. You may be assigned a sparring partner(s), and usually you'll change partners after every round.
At the start of each round, you’ll begin by facing your partner on your knees. When you're both ready shake hands and start to “roll”: try out your techniques, stopping whenever one of you taps and restarting from knees.
Some schools start with timed rounds, but allow you to continue doing “free sparring” with no time limits after class is officially over.
Basic Sparring Rules
* No striking, punching or kicking.
* No eye gouging or hair pulling.
* No twisting or grabbing fingers.
* No slamming (picking someone up and dropping them).
* No heelhooks (twisting the foot or knee).
* No neck cranks.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is designed to be trained safely at almost maximum intensity without serious injury. These rules are designed specifically for this purpose.
The way you signal submission in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is to tap your opponent three times.Make sure you do it hard enough that your partner can feel it; or tap yourself or the mat where they can see and/or hear it; or verbally tap by saying “Tap!”; or loudly tap the mat with your foot so they can hear it.
Be aware of your training partner tapping and stop whatever you are doing when he does so. A good partner only wants to show their partner the force required to cause them to need to tap, but no more. Use only the force necessary and no more.
Tapping is a normal part of training jiu jitsu and there is no shame in it. Don’t worry about winning or losing. Practice the techniques you’ve learned to the best of your ability and tap when you need to, ideally before it hurts.
After your first class you can ask the instructor any remaining questions you may have. If you want to continue training, you can discuss prices and schedule.
You will need a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gi for training. Most instructors sell gis, but you can also buy them at most martial arts stores and at many online stores.