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Your First BJJ Class: How to Prepare and What to Expect

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Get the most out of your first day of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is one of the fastest growing martial arts in the world, and for good reason- it is effective. It is considered by many to be one of the most effective and realistic martial art in real-life combat situations.

Going to your first BJJ class may seem daunting at first, but fret not, this article will help prepare you for your first foray into the gentle art.

What to expect in the average BJJ class

Aside from the lessons themselves, an average BJJ class will have different components:

  • Bowing in. BJJ might not be considered a traditional martial art for many, but for most academies, lining up and bowing will signal the start of the class. 
  • Warm-ups. The next part of the class is usually the warm-up. After running around the mat area to get your heart rate up, you will start with some core movements such as the forward roll and back roll. If you are a beginner, depending on the academy, your instructor or assistant instructor may spend some extra time teaching you these core movements.
  • Stretching. To prevent injury, dynamic stretching is usually done after the warm-up. 
  • Repping. Repping or drilling a technique is done for a few minutes before the start of the lesson. The technique drilled will depend on the instructor. Some academies skip this portion and head on over to the lesson portion.
  • Lessons. The instructor will usually teach 2 to 3 techniques wherein you will be required to perform repetitions of the moves with your partner. An example of this may be a series of attacks, such as a takedown that goes straight to mount or sidemount, followed up by a submission such as an Americana or a figure 4 shoulder lock.
  • Positional sparring. You might next be doing position-specific sparring based on the lesson taught. An example of this is you maintaining a certain position while your partner tries to escape. If your partner is able to escape, then the position is reset and they will be required to escape again. This will go on until the timer ends, and you will switch places with your partner, wherein it will be your turn to do the escape.
  • Rolling (sparring). Full-on spars are usually next. Depending on your academy, you may start from either the standing or kneeling position. For beginners, some academies have a policy of not letting beginners join the sparring portion of the class until they gain enough knowledge in most of the positions in BJJ. In this case, the positional spar portion is continued, while the regular students roll. 
  • Cool-down. After some hard rolls, your heart rate will be brought back down with some cool-down exercises. This is usually accompanied by static stretches. Some academies may ask the students to do their cool-down on their own after class.
  • Bowing out. Lining up and bowing signals the end of the class.

What to wear to your first class

For a gi class, you should ask your academy if they have a required gi uniform first. Some academies require that you purchase the gi from them directly, while others do not. 

Aside from the gi, a shirt or rash guard for men, or a sports bra and/or rash guard for women, is normally required to be worn underneath the gi for hygienic purposes.

For no gi classes, a shirt or rash guard is worn for both men and women. Board shorts, MMA shorts or spats are also required.

There are some things that you are not allowed to wear or bring to the mats:

  • Earrings, nose rings, etc
  • Shoes (unless your academy permits wearing wrestling shoes during no gi classes)
  • Baggy clothes
  • Shorts with zippers and belts
  • Pants
  • Hats
  • Groin cups (for some academies)

It may be more convenient to wear flip flops or easy-to-remove shoes to BJJ as there will be a strict “no shoe policy” on the mats. 

Hygiene basics for your first class

Since BJJ is a close contact sport, proper hygiene should be given the utmost importance. Below are some things that you need to remember to do before and during BJJ class.

Before class:

  • Take a shower
  • Brush your teeth
  • Trim your fingernails
  • Use a fresh gi and belt
  • Wear flip flops or shoes when outside the mat area
  • Do not train if you are sick
  • Do not train if you have any open wounds or skin infections
  • If you have long hair, tie it up

After class, make sure that you take a shower. Wash your gi as soon as possible, and never wear the same gi if you are planning to do another session on the same day. 

How to prepare for your first class

Jiu-Jitsu is basically fighting on the ground. The goal is to get to a dominant position and apply a submission.

There are plenty of rules in BJJ, and there are also certain techniques or positions that are forbidden. 

As a beginner, you only need to concern yourself with these:

  • You are not allowed to strike 
  • You are not allowed to pull your partners hair
  • You are not allowed to place a finger in the eye or inside the mouth of your partner
  • You are not allowed to hold individual fingers and bend them
  • You are not allowed to reap your partner’s knee
  • You are not allowed to lift your partner and slam them

Preparing for your first rolls

Sparring or “rolling” can be quite confusing at first, but you will usually get the hang of it after a few rounds. There are some academies that let their students roll on their first day of class. A round is usually 5-7 minutes long and, for beginners, will start with both practitioners kneeling down. The goal is to get into a dominant position and look for a submission. If you are not familiar with submissions, then your goal is to just get to the most dominant position you can reach, usually the mount or rear mount, and maintain it.


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