Tips for Surviving Your First BJJ Class

Tips for Surviving Your First BJJ Class

First of all, let’s start with some basic stuff: if you are not used to it, then you will have problems in your training. You need to get used to it. If you want to learn how to do something well, then you must practice it at least once before trying it out yourself.

You don’t need to spend money on classes or private lessons. There are plenty of free online resources available. But, you still need to choose one that suits your needs best.

You can always go back to the same instructor after a while and ask him/her for advice.

The most important thing is that you have fun! That’s why you started learning how to roll in the first place! So, make sure that you enjoy yourself during every lesson!

Here are some things to keep in mind when starting out:

1) Focus on the basics!

If you’re new to rolling, then focus on basic techniques such as sweeps, submissions and escapes. Don’t worry too much about advanced stuff like chokes and leg locks. Just concentrate on getting comfortable with basic moves.

After all, those are the ones that will come up again and again throughout your training sessions. Once you’ve mastered these basics, move onto more complex moves later!

2) Get plenty of rest!

This one is important! When you start training, you are going to start forgetting about everything else and getting lost in the moment. That’s when you need to remember to look at your watch and realise that it’s 2 AM and you have work in 6 hours!

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Don’t burn yourself out! Make sure you pace yourself through your training. If you start feeling really tired, then call it a day. There’s always another day to train. If you overdo it, then you’ll be more likely to get hurt and have to take time to recover.

3) Start slow!

It is very tempting for a new student to go full-force into rolling as soon as the lesson starts. Yes, people do that. Don’t be one of those people.

It is important that you go at your own speed at the beginning until you get a feel for things. This isn’t the smash-mouth leagues! Build up a sweat slowly and you’ll be able to go for a longer period of time. If you get tired too quickly, then you might have to cut your training short because you’re exhausted and it isn’t fun.

4) Stay hydrated!

It should go without saying that you should stay hydrated while training jiu jitsu. However, it is very easy to forget while you’re on the mats. No one is going to call you a “pussy” if you go at your own pace.

Take some time to get used to the feel of a new environment before diving headfirst into things.

4) Remember your limits! You are going to have good days and you are going to have bad days. On your bad days, it is perfectly fine to take it easy or rest.

It happens to everyone. No one is going to shame you for taking a break. After a few moments of grappling, you’ll find that you are literally working up a sweat and will be losing fluids at a rapid rate. So keep a bottle of water with you and take regular sips! You don’t want to get dizzy or pass out from dehydration! Plus, no one wants to see a grown man collapse on the mats. It isn’t pleasant.

5) Ask for help when you need it!

On your good days, you might feel like pushing yourself a bit harder. The thing is, you need to pay attention to your body. If something feels like it’s starting to hurt, then don’t do it anymore.

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Training is supposed to make you feel good (and confident), not lousy and weak.

Stay safe! If you are having trouble with a move, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The worst that your instructor can say is no.

But, it’s more likely that he or she will help you correct the mistake and get one step closer to learning how to defend against that particular attack. Don’t try to prove that you’re the toughest person in the room by struggling through an obstacle course of pain. It’ll only make things worse in the long run!


The best way to learn is to listen to your body and heed what it says. Now that you’ve gotten a few tips about how to stay safe while you train, it’s time to learn some moves! In this next section, we’ll cover some of the most useful moves for new students to learn.

“Learn to walk before you run.”

This is the first thing that popped into my head when I saw this question. As much as we all want to go full speed ahead into learning jiu jitsu, it’s just not realistic or safe to do so. It’s easy for us to get caught up in our excitement and forget that while we may be familiar with the sport and have done a little training in our time, these guys (and girls!


Old School

Not everything that you learn in jiu jitsu has to do with fancy submissions. There are some moves that will always remain useful for self-defense techniques. We’ll go over some of the most important ones.


If anything, this is the skill you should hone before all others. In a real fight, you want to keep the fight off of the ground at all costs. So while you’re learning jiu jitsu, it would be in your best interest to learn how to defend yourself if striking isn’t an option.

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Trap and Lock (Armlocks, Wrist Locks, etc.)

These are one of the mainstays of any self-defense move. There are many variations of them in both standing and ground scenarios. Take a look at the sample below.

Side-Control Escape

Here’s a simple way to escape from the most common bad position–being underneath your opponent.

Once you’ve been taken down to the ground, one of your opponent’s hooks will be under your shoulder (for righties) or ribs (for lefties). From here, it’s all about sliding out from under your opponent while preventing him from cinching in his hooks even further. If you’re ever in a situation where you can’t finish with a knockout or a submission (or force your opponent to surrender!) then one of these arm locks will be able to bring your opponent to their knees instantly.


While it isn’t a good idea to rely just on kicks, they are great for keeping an opponent at bay. After all, no one wants to get kicked in the face!

It’s important to note that you don’t want to try this when your opponent has both his hooks in. In this case, you’ll want to bridge out and use one of the other common escapes instead.


This is a very basic technique for reversing a bad position. A sweep can be useful for getting you back to a standing position or even putting your opponent on his back. Try a jumping front kick to keep your opponent at bay.

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Just be sure that you don’t miss!


Another brutal strike is the elbow. They are great for short range attacks when you’re close enough to your opponent to smell his dinner. Imagine that your opponent’s chin is made of glass, and you’ll know exactly were to strike.

NOTE: Be careful when practicing these moves. Don’t use full force until you’ve trained a little more. Also, don’t practice these on people until you know how to do them correctly.

Self-Defense for Women

One of the most common questions we get is this one: How is jiu jitsu different for women?

Of course, there’s no “right” answer since everyone’s body is different, but there are some tips that apply to everyone!

If you find yourself under your opponent (like in side-control) and he’s not applying pressure, then use short elbows to break his grip.

Now that you’ve gotten a few techniques down, it’s time to see how they work in a real fight!

In this next section, we will put your knowledge to the test. After all, self defense isn’t about learning techniques, it’s about implementing what you learn in real life situations.

Stay Alert

Just because you’re learning self-defense doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t keep your head on a swivel. The likelihood of you using these skills is pretty rare, but always be aware of your surroundings.

Escape First, Then Attack

It’s great to learn how to take down an attacker but it isn’t always possible, so focus on escaping from the worst-case scenario first and then go for the submission.

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BONUS VIDEO: Rob and Kyle take you through the first real scenario…

Putting It All Together

After your big win at the local grappling tournament you and your friends are feeling pretty good. You decide to celebrate at your favorite pizza place, which just so happens to be across the street from a bar that attracts more than its fair share of rough types. As you’re waiting for your food, some guy walks in wearing gang colors and takes a seat at the bar.

If you’re ever in a situation where your life is threatened, ALWAYS go for the kill. It isn’t worth risking your life over property.

Ready to put this knowledge into practice?

Head over to the next page and get started on your first test.

Self-defense isn’t an easy skill to learn, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t get it right away. The three of you exchange looks and know instantly what the plan is.

Phase 1: Assessment

Size up the situation.

Do you see anything that could be used as a weapon? What sort of damage can you do with the furniture in the area? If you’re inside, where could you take the fight (outside)?

Out of habit, you scan the room looking for anything that could be used as a weapon. The thug appears to be alone, but there are several people at the bar which could be trouble.

The tables and chairs seem pretty sturdy, especially the table next to your booth.

It’s at this point that Rob makes his way from the back of the booth out the door.

Phase 2: Attack

Once you’ve decided on an attack strategy, put it into action. Usually, there are a few decorative vases or something else that could be shattered over someone’s head. This time however, you don’t see much, save for a few chairs.

Even those aren’t very sturdy looking. They probably would only work as adistraction.

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Phase 2: Distraction

If you can create a distraction, it will give your friends a chance to take out the opposing force. on’t waste time trying to be a hero. Create the distraction and get out of there as fast as you can.

You stand up and in a sweeping motion, grab the closest chair and hurl it at the group at the bar. It smashes into a lamp, exploding glass everywhere. Almost immediately, all eyes are on you.

This is your chance to make it out the door…

To be continued…

Your results:

You had a blast with this. You learned a few new ways to defend yourself, your friends and even property! You’re always up for another challenge, so be sure to try the other scenarios when you get the chance.

Do you think you could take out three attackers instead of just one?

Try it here.

Not quite ready to be in the fight yet?

Try your hand at escaping your attackers here.

All done?

Tell us how you did in the comments!

Sources & references used in this article:

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Living the Catholic social tradition: Cases and commentary by …, PJ Hayes, MK Hellwig, CC Kelly, BJJ Leibrecht… – 2004 –

Workouts for MMA Fighters, BJJ, Boxing, Wrestling and other Combat Sports by C Beasley –

Natural bad boys: the rise of mixed martial arts and the new class of combat sport by EF Cannon – Blue-collar pop culture: from Nascar to Jersey …, 2012 –

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Pain, nutrition, Professor Vandry’s View 11 Comments by WV BLOG –