Your friend has found something truly amazing, and wants you to join in the craziness. They’re full of enthusiasm, training several times a week, maybe even competing in tournaments. The pace they are going at is inspirational, but on the outside it can look like a bit much. You don’t have to be a hardened competitive athlete to get started, but your instincts aren’t totally wrong. There are a few things to consider.
There is a lot to learn. I can’t bullshit you on this one. Bjj is a large project to undertake, and will require some time to feel proficient. I map out about 23 basic situations, which we can look at later. Take your time. At 2-3 classes per week, the first 6 months will be the toughest. Keep it simple at first. Many people stay at one class per week for years, and that is also a totally acceptable pace. Learn the warmups, develop a basic understanding of passing and playing guard. From there, you can follow the lessons and discuss further study with me and the guys. A good place to start is the video below.
Choose your gym carefully. If your friend invited you to my place, definitely come in. But don’t feel like you shouldn’t try other places. I usually recommend trying places close to where you live. In Kansas City, I can encourage you to try many places based on what you are looking for and your location. The important consideration is if the drive and training time combined will fit into your regular schedule.
Your first, and most important job is to last. Consistency is the best approach. Some people train every day, others train twice a week. Both do better than the guy who takes long periods off and binge trains to try to catch up. Pick a baseline of at least one day a week to fall back on when you’re burned out, and have a reasonable plan if you are feeling enthusiastic. Burnout is inevitable, but it should be rare. Getting through it knowing it’s coming is an important part of the process. This also means you will need to find a sustainable pace when training. If you go too hard, you might hurt yourself and others. But we also need to be able to deal with people who train and compete hard, so don’t be surprised to encounter some intensity. The experienced people in the room can help you to find the right balance.
It’s normal to have a little bit of anxiety when you come to the gym. Your first day is definitely the hardest, and we have all been there before. Everyone understands and is happy to have a new training partner. We are all going to try to beat you, but we won’t purposely hurt you. Helping you to catch on as quickly as possible is how we improve as a team. While this is a competitive environment, nobody cares about being the best in the room. We care about being just a little bit better than when we came in. On a side note, lots of people miss two months or more and are anxious about coming back. We may have several people who are under stress leading up to a tournament. Some people have outrageous jobs and this works as a processing mechanism. Everyone in the gym is working through something.
Be ready to ask questions. Don’t be afraid of sounding stupid, be afraid of repeating stupid mistakes and not learning from them. I will tell anyone how to stop what I do, and encourage everyone to do the same. If I only practice beating people who don’t know, how am I supposed to improve?
Do you have excuses? Try one class. Are you out of shape? Just do what you can. We have some extremely good people who struggled to get through the warmups at first. You will get better. Are you too old? Well, maybe. Our average age is mid 30s. We have people doing very well in their 50s and showing no signs of stopping. People in their 60s and above are getting black belts worldwide. As we age, we have to make adjustments and that’s to be expected. But I am headed the same direction, so I’m happy to look at what those adjustments are. Do you not have the time or the money? Try a class first for free, and I promise that I won’t try to hard sell you. Even if you decide it’s not your thing, help yourself out and kill this excuse. As an adult, you should be able to carve out at least a couple hours a week for something you want to do. If you don’t have an extra $100 at the end of the month, it may be time to seek out a financial expert or get a new job. Enjoy your life.
See you on the mats!