I’m a Jiu-Jitsu noob. I’ve been practicing for just under six months and had no prior martial arts or wrestling experience, but I still think Jiu jitsu is an amazing sport.
I’ve already learned a lot (and learned that there’s a heck of a lot more that I don’t know). Learning jiu jitsu is a process, and a large part of that process is dependent upon others – your drilling partner, your coaches, the rest of the people at the gym.
As a newcomer to the academy, the last thing you want to do is alienate these folks. People at BJJ schools are usually pretty laid back and understanding, but as a newbie, you might not be aware of the unspoken rules of etiquette.
Here are the top 3 things I wish I knew before starting BJJ
1. Don’t Be Smelly
No one wants a smelly partner. I assume no one wants to be a smelly person either, but who knows, there are smelly people out there. When you’re grappling, you get very up close and personal with another person, your face may be in their armpit or worse. If they smell, or you smell, it’s an unpleasant experience for everyone.
To that end, here are some basic things you can do to not be this person:
- Wash your gi every time you wear it. This doesn’t just keep you from stinking – it keeps you and your partners from getting really icky skin conditions that can keep you from training.
- Shower regularly (okay this one should be obvious), if you’re feeling stinky before or after BJJ class, some baby wipes in your gym bag can always help. Showering immediately after class or after you get home from the academy is particularly important to reduce your risk of getting a skin infection – use a tea tree oil based soap like this one for further protection.
- Wear deodorant. Make sure you reapply shortly before class.
- Brush your teeth. Bad breath is no fun either. Practice good dental hygiene. Your dentist will love your new flossing habits as will your BJJ partner.
- Wear a fresh shirt / undergarments to class – don’t wear whatever undershirt you’ve been wearing all day under your gi, you’ll smell better in a clean shirt. Also this is a great excuse to pick up that awesome rashguard you’ve been admiring.
- Lastly, if you smoke, please don’t smoke in your gi. It’s better to tap out your partner through your amazing arm bar skills, not the stench of stale smoke.
A few notes on washing your gi:
Unfortunately, some really gross germs can spread via uncleaned mats, but especially via unwashed gis, and these bacteria can lead to skin conditions that can keep you or your partner off the mats. It’s important to wash your gi after every class to prevent these bacteria from spreading, as bacteria LOVE the warm sweaty environment of a post training gi. (Make sure you wash the belt too. Don’t worry, your stripes will stay on).
Also – don’t cheat by throwing your stinky wet gi in the dryer with a dryer sheet and think because it smells fresh(er), it’s clean. As said above, bacteria thrive in warm environments so this just makes things worse. And seriously, you’re not fooling anyone, it still stinks under the smell of dryer sheets.
2. Keep Your Partner Safe
Yes, we may be learning how to choke people out, break their arms, elbows, legs, etc, but that doesn’t mean we’ll actually be doing these things. The goal is to learn and apply the correct technique without harming your partner. There are also moves that aren’t allowed, particularly at the lower levels. Listen to your coaches, and practice the move as recommended. Don’t go crazy and try out a new move you saw in some UFC match as: A) you’re probably doing it wrong, B) it may hurt your partner and C) you’re supposed to be practicing the move of the day.
If you’re performing a move that can injure your partner – go slow. Don’t crank the move so quickly your partner doesn’t have time to tap.
If you’re the partner – tap early. Injuries can sneak up on you and show up after class after all the adrenaline starts wearing off.
Either way, don’t go too hard. Save this for competition, or at least live rolling. Focus on technique. If you’re asked to give resistance, do your best to match the level of resistance your professor suggests, keeping in mind that 30% resistance for a 200lb partner may be completely different than 30% resistance for a 115lb partner. Remember that your goal is still to be a good training partner and help your partner complete the move with a realistic level of resistance, not to to ‘win’.
Beyond the actual moves – be careful to keep your nails trimmed, remove all jewelry (fitbits, etc). Long fingernails almost always result in scratches on your training partners, but in some rare cases can cause serious injuries to the eyes. Jewelry can get caught and break, or worse (don’t look up “ring avulsion” if you have a strong stomach).
3. Remember to Have Fun
If you’re a newbie like me, you’re just starting out on the journey of learning jiu jitsu. Brazilian Jiu jitsu is amazingly fun, but it’s also a challenge. Some days don’t leave you with that amazing post workout endorphin rush that can make jiu jitsu so addictive. Some days are just hard.
Maybe you’re not on your game, or your partner doesn’t seem into it, or you’re rolling with an upper belt who seems to know your every move before you even think of it. On days like this, it can seem like there are more problems with your jiu jitsu than you can keep up with, but don’t give up! Keep going and get those reps in. Remember, the challenge is part of the fun. Getting through the tough days will only make you stronger.
Have fun and enjoy the learning process. 🙂
— Sarah Forst