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

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.

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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. 

What to bring to your first class

Aside from your training attire, remember to bring the following:

  • Toiletries (soap, toothbrush, etc)
  • Towel
  • Change of clothes
  • Water bottle
  • Support sleeves if needed (ie; knee supports, ankle support, etc)
  • Mouth guard (not required, but some practitioners like training with a mouth guard)

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.

What to know about submissions for your first classes

Submissions are chokes or joint locks designed to subdue an opponent. If a submission is being applied to you and you feel a definite amount of pressure, you can officially submit by using your hands to tap on the mat or on any part of your partner’s body, submit verbally by saying “tap”, or use your foot to tap on the mat. Likewise, if your partner submits, you must

immediately let go of the submission. There are plenty of submissions in BJJ but the best ones to learn for beginners are the armbar, Americana, kimura and rear naked choke.

Here is a video of a typical roll between two beginners:

Other tips for your first class

  • Research the basic positions. To make the most out of your first class, you would benefit from doing a little research on basic positions of BJJ. This will help you focus more on other details of the position during the actual class which, in turn, will aid you in absorbing the lesson more efficiently. You can check out our guide to BJJ positions for more information.
  • Don’t sweat the details. You do not need to memorize every single detail of the techniques taught, as you will go over those lessons again in future classes. Internalize as much as you can, and don’t sweat it if you forget some details during class. 
  • Watch others roll. Before your first roll, watch the rhythm and pacing of the other more experienced students in the class. You will most likely be paired up with someone with more experience. Inform your partner that it will be your first time to roll, and after the roll, ask your partner for some tips on how to improve your movements. Get in as many rounds as you can. Don’t forget to breathe!
  • Try to make friends. Try to make new friends in your first BJJ class as this will make your next classes more enjoyable. Strike up a conversation with your drill or sparring partner by asking questions. 
  • Have good hygiene. This has been mentioned above already, but it is probably the most important tip on this list – practice good hygiene. It would be better to invest in two or more gi’s so that you will have a spare. Make sure to NEVER use an unwashed gi and rashguard/undershirt for class. Not only will unwashed gis and rash guards smell, but that can hold bacteria which can cause infections to you and your training partner.

Next steps

You are now ready to take the first step into your Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu journey. Your first class will definitely be fun, but remember, it gets even better as you attend more classes and learn more techniques. Stick to it and you will be rewarded with some of the most memorable experiences of your life.

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