If you’re looking for what to expect in your first bjj class, you’ve come to the right place. Showing up to your first jiu jitsu class can be scary, but one of the best ways fight back against that dark cloud of anxiety and uncertainty is by getting an idea of what you’re diving into and prepare yourself for the first class and beyond.
Your First Day of Jiu Jitsu
So what exactly can you expect in your first jiu jistu class:
In your first day of bjj class there will likely be warm up movements, guided instruction, followed by live sparring if you wish.
Many gyms recommend not sparing the first couple days of class if you do not have any prior grappling experience. However, this is totally up to your own discretion.
Your sparring partners will likely be aware that it is first your day, and if not feel free to mention it to them.
All of these partners have experienced their own first day so you should not be embarrassed or afraid to join in on the live portions of class.
If you have first day nerves, you’re not alone.
I get it – you’re going to be in a room with many people who can physically dominate you; some of whom may even prove it later in that class on that very first day.
Anytime you are trying something new there are fears and anxieties, but it is important to accept the fact that these are normal, and that everyone at the gym has experienced their own first day.
These are some first day tips that can help your entry into bjj go smoother:
- arrive early
- introduce yourself to everyone
- embrace the fact that you are new and be open about it
- don’t let your ego get in the way of you learning
- don’t be afraid to ask questions
- prepare a gym bag
- if possible bring a friend to experience your first day together
- try to gather some basic bjj knowledge beforehand
What’s BJJ Exactly?
Brazilian jiu jitsu is a grappling based martial art that uses leverages, limb manipulation, and strangles to effectively control and submit and opponent. Common techniques revolve around take downs, pinning your opponent, and joint or strangle based submissions.
The reason it is so effective is that it places a strong emphasis on live sparring (rolling). Additionally, you are able to spend many hours rolling and training with limited injury unlike other martial arts like boxing.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are many martial arts that do not have any live sparring. Therefore, there is no proof if said martial art is even effective against an unwilling opponent.
In addition to learning hundreds if not thousands of techniques and details, a a jiu jitsu practitioner will quickly have their emotions become normalized when grappling with a resisting partner.
With this emphasis on gaining knowledge and live sparing, a student of bjj is placed in physically strenuous positions frequently when rolling and has to learn to manage their feelings and to effectively perform techniques under such circumstances of extreme duress.
With such a high exposure to these positions and stressful situations, they will likely become accustomed to making strategic decisions at a rapid pace, much more so than the average untrained person.
The untrained person will have no idea what’s bjj or the techniques involved and will be exposed to a flurry of emotions during their first time grappling with someone (hopefully in the controlled environment of a gym).
They will not know how to effectively deal with these emotions and navigate themselves to a correct strategic decision.
Jiu Jitsu Class Structure
Below is a general jiu jitsu class structure breakdown. Some of these may or may not be implemented in your chosen gym, but does give a general idea of what to expect in your first bjj class:
- Lining up or bowing in(~2mins: when class first starts some gyms will make all students line up by belt rank and often will have you “bow in” to the class instructor
- Warm up drills: these are jiu jitsu related movements that are performed in the beginning of class to help prepare students for the rest of class. These movements are also likely seen commonly when rolling or in live situations. Some common movements may be shrimping, forward rolls, backward rolls, and granby’s (side rolls)
- Guided instruction (~30-45 mins): after warm ups generally the instructor will present a technique to the class. They will likely perform the technique in front of the class several times with a partner and answer any questions the class might have. After the technique is shown, you will then be paired off or put in small groups in order to practice the technique. During this time the coach or instructor will make their rounds throughout the class and answer any questions that may come up
- Positional and/or live sparring(~15-20 mins): after the guided portion of the class, then comes the last phase which is usually live sparring of some sort. This is when you are paired off with a partner and attempt to successfully perform any grappling or jiu jitsu techniques on a resisting opponent. These are usually split up into several rounds lasting anywhere from 5-7 minutes each. After a round is over, you are generally paired up with another partner either by your coach or by your own choice.
*If it is positional sparring, you will start in a certain position with a goal in mind. For example, they may start you in your partner’s guard and your goal will be to break or escape their guard.
*If it is live sparring, the goal is to submit your opponent and their goal is to submit you.
- Cool down(2-5 mins): Many gyms implement a cool down period of the live portion of this class. This may involve some light stretching or light movements to end the class
- Bowing out/ shaking hands(~2mins): the last part of the class is bowing out or shaking hands with your partners. The coach may have everyone line up once more by belt rank and you will bow to your coach/instructors and then shake hands with everyone who attended class before leaving for the day
How Long Are Jiu Jitsu Classes?
This will depend of course on the type of class. Most beginner and all level classes may be shorter while advanced classes may be longer.
The average jiu jitsu class is 1-2 hours.
Along with the length of a class, the intensity of each class should be considered as well. If it is your first class a beginner class or all levels class is recommended.
If you are more experienced in other grappling based martial arts you can feel free to give an advanced class a shot.
These factors such as class length and intensity will definitely be factors when deciding how often you should train each week.
In terms of how long does it take to learn jiu jitsu, it takes ~6 months to 1 year to learn jiu jitsu. This includes learning all of the basic goals, positions, and submissions.
While learning the basics of the bjj can be down within 6 months to a year, you can expect it to be quite a bit longer to “get good at jiu jitsu”.
In terms of becoming efficient or good in the martial art, it’s the general consensus that it takes approximately 2 – 3 years to become good at jiu jitsu.
The rules for live sparring or rolling in jiu jitsu are pretty straight forward – THERE ARE NO RULES!! (jk please continue reading).
There will be a couple rounds lasting 4-7 minutes at the end of class.
During these rounds you will be grappling with a fully resisting partner and attempt to successfully control and submit them while their goal will be to perform the same on you.
Below are some quick rules for live sparring:
- Start of a round – you can elect to start from your knees or start standing. This will likely depend on your grappling experience. If you are inexperienced it is strongly recommends you start from your knees
- Tapping/Submitting – if you are put into a position where your opponent is able to strangle you or effectively perform joint manipulation which can lead to injury or incapacitation, you can tap your hand or foot on the mat or on your partner or you can even say the word “tap” to signify that they have achieved a submission and to restart from a neutral position such as both of you standing or both on your knees
- Respect the tap – if your partner taps or submits, release your grip or hold on them immediately and restart from a neutral position
Moves that are not allowed when live sparring and safety guidelines:
- be extremely aware of falling body weight such as take downs, guard pulls, judo throws as from extensive research this leads to the highest chance of injury
- no finger manipulation (you are not allowed to grab and/or twist fingers)
- be aware of submission that are not allowed at your level such as twisting leg locks
- if training in a gi, do no grab inside the gi pant or inside the sleeve
- no eye poking
- no hair pulling
- no shoving fingers into an opponent’s mouth or other orifice
- if you are training no gi then no grabbing of material
- avoid overly explosively movements if you are not experienced in the technique or possible outcomes
Is BJJ Hard for Beginners?
Bjj is definitely a challenging sport and can be considered hard for beginners.
It is important to temper expectations and be aware that the hardest class is the first one. After the first class, it is all much easier.
From our research within my gym, many claim the ~6 month mark to be about the time when they began feeling confident in their knowledge and techniques and found jiu jitsu to be much easier.
So although the first class and first couple months may be challenging, be aware that at only about 6 months into training it will get significantly easier.
From personal experience, I can say to just put your time in, expect to be submitted, focus on the basics, and find your preferred method to learn jiu jitsu
Beginner Jiu Jitsu Class – Getting the Info You Need
If possible, I would recommend attending one of the beginner jiu jitsu classes held by your local gym. Most if not all gyms offer a beginner class several times a week.
This will allow the instructor to personalize the techniques they are teaching to your level. You will undoubtedly gain much more from a beginner class that is more catered to your first day.
This will also temper your nerves and will ease your concerns of what to expect for your first bjj class.
Nervous for Your First BJJ Class? – Don’t Worry We All Were
First and foremost do not be embarrassed if you are nervous for your first bjj class.
The main point to realize is that no one is out to hurt you or spar with you with malicious intent. Also remember that whether or not you partake in live sparring is completely up to you. No one is going to make you do anything that you are not comfortable with.
In fact as instructors and gym owners, it is in their best interest to make sure you are entirely comfortable during your first couple days since, ultimately, they are in the business of gaining and retaining bjj students.
What Do You Wear for Jiu Jitsu?
In terms of what do you wear for jiu jitsu this will depend if you are taking a gi or no gi class.
-If you are taking a gi class you should check with your gym to see if they have a standard gi requirement. If not you can likely borrow a gi for your first class or two or can purchase one online.
-If you are taking a no gi class, the recommendation is tight fitting clothing like a rash guard or shorts. Generally, nogi classes are less strict on clothing requirements, but you can check with your specific gym before showing up to class.
Should I Try BJJ – Conclusion
In jiu jitsu, passion and obsession will beat out talent and athleticism every time.
If you’ve made it this far and are still wondering “Should I try bjj”, the answer is yes.
Now that you are an expert for what to expect in your first day off bjj – again there will likely be warm up movements, guided instruction, followed by live sparring if you wish.
Plainly you have nothing to lose by trying a bjj class. You show up for an hour or so and get exposed to something entirely new. Maybe its something you’ll love or learn to love.
If you are athletic and have experience in other sports, there are definitely similarities in jiu jitsu. While it does require coordination and some athleticism, bjj technique conquers all.
The student who has the most knowledge and ability to portray this knowledge effectively through techniques on a resisting opponent will win everyone live sparring round vs a student who has less knowledge.
In jiu jitsu knowledge and experience will conquer all and bjj truly has a low risk learning curve. It is a thinking person’s sport and many can be successful in the martial arts regardless of their physical attributes.
You just might find a new passion and something that you can excel at. If you ask any current jiu jitsu practitioner what is there one regret, they will say, “I should have started sooner”. So make today your start.