I’m a BJJ white belt and though I am a beginner by that measure, I am actually far from being a bjj beginner. I started training in 2004 and I have been training on and off since then. The longest break in training I had was 13 years. But bjj has still been a part of my life in one way or another, even if only vicariously “training and competing” through the many friends I’ve made over the years.
When you start training BJJ there will be a period where you will feel overwhelmed by information. Well, you’ll always be overwhelmed and excited with new information, details, techniques, etc. That will never change. However, what sometimes gets lost in that initial overflow of information are some of the must have basics that we should all know and practice. That’s what I hope to share with you here in no particular order of importance.
First of all and you’d think this would go without saying, please be clean. In this sport, your head could be caught in between someone’s legs, armpits, chest, etc. Nothing is worse than being smothered by a training partner who smells like ass. BJJ is a very physical and close quarters martial art and you owe it to yourself and to your training partners to be clean.
I try to take a shower before training, but that’s not always possible and I get that. If you don’t have time for a quick shower before training, no problem, just use some hygienic wipes and give yourself a quick cleaning. You know if you need to do this, but when in doubt, wipe it out!
Gear Cleanliness (Wash your gi after each use)
Second continues on the same thread as number one but applies to your clothing. I have noticed over the years that some people are under the impression that they don’t sweat enough and therefore their clothing won’t stink. Well, you are wrong, you do sweat and so do your training partners like me. If we have trained together, I promise you that my sweat is all over your gi top and pants. Even if you don’t sweat much, wash your gi and rash guards after each use. I know it’s annoying and not everyone can afford a bunch of gis to rotate, but please don’t rewear a gi because you think that it’s clean. It is not and it will start to stink.
I remember rolling with a purple belt who’s gi not only smelled rancid, but it was still wet from a prior training session. You guys, that was one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had on the mat. This guy was kicking my ass, and the whole time he was smashing me, the stench of his gi was smashing my sense of smell. It was utterly disgusting. Please wash your gi!
Trim your finger and toe nails
Over the years I’ve worked with many different training partners, some new and some experienced. At times I have had my face, arms, body, hands and feet slashed up by wolverine like talons. I figured that they just didn’t know better, so I would gently let them know that they should please cut their finger and toenails before the next class.
In addition to cutting your partners up, it can also be quite painful for you if you split or break that nail on the gi while training. It’s okay to let your training partners know to trim their nails. Just be nice about it, but don’t let it slide cause you feel bad. In the long run you, training partners and even they will be grateful. Open wounds are not fun and if avoidable, we should do our best to avoid them. Cutting your nails goes a long way in preventing cuts.
Leave your ego at the door
Keep this gem in mind, as good as you might be, or think you are, there is some shark out here who can and will devour you if necessary. Humility goes a long way in being accepted and welcomed at a school. No one likes an arrogant person and they will be humbled down. Understand that you are not the best there ever was and you never will be. There will always be more to learn and there will always be someone better than you. If you walk with that knowledge, training gets easier.
Over the years, especially when working with someone smaller than me, I am very careful and do not go too hard. We have to be aware of our bodies and the damage we can do. Of course, you will often get what you give in BJJ, but I try to be gentle with training partners and not get caught up in the ego of it. Sometimes by letting them win, you are actually protecting both your training partner and yourself.
Respect the tap
This is another one that should go without saying, but you must respect the tap. If your training partner taps out for whatever reason, then you immediately cease the application of a technique. They could be injured, not flexible, tired, etc. Just the same, make sure that you also tap when in a bad position. Especially when sparring. I have a shoulder tear that was probably avoidable if I had tapped even sooner than I did. It is important for your own safety and that of your partners that you respect the tap.
Stay home when sick
I mean, do I really need to spell this out? If you are jacked up and can jack others up, take the time off and heal. Keep those germs to yourself.
Tape up your cuts
We have established that BJJ is a physical sport, this means that on occasion blood will be drawn. Be it from a mat burn, or a talon slice, or an accidental head butt. When and if you can, you should bandage and tape up the site of injury. I remember a time when we all thought it was cool to be covered up in blood, but these days, not so much. Especially at a school where everyone wears a white gi.
Don’t be reckless
That’s it, don’t be reckless. Just go slowly, ask questions and try not to hurt your training partners by being wild. There are many guys over the years who I would avoid working with because they where too dangerous and can easily injure you. A key in this martial art is preserving your body and having longevity. I’m already injured enough due to being stubborn, I don’t need any more injuries. So please don’t be reckless.
In BJJ, most people are super cool, but some of us will totally avoid you for violating any of those basic rules. There are other things you’ll learn along the way, but I hope that you found this post helpful! Best of luck on your BJJ journey.
Just a life long New Yorker sharing the journey through my lens. Please take note of a post’s date. The views I express here are subject to change and evolving as I grow and learn.