Editor’s note: The following article was first published November 1, 2021 by Jimmy Girot. We have updated and added some new elements for your benefit today, including a section from an article written by Jeremy Mast.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) comprises the single most effective martial art you can learn for self-defense.
BJJ doesn’t rely on size and strength. It’s all about leverage and joint manipulation, so a smaller person could easily use BJJ techniques to defeat a much larger and stronger opponent.
Real-world fights often end up on the ground, so training in a martial art that focuses exclusively on ground combat is both practical and prudent. If your primary interest is learning to compete in mixed martial arts, you might know that BJJ makes up a significant part of mixed martial arts (MMA) fighting. In MMA, it’s absolutely necessary to develop a great ground game.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu will also get you in shape! It is a physically demanding sport that requires both flexibility and endurance and gets you into peak physical condition. Best of all, BJJ makes exercise fun.
If you’re just starting out, it can feel like a lot to take in. Let’s take a closer look at the health benefits and how to care for your gi, tie your belt, and understand the kids’ belt system.
BJJ’s health benefits for adults
When we think about exercise, certain motions come to the forefront of our thoughts: running, jumping, maybe even a coordinated series like soccer.
Often, we forget that highly technical sports such as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, can have just as much of an impact on a healthy adult lifestyle as more traditional workouts. Just like any other sport, you’ll have immediate results from a single session, as well as the long term benefits from working on the mats over time.
Let’s start with some of those instant gratifications. Immediately you’ll get a rush of endorphins after a class. Regardless of how your day shapes out, that extra kick of feel-good juices just makes it better.
Getting a session in can also make the body more receptive to sleep at the end of the day, which leads to a better night of sleep, and subsequently, a better morning. If I do not get some sort of training every two days or so, my body refuses to give me decent shuteye.
The more advanced benefits to Jiu Jitsu, we tend to see over time. At the heart of it, Jiu Jitsu is a body weight exercise. This type of workout has a history of great benefits, including reducing the likelihood of casual injury. People who are used to moving their own weight around (and maybe someone else’s at times) tend to have a lower injury rate on a day-to-day basis.
Microtears created during class repair themselves and make muscles stronger. The bruising that we would see after the first few classes gradually stops showing up as easily, as our bodies get used to getting beat up. I won’t go into the specifics of cardiovascular health, but you’ll notice that barely perceptible increase in your endurance – until one day you finish up and realize you could have gone on longer.
As adults, we no longer have that set routine as we did when we were kids – there’s no mid-day recess to give us a physical outlet.
Something as consistent as Jiu Jitsu in our everyday lives can grant us a certain stability. Having someplace to go, at a specific time of day, to focus on bettering ourselves in an environment we can control gives a renewed sense of purpose.
Prepping your mindset: discomfort + humility
As Jeremy Mast writes in his article Black Belt Advice for BJJ White Belts, “If you’re new to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and have already attended classes for more than a week or so, you may have found yourself bombarded with two torrential streams of information.”
One encompasses all the physical and technical aspects — your basic hip escapes, bridges, framing, etc. Alongside all the technical learning, you will likely also have someone in your ear constantly giving you advice about what to do, what not to do, how to think, and so forth.
This advice-giving will come from everywhere and everyone. You’ll get advice from people who have two decades of training behind them, and you’ll get advice from training partners that started three weeks before you. It can all be helpful, but can also be a bit much.
So we’ll just give you the basics:
Jiu Jitsu is a close-contact sport and also a combat sport. That said, you can expect to experience some discomfort. The thing to remember — discomfort doesn’t have to mean only bad things. Often this stems from not being used to the uncomfortable positions we find ourselves in, and the physical weight of your partner bearing down on you. As you improve your skills and physical fitness, you’ll find this discomfort becoming smaller and smaller.
Because of its complexities, just because you’ve always had a way with sports doesn’t mean you’ll automatically find yourself good at Jiu Jitsu. The art has an entire vocabulary of movements, systems and techniques that take years — decades even — to master.
Don’t beat yourself up. You’ll have plenty of people doing that for you, so set your ego aside and put your nose to the grindstone. If you can embrace humility, you’ll have no problem falling into the flow of BJJ.
Finally, it’s true — each and every black belt is just a white belt that didn’t stop showing up.
We’ve said it once, and will say it many more times. This statement holds so much in the simple act of trying. The higher belts don’t have some magic you don’t — they have years of sweat and hours on the mat to back their skills. Everyone has felt as lost as you — it’s part of the process. Embrace the journey and see where it takes you.
Next, here are a few tips to help you hit the mats running.
Wash your gi
The Jiu Jitsu uniform, the gi, makes up a critical requirement for the sport that ties it to tradition. In order for many of the techniques to work, students need either sleeves or collars to perform the moves (unless training in NoGi), and the dense material of the Jiu Jitsu gi allows for repetitive, high-impact movements without tearing.
One of the best ways to keep yourself and your training partners healthy lies in keeping your gear clean. Especially when you start training more than two or three times a week, you’ll find your gi will take a beating.
Follow our instructions here to learn How To Properly Care For Your BJJ Gi.
How to tie your BJJ belt
At the top of the class and after rolling on the mats, your coach will remind you to straighten your gi and retie your belt each time you line up. The practice roots in respect as well as practicality, but often the unique method for tying the thick Jiu Jitsu belt can trip us up.
Fortunately, senior students and coaches are always willing to help. Dedicate a few minutes now to learn this humble but important skill so that you can stay focused on what matters: training.
Here is one simple way to tie a secure knot:
Step 1: Hold the belt by the middle and place it in front of your stomach.
Step 2: Wrap both ends around behind your back and bring them to the front again.
Step 3: Take the left-hand tail and wrap it downward around both strands of the belt, then pull it up behind.
Step 4: Fold the left-hand tail towards the left.
Step 5: Bring the right-hand tail up in front of the left-hand tail and pull it down between the left-hand tail and the belt.
Step 6: Pull tight!
Consistency is key. Practice every day and before long you’ll be helping a newer student with their belt!
Ready to get started?
Easton Training Center’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu program has classes for students of every level. Whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned brown belt, you’ll find training at our academies to be fun and challenging.
Our fundamentals program teaches the essentials of offense and defense from the foundational positions. You’ll learn self-defense techniques for real life situations. From there, you’ll start to build your own game in live training, or Randori. In our advanced classes, you’ll learn the finer points of sport Jiu-Jitsu from the best instructors in Colorado.