First Day Back On The Mats

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while since it’s one of the most common questions I read about jiu-jitsu. Are you thinking about trying BJJ or considering picking it back up after COVID-19? If so, here are five tips or reminders that will help you get started!

Don’t be scared.

Seriously, don’t be scared. Brazilian jiu-jitsu is not a scary thing, you have done this before

Let me tell you a story that many of you might be able to relate to. When I decided to try BJJ for the first time, I was a little nervous. I thought I’d walk into a dark, scary room full of mat savages and sweating limb collectors, which, surprisingly, was not at all what I experienced. Instead, I walked into a welcoming space with awesome people sitting around chatting about the days past. I saw members of all shapes, sizes, and ages along with a warm, bubbly coach who was excited to share her knowledge about the art she loves. I realize this is just my experience, but I’ve visited a number of BJJ schools around Australia and the world and have had much the same experience. In general, Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a very welcoming and friendly place. In the words of Nick Diaz – “Don’t be scared homie”

It has been done before you so know you can do it.

The most common comment I get from friends about BJJ is “I would love to give it a shot; I just don’t think I’m fit enough to do it,” which is one of the biggest misconceptions and probably how a lot of people are going to feel coming out of quarantine. Just about everyone can do whatever they want to do, and that includes BJJ.

All it takes is a quick Google search of the term “old man jiu-jitsu” or “big boy jits” and you will see men and women of all ages lined up on the mats. If you’re worried about not knowing how to do the movements, you will learn. If you think you have forgotten everything, you are wrong. Most schools will hold an introduction class prior to throwing you to the sharks, so to speak. The intro programs are great as they will put you on the mats with other beginners under the guidance of experienced practitioners while you learn the basics in a safe environment. For those of you who are returning get back into your gyms for the conditioning sessions when they open to get the fitness levels back up so that when we can resume full contact you will have a base level of cardio and you wont gas out 1 minute into rolling time, also, keep in mind, everyone was once a beginner. They, too, didn’t know the movements, but they put in the time and effort to learn and master them. If all else fails wrist lock a white belt to make yourself feel good again.

Compete against yourself.

One of my favourite quotes when it comes to life in general is “Training to be better than I was yesterday” which basically means you are competing against yourself to improve every day.

If you’re a newbie, you’re probably not going to catch anyone in a triangle choke or an armbar on your first night, and that’s okay. You will get there. Don’t worry about the person next to you banging out high intensity rolls and drills when you’re still working on tying your belt. Start light, work at your own pace, and get your technique sorted. There is no point doing something faster than someone else if your technique isn’t on point.

Of course, having a competitive attitude is not a bad thing, but constantly comparing yourself to others is. Instead of getting discouraged by what other people can do, use them as motivation. One of my favourite partners and I have a friendly competition and we constantly push each other to get faster and stronger. Although he dominates me about 99% of the time, I never get mad at him. If anything, I thank him for pushing me harder!

Even though there’s some friendly competition in gyms, the goal is always to put forth your best effort. Once you start worrying about what everyone else is doing, it stops being fun and you risk hindering your own progress.

Focus on yourself and you will get better.

Listen to your body.

I guess this is the nice way of saying, “Take it slow, and don’t go balls to the wall on every live roll.” You really need to perfect your form and technique before you start training for the Worlds. If my body is sore and tired, I scale back my training or even just sit out and watch. . . well I don’t think I have ever been able to just sit out, but definitely scaled back. I’ve found that if I take a step back and focus on how my body feels, especially as I get older, I tend to perform better and ultimately spend more time on the mats (and, of course, prevent injury). Be honest with yourself, be patient, and listen to your body.

Know that it will get easier, sort of.

Okay, we know that BJJ never gets easier, but we should also know that it will start to make sense and you will eventually develop a game. Be sure to keep a training journal to track your movements and training. Before you know it, you’ll be sitting on the side of the mat trying to remember a certain escape or submission. Having those notes will save you hours of time trying to figure out what it is you are missing. Soon enough you will be back hitting triangles, flying armbars, and berimbolos — basically doing things you never thought were possible. It’s incredible to see that transformation.

My best advice: embrace the journey and have fun.

See you on the mats!

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