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BJJ 101


I have finally started to attend bjj class.

My class consists of about 10 people and we train twice a week for 2 hours. 1.5 hours for technique, and the last 30 minutes for grappling. There is also a third training session but that is only for the people who have been doing it for more than 6 months.

Im willing to stick with it for at least a few months, but I am wondering when it will all "click" for me. I have only been at it for 2 weeks, but I still have no idea of what to do when grappling. Everything at the moment just feels un-natural. Sometime whens grappling I just want to jump into the air and do a "body-slam" lol.

How long did it take you to understand BJJ and really feel that you are getting into it?



Not a BJJ guy, but I submit that it takes most people about 1000 hours of intelligent practice to become somewhat proficient at any complex and unfamiliar skill.

Relax. Be patient. Be humble. Be honest with yourself. Leave your ego at the door. Have fun with it.

All the best in your practice.


As Batman said, give it time. I feel after about 3 months you get into a groove and it begins to flow (that’s based on 2-3 sessions a week, and assuming you are drilling the same techniques consistently). My advice is:

be mindful about injuries. That’s the biggest learning point for me. I was doing multiple sessions a week, including heavy bag work, as well as weight training, pull ups, dips, etc. This led to a shoulder injury, which I’m still dealing with. If you are doing a lot of punch work then pay extra attention to this.

get into stretching. I was hopeless here (and still am) however dedicating more time to stretching has made me feel stronger, particularly my lower back. Greater flexibility is obviously an asset for most martial arts so embrace it. It is a win win situation regardless of your goals.

consider befriending other people in the class who may be involved in organising extra sessions, e.g. sparring. Meeting up in someone’s back garden with the pads is good to try out some of the theory work.


Congratulations on the leap. BJJ may not be the greatest SD system ever but it’s a fun sport for sure, with quite a few side benefits.

  • learn how to move well on the ground. crawls, shrimps, rolls are important basic skills.

  • learn what makes the moves work; in most cases, it will mean doing the correct movement with your hips. Big and strong guys often try to use too much upper body strength.

  • When you roll with someone, work on your escapes first and foremost. Learn to relax when he’s just holding you down and find the right moment to explode out in the right direction when the opportunity arises. Learning twenty types of submission is fun but in my experience, the hardest part (for a beginner in particular) is to get into a position where you can dictate things. If you are good at escaping from someone’s guard / side control / mount, counterattacking becomes easy.

  • See this as an opportunity to play. Ambition can make people look oh so ugly when they try to force things.


Thanks gfriends for all the tips.

Im pretty adamant that I want to give this a decent shot. Just hoping things star to “click” into place. Ill let you know how I progress.



I don’t know how the classes are structured, but IMO that will somewhat determine how quickly you start to feel like you have some idea what you are doing. I tend to focus a lot on one “flow/chain” (be that submissions, escapes, takedowns, transitions, etc…) of techniques each class (and only a few each month) and then just have the students drill the crap out of them. IME most people need repetition (and lots of them) to really be able to start to apply things in live rolling. In the past I have tried showing different stuff each class to keep students “interested” or lots of live stuff and found that only the “naturals” who pick things up really easily and are somewhat intuitive grapplers do well with that type of structure.

If your classes are less structured, then I would suggest trying to find a training partner (most likely one of the higher ranks or someone else that is having a hard time picking things up) and seeing if they would be willing to just work isolated positional/situational rolling with you. For instance if you say we’re working on (or need work on) an escape or escape flow from side control, just have your partner put you in side control and you just repeatedly work on escaping. If you are successful, just start over and keep repeating. Set the timer for time (1-3 minutes is good to start with), then switch places the next round (or if your partner wants to work a different position/situation work that with them in the same fashion). This will allow you to gets some decent reps and start to feel comfortable in that position/situation under resistance fairly quickly. Of course there are always “levels” of proficiency, so never let yourself be satisfied that you don’t need to continue to do this; you can always learn and improve and challenge yourself against better competition.

Hope this helps. Keep us updated.


Thanks Sento!

Ill report back in a few weeks time and let you know how its all going.



It took me about 12-15 months, starting with 3 days a week and working up to 6 days a week, before I wasn’t just getting my ass kicked every day. I’m a purple belt now, and I realize that realistically I know jack shit. I mean less than 1/100 of 1% of what BJJ involves. But I don’t let it depress me. I just show up every day and try to suck a little less than I used to. And now, I suck a whole lot less than I used to.


I think more than learning specific techniques, thing start to “click” when the fundamental movements you might not be used to doing become “normal” for you.

I would spend lots of times hipping in and out, getting used to moving around on your hips when you’re on your back (but actually keeping the flat of your back off the mat). For top/standup, I think again, it starts clicking when you get that it’s about the hips. Passing guard is largely about “cutting” their hips with your hips, not attempting to run around the guard, or pin their upper body while sticking your butt in the air.

I think the techniques will come, and the techniques you like will be a vehicle to figuring out the movement game, but that the “click” comes when the movement normalizes more than when you “get” x-number of techniques.


^^^Yes definitely Spartiates, and that pretty much only comes from drilling those movements/techniques over, and over, and over.

One other thing that I feel helps to make things “click” is understanding the principles and methods underlying the techniques. Of course, hard work and plenty of sweat are required to gain skill in any athletic endeavor, but understanding what actually makes things work will go a long way to not only making your rehearsed techniques more efficient/effective, but also towards improving your adaptability when you find yourself in positions that you are unfamiliar with or scrambles. This tends to be somewhat of a “second layer” of learning though that, while I believe still beneficial for a beginner, should only really be focused on in the context of drilling your basic/foundational techniques.

Here is an example to illustrate my point. Let’s take the most basic escape from Mount, which is usually the first one taught, the Upa/Bridge and Roll (some might call it the Trap, Bridge, and Roll). Here are the steps usually taught:

  1. Trap opponent’s arm (depending on where it is placed this could be done a number of ways, but let’s say it is based out on the floor, just stabilizing the position)
  2. Trap the same side foot with your foot/heel while also being sure to place your other foot inside your opponent’s with your heel very close to your butt (so opponent cannot hook/grapevine it)
  3. Bridge towards trapped side and wind up in opponent’s guard

In actual practice though, which will probably not work and your opponent will either pull their arm out of your trap, you may be unable to break down their arm posting position in the first place, your opponent may base with their opposite side arm or head to stop the roll, or your opponent may shift to “Technical Mount”. The reason it won’t work against full resistance (especially against a bigger and stronger or more skilled opponent) is because it’s missing crucial understanding of the principles that make it work, and thus you can drill it till the cows come home and it still won’t work like it’s supposed to.

So here are the principles that must be injected along with the mechanical skills:

  1. You need to put your opponent’s weight on the side you are going to attack before/as you go for the traps (on both their arm and leg). With the weight on that side the opponent cannot pick their post arm or leg up without falling over. So start bridging immediately, don’t wait till after you have trapped the arm. This will remove problem 1.

  2. Against a very strong opponent you cannot always bend their arm/move them, so instead move you. In other words don’t try to pull their arm to your body (regardless of how you are trapping it), instead pull your body to their arm. This will remove the problem of not being able to break down their post.

  3. The angle of your bridge must be specific. If you bridge sideways your opponent can slide off your hips (since there is nothing holding their hips from moving side to side) and they can also post with their opposite side arm or head to prevent the roll. However if your bridge up at an angle (over your trap/towards the shoulder of the arm you are trapping), then their hips will be unable to slide back in the other direction (since your riding hips will prevent them from doing so) and you can maintain “connection” with them. This also makes posting ineffective. This will also prevent the shift to “Technical Mount”.

  4. Lastly, a lot of times you will hit kind of a “wall” of resistance at a certain point along your bridge in many cases and at that time what you must focus on switching your hips/dropping your drive/bridging leg down to the ground and under you instead of trying to “jump” it over top into a kneeling position.

If you practice with these principles in mind I gaurantee that your Ups escape percentage will increase and your repetitions will actually bear fruit. Hope this helps.


[quote]theBird wrote:

How long did it take you to understand BJJ and really feel that you are getting into it?


I’ve been doing BJJ since November 2012. It’s a life long journey, I like the subtle nuances of the sport, learning new things and sparring with old and new partners. Some days are good, most days are tough but take a long view and seek to be better everyday.

I’m someone who likes certainty and predictability, BJJ took that away from me and I’m learning more about myself than anything.

Seek good instructors, learn from higher belts, stretch, be mobile.

It’s a great journey, just be yourself.


Thanks friends,

Some really helpful tips and hints, which will merit me reading and re-reading this thread.

Last night my sensei told me I need to improve on my flexibility, “flowidity” and movement in general. Grappling is starting to make a little more sense, although I am still tempted to “body slam” sometimes. Lol.

I suppose after 25 years of playing soccer Im used to using my lower body while my upper body is just there for balance. Now I am having to learn to use the whole body in unison.

Flexibility has always been an issue. 6’2, long femurs and tight ankles don’t help.



Flexibility it definitely worth the time and energy put in; not just from a performance standpoint but also from an injury prevention standpoint, and just basic ease of motion standpoint. Good luck.


I atarted bjj around 7 months ago and the first 4 months I learned almost nothing. Then I got a new coach and almost overnight became somewhat proficient (for a white belt, anyway). The difference in his teaching was that he would teach me tchniques that A) I would actually use in a roll and B) he taught me techniques in chains so that I practiced them all together.

For example, a lot of people try to jump guard or sit to butterfly guard with me so he taught me a guard pass, transitioned into Americana or, if I didn’t get the Americana then I could go for a kimura, etc… A lot of schools seem to teach a random technique each day that doesn’t build off of the previous lessons. Make aure you aren’t attending one of those schools


Loftearmen: Thanks for the tips. Each of the lessons are usually related to the previous lesson. Although saying that some times it gets a little overbearing trying to remember all of the moves, but I suppose thats expected.

So Im about 4 weeks in and I still feel like a total noob. Some of the terms and moves are becoming familiar. Im thinking its going to take another 2-3 months before I feel more comfortable at the art.



Hey Bird,

I’m in a fairly similar situation - I just started BJJ in March. I hurt my knee and was out for about 2 months, but outside of that time period, I’ve been pretty consistent. I’ll second everything that’s already been said. As far as your assessment on 4 weeks in and feeling like a noob, I’d say you’re on track. Given my 2 month absence, 3-4 months of actual training (so like last week or the week before haha) was about when I started feeling “comfortable” in most techniques.

It’s too bad you can’t join more classes per week, as that’s what really helped me pick things up quickly. I’m averaging 3 classes per week since returning, but they’re only an hour. Our school has a similar “6 month rule” and promotions are next week, so I’ll be able to get into the advanced classes. Those classes are actually full of purple belts, so I’m preparing myself to get tossed around again.

I guess in my rambling, my advice (also still being quite new) is recognize that by 2-3 months as you suggested above, you may very well feel comfortable, but keep in mind that some higher ranks will almost always make you feel uncomfortable lol. Oh, it might not be a bad idea to learn one “flashy” transition or submission (obviously still focus on basics) especially if you plan on competing.

Most people will not expect a white belt to throw anything like that, so you can catch them off guard. First competition coming up next month for me, so I’ll let you know if my strategy works out lol.


Hi Casey,

Thanks for the tips. Luckily my classes go for 2 hours. The first 30 minutes is more of a warm-up, the next hour is technique practice and the last 30 minutes is left for some freestyle grappling. But your right an extra class session a week would be ideal, and once I get better I will be invited to Sundays sessions which is a 2 hour session which involves the first hour been for self defense and the second hour more for BJJ.

I suppose us beginners just have to accept that this whole BJJ thing is a journey and have to be patient.

Something I have noticed is that the more experienced grapplers have a heavier hand, for example they can hold you down with one hand and it feels like you are stuck underneath a truck.



At least you’re not doing judo.

It takes weeks of consistent (at least 3+ a week) training to even get a feel for a throw. Then months to use it effectively in randori (free sparring), and then years to really make it your own.

It’s… exhausting.


A journey indeed, Bird. I suppose it’s a lot like lifting, you can only “force” so much progress. And I definitely second the point on being held down with one hand. I’m one of the bigger guys (surprisingly as I’m only 170 haha) and I’m always being manhandled by purple belts that are like 140.

I do wish my classes did a little more on the warmup/conditioning side, but I just show up early to warmup and try to get some solid lifting outside of class. I’m almost 30, so the generic jogging, shuffling, and a few hip escapes don’t really do it for me.


Unless there is a genral lack of technical ability throughout the gym, you shouldn’t be worring about it. It will eventually come to you as it did the others students.

If there is a genral lack of ability though, maybe finding another gym would beneficial, otherwise trust you instructor knows what he is doing.

One should always remember that every instructor has their preferenced way of teaching and although not all roads lead to rome, most of them eventually do.

There is also the issue of wether or not the instructur teaches for the masses or the few. Teaching for the few most often result in high level grapplers whereas teaching for the many often result in the opposite. Most people who join dont last in the long run. Hell most dont last in the short run, especially if the classes are geared towards creating champions. Creating champions is hard work and the training is reflected in that. It doesn’t leave much room for “fun and games” and those who attend those classes/gyms are the ones who usually last. These places most often have a much faster learning curve than the mass populated gyms as the instructor will constanly focus on bettering his students without having to keep them “happy”

Look at westside barbell Vs your average commercial gym. Those who attend westside bb know why they are there and the staff and trainers of the place dont need to keep switching the training up for the clientel to keep having fun and ultimately staying.

So take a look around the gym. are there any black belts, brown belts? how long has the instructor been practicing, how long has he been teaching, does he compete, has he ever competed, does he roll with everyone, does he tap out or does his ego control him?

These can be important questions to ask as they give you some insight into your instructors qualifications and then ask yourself what it is you hope to acomplish yourself with your bjj training.
Do you want to become a black belt? do you want to compete and if so, why ? Is it because you want to learn self defence? is is because you want to meet new people while doing something FUN? is it because you want to step into the octagon and become the next ultimate champion? do you have issues with fedor and want a chance to show him what’s what ? These are equaly important questions to ask yourself as the answers will be a guide for you. If you want to became a champion grappler and your current gym doesn’t support that dream, then you need to find a new place.
Do you just want to have fun, while meeting new people, then it doesnt matter where you go. etc.

But always remember, every new student deals with the same issues as you do. dont fret. sit back, enjoy the calm and let it come to you.