T Nation

First BJJ Class This Week

#1

Taking the plunge, have a one on one lesson followed by a general fundamentals class this week.

Former HS wrestler, in my early 30s now and just need an outlet other than the weights. If I am being truly honest, I just miss the mat and all that comes with it. The training, the learning, the friendships and the fun of just rolling. Zero experience. Have a good buddy who is a white belt, and my brother in law who lives in Brazil is a black belt, they helped me get interested in it.

Aside from being sore in places I do not remember being sore in this decade, anything to expect or anticipate? Considering my strength for my size, current fitness level and previous grappling experience, I am not going to be that guy who puts ego over learning. I actually like getting beat up and don’t want to interfere with learning the right technique and foundations. My biggest worry is the wrestling instincts to get off your back and to your stomach at all cost will be hard at first to get over. That and my flexibility and mobility are pretty bad.

Other than that, any input or advice for a beginner is welcome.

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#2

My advice is concentrate on position over submission.
People want to learn this submission, or that submission. Best thing to do is learn how to position people, and then yourself ready for that submission.
But your coach will have all that sussed.

Good luck

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#3

Just have fun, and don’t get discouraged. Invest some time into yoga/flexibility training.

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#4

Keep us posted on your training.
I’m looking to add martial arts back in at some point - either BJJ or Judo

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#5

@twojarslave may have some advice.

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#6

Correct me if I’m wrong but it seems like chess, it is really a strategic battle of positioning and progressing to a position of higher advantage rather than just going for a sub.

Just from observation it would appear investing early in proficiency in progressing to better positions, like moving from side guard up to back guard(forgive me if I messed these names up) and learning defense at the weakest levels of position is smarter than “attacking”. Once of the things the drew me to BJJ was that it is more cerebral than just brute force.

#7

For sure. I’m sure once a week or so I’ll take some of the Muay Thai classes and wrestle with the mma guys, but I’ll be mostly focusing on BJJ. The gym is pretty cool, right by my house and the head instructor is Bruno Malfacine. Honestly I had no idea who that was until my brother in law was in town and told him about the gym I drive by daily to work and showed him. Cool thing about Orlando is we have a huge influx and populous of Brazilians, hence my marriage and future Jewzilian children.

#8

Only general advice, which is all that really matters at this stage. I’d generally agree with what everyone else said, but to offer anything above that I need to understand the goal.

@waittz What do you want out of jiu jitsu?

There’s no wrong answer.

#9

It’s a great question actually. As an adult I miss what I got out of wrestling when I was younger and looking to replace it and with something that can not only help me with my fitness and health goals, but continue with my mental goals of building discipline, humility and mastery in something. I need a hobby that coincides with that. Something I can do 2-5x a week without an end date where I can always be progressing, learning and make a new circle of friends or be apart of another “tribe”/community if that makes sense.

I want something to have that is mine and separate from my home life, work life and close social circle that allows me to push myself physically and mentally. After a decade in the iron without other “sports” I’ve realized it doesnt scratch that itch and my body isn’t holding up to the type of lifting that satisfies those urges.

#10

Well the guy you mentioned is a world-class grappler, so I think you’ll get all of that if you commit to it. The ceiling is limitless, it’s a great workout and once you learn how to moderate your intensity it becomes a fairly sustainable activity once you pair up with people who can do the same.

You’re built like a truck with wrestler instincts. This is great overall, but you’re probably going to have dudes who go really hard on you. That’s rad and fun, but it’s also worthwhile to make mat time for slower rolls at an easier pace. It’s up to you to protect yourself, so tap when you need to tap. Nobody gives a fuck. It’s just training.

In the meantime, wrestle the hell out of those jiu jitsu guys. You already seem aware of the general adjustments needed to your wrestling tactics, so I’m sure you’ll pick up the new game very quickly. If you do any homework, learning about the positional hierarchy would be a good place to start. Even if you don’t know a single submission, you can just work your way up and down the ladder, or even just holding good positions. By all means, go for the submission if you see one, but you will become a terror very quickly once you can dominate the positional battle.

You’ll have guys who say you “used your strength” no matter what, so don’t worry about it. Pursue technical refinement as well as you can and be a big strong guy who knows jiu jitsu. Maybe you muscled it a bit, maybe a lot, or maybe you didn’t but it doesn’t really matter to that guy. The problem he should be worried about is that his jiu jitsu didn’t work in that situation. That’s a problem you will always have if you stick with it and train with enough good people, so work on solving it instead of complaining about a stronger guy or a more flexible guy or whatever. The thing either worked or it didn’t, and if it didn’t that’s your fault because there’s always something that can. You just didn’t do it.

One last thing I’ll mention is self-defense. It doesn’t sound like this is important, especially if you’re already set on a particular gym, but it deserves mention because of how it can shape the curriculum.

The white belt curriculum can vary wildly from one BJJ school to the next. In simple terms, I have one area school (and luckily an instructor very close by) who teach BJJ in a way that prepares you to handle violence with your bare hands in the shortest time possible (which still takes 2-3 years for most). In this school you spend a lot of time on your feet learning throws, takedowns, grip-stripping, clinch work, bearhug defense, headlock defense, rear bodylock defense and all kinds of other crap that will almost never come up in a sport BJJ match. You also learn groundwork that is applicable in a fight and do lots of rolling, but lots of time on that other stuff too. No time is spent teaching sport-only techniques at this level. Only high-percentage fight techniques.

The other schools I’ve trained at generally leave some or even most of that stuff out, and instead focus the mat time on playing the game. This will still get you ahead when it comes to violence, but it’s a different enough use of the mat time at the white belt level that it’s almost an entirely different martial art. I enjoy my mat time here too, but you aren’t really learning how to fight. You’re learning how to roll, which is fun as shit and still pretty damn useful if a fight goes to the ground.

Some schools are probably in-between those extremes. One school in my area teaches BJJ mostly as a sport but you can do the MMA stuff to and learn striking and takedowns, etc in the same gym.

I don’t know anything about your guy other than he’s a world-class grappling competitor. I’m sure his academy is great, but all instructors will have differences on what white belts learn. Whether this is important to you or not, I would still advise you to try out a few gyms in the area if any of them are viable options for you. Most do first class free, so there’s really no downside. Talk to the instructors if you get a chance. Like you said, find your “tribe” and train with people of like mind.

Otherwise, just rip it and have fun. You’ll be a beast. Enjoy being a beast.

#11

Awesome write up here. Much appreciated.

#12

I have heard nothing but good things about Bruno’s school. He actually teaches most of the classes from what I’ve heard. It’s an Alliance school so I believe it will follow their curriculum. It probably won’t be self defense heavy but I don’t know if that’s important to you. If you are interested in self defense then John Burke’s school is also in that area. It will have more of a self defense oriented curriculum and John is a bigger guy so that might be something to consider.

With that said, I was in Orlando last summer and I was going to try and fit in some training and I chose Bruno’s school but I couldn’t find the time.

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#13

Thanks for the response. For the record, I have little interest in it for self defense, mostly for sport. I personally believe that the vast majority of violence can and should be avoided in real world scenarios. For those that absolutely cannot, a wrestling and boxing background with a concealed carry is a far better deterrent and way to still ward off violence while being safer than exposing yourself to the ground when others are trying to inflict real harm or there are more than 1 attackers. 1 on 1 and unavoidable? Pretty sure a blue belt who only trained in gi could easily handle themselves in such a scenario. The very few times I was engaged in such a manner that couldn’t be avoided, I just took them to the ground and waited for their brain to catch up with their ego.

Hit me up on here if you ever do make it back to Orlando and get a chance to go. As I mentioned, Orlando is turning into for Brazilians what south Florida was for Cubans when I grew up down there, as a result we have some pretty high class academies from the research I did.

#14

I don’t want to turn this into a bjj and self defense thread but, Burke has worked with different govt LE agencies as well as the military so he is a very legit source for real world self defense training.

I get what you’re saying though. I like to include self defense but I’m really not into dedicating most of my training to it. I think you hit a ceiling at some point with self defense only training. With sport you can always learn something new and improve your technique.

#15

Agreed. I also do not doubt for one second the validity and efficiency of it applied and taught strictly for self defense. I just personally would rather avoid violence if need be in your typical situation, I have too much to lose even from winning. I also have a hard time fathoming a scenario where a true one on one situation comes up without weapons, environment and crowd being a factor that dedicating training to it would be a good use of my time.

Back on topic, since I have already started changing my lifting habits away from power lifting/bodybuilding, what are some good ways to still incorporate my love for the iron to apply on the mat? Similar to wrestling? I was a strong wrestler back in the day because I focused on explosive movements, extensive grip training and hip drive, not because I benched a lot. Safe to assume those still apply?

#16

Ehhh… Not if they ran into, say, a guy your size with a decent wrestling background. Not all blue belts anyway. Some schools will give a guy a blue belt even if they’ve never spent a single minute on how to handle a sucker double that puts them on their back with blows raining down, which can be more than enough to win a fight and something in most wrestlers toolbox.

Every blue belt at the self defense school will be very familiar with that scenario, but that mat time obviously detracts from time spent getting better at the game of jiu jitsu. “Fight ready” is an approximate standard of blue belt performance expectations there, but not at the other schools I’ve trained.

Their standards are generally just as high for how you perform on the ground, but marginalizing or even neglecting stand-up work doesn’t really address violence in a comprehensive manner. On the flip side, time spent working on your arm drag to street choke probably won’t help you win any tournaments. It all boils down to how you want to spend your mat time.

It sounds like you’re already way ahead of the self defense curve and you know what you want out of your experience. You’ll get better at everything no matter where you train, so train for your goals and enjoy the process!

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#17

Appreciate the compliment, but in regards to my size, yeah for an Extra Medium I am relatively big, but in the grand scheme of things, I’m still a 5’7" pretty boy who weighs a buck seventy five, not what you would call big or intimidating in person on the street.

#18

I thought I read you were 195! Either way you’re the same size as my instructor and he is an ass whooping machine on his feet and on the ground.

You’ll still be stouter than the average guy on the mats.

#19

I think that everyone has different physical gifts, or lack thereof, and it’s about incorporating your attributes without deviating too much from the main principle of bjj which is to emphasize technique over strength. It can be harder for those who are bigger and stronger because you might execute someting successfully but not know how much was due to technical mastery and how much was due to compensation from strength and speed. It takes time.

I believe from looking at people I have trained with and with whom I currently train, that the biggest benefits from weight training are structural strength and mobility. I know guys who are older, my age or even younger who have back issues, knee issues and hip issues. Some have had hip replacement. I train as much, if not more, and don’t have those problems. In bjj you are at risk for muscle imbalances that weight training can address. You can keep yourself structurally sound. Rickson Gracie is know for his yoga but that didn’t keep him from having hip and back issues.

I don’t think you need to weight train differently but just need to factor in recovery.

#20

It’s just anecdotal, but in my circles most of the 40 plus crowd who still move like athletes AND seem to avoid injury all have strength training backgrounds.

I know several beanpoles with neck and spine issues from the mats. It’s hard to imagine that having a stronger body doesn’t help mitigate those outcomes.