Some Tips for New Folks

Here are some things that will help you get into the groove of the room a little more smoothly, if you are new to jiu-jitsu.

First thing – Ask a ton of questions. You have no idea what’s supposed to be going on or what you should be doing. The path away from ignorance is education, and we need to know what you aren’t sure about. The people in the room have no idea what your experience is, or where your head is at. Find someone with a colored belt on and start picking their brain. Most jiu-jitsu folks love talking about jiu-jitsu. Getting them on a roll won’t be a problem. “Hey man, how is this supposed to work?” will get you a long way.

Second – Stop watching YouTube. I know. This is a tough one. I’ve been guilty of it, myself. I’m here to tell you that there are things going on in that video that aren’t discussed, and aren’t obvious to the inexperienced eye. “That’s not me.” Yes, it is. Just stop, or you’ll end up frustrated. The exception here is that videos get used for entertainment purposes only. Watching a 3 min video on a choke and thinking you’re going to use it in class very rarely works out. $5 says you have to rewatch the video in the parking lot right before class, if not off to the side of the mat before rolling. Know what that means? You don’t own that choke to a degree that you’ll be able to use it under pressure…so what’s the point?

Third – BE PATIENT. Everybody wants to be good today. Right now. All of it. Well, you can’t have it. There is a literal ocean of information in jiu-jitsu and you can only take in a mouthful at a time, and you get to keep less than that. Trying to rush that process just ends up frustrating all parties involved. Come to class, do the work, and ask questions relevant to the current topic. Rinse and repeat. Every day, for years. Do that, and you’ll be good at jiu-jitsu (not just good at grappling). There is just about no other way.


Below is a list of things that I have at my academies that is handed out to every prospective student. Some folks agree with the content, some don’t. Both is fine. I don’t, and never have, claimed that our schools are a good fit for everyone.

  • Clean body, clean equipment. 
    • Short finger and toe nails
    • The only smell associated with you, should be “clean” (including breath)
    • Your gi should be washed after every practice and not worn outside of the school (ie, don’t sit around eating Cheetos in your gi)
    • If any part of your body is visibly soiled, wash it before class
    • Open wounds should be covered
  • If you are sick or have skin problems, stay home.
    • If you have had a fever any time within the last 24hrs, stay home.
    • If you have any type of skin issue, you have to go get checked by a Dr before you can return to class.
  • No “dirty” techniques.
    • Grabbing fingers, fish-hooking, digging with your elbows, “pressure points”, pinching, groin strikes, etc is frowned upon and may result in those things being done back to you…harder. It’s junk that doesn’t work, anyway. Get that stuff out of your head, ASAP.
  • Do not come to class intoxicated.
    • If it causes you to be in an altered state, either mentally or physically (outside of caffeine), stay off of it if you plan to participate. This is a safety issue. If it’s a prescription drug, and says not to operate heavy equipment, either don’t take it before class, or stay home.
  • Be respectful and considerate of your partners.
    • You are in charge of the intensity of the situation. If you feel like someone is going too hard, you’re probably part of the problem. Don’t ever be afraid to ask your partner to slow down. Trust your gut and speak up.
    • If you are the higher rank, what happens is your responsibility. Welcome to the responsibility of holding rank.
    • If your training partner is injured and has to sit out…so do you.
  • Be respectful of the school and it’s Coaches.
    • If a coach is talking, you shouldn’t be.
    • If you bring it into the school, either put it into the trash, or take it with you when you leave
    • If you make an appointment…KEEP IT, or at least let us know that you won’t make it.
    • Do the prescribed work for the prescribed amount of time. If the person in charge of the class says to do a specific technique, you should be doing exactly that, and nothing else.
  • Do not ask about or for a rank promotion.
    • Brand new people get to ask how it generally works.
    • If you ask for a new stripe or new belt, you likely just signed yourself up for six more months at your current rank. Your rank is not your concern.
  • TAP EARLY, AND TAP OFTEN.
    • When someone “taps” (either physically or verbally) that means to stop – right now. DO NOT ask questions or maintain the hold because you don’t think they should be tapping. It’s not your decision whether or not the round continues when someone taps. Not respecting a tap is a very direct route to end your training privileges. We are literally putting life and limb on the line, and that line is not to be toyed with.
    • If you *think* they may have tapped, stop – right now.
    • Tap before you think you HAVE to. Give the other person time to react. This could be 2-5 seconds. Make sure to allow for that much time. Expecting an instantaneous release in the heat of the moment isn’t realistic and shouldn’t be held against your partner. Your safety is your responsibility. Protect yourself at all times.

Some suggestions…

  • All – 
    • No jewelry.
      • This includes wedding bands.  Get a silicone ring to wear during training. Google “degloving injury” to see why. It’s exactly what it sounds like, and has happened in grappling classes.
      • All other jewelry must be removed, unless it’s covered by a rash guard.  Even with this – wear at your own risk.
    • Rash guards or t-shirts.
      • Keeping yourself covered and at least most of your fluids off of people is your responsibility.
    • Cheap flip flops.
      • These can be handy for running to the restroom (No bare feet in the restroom)
    • Eat something before class.
      • Doing this on an empty stomach isn’t smart.  At least eat a piece of fruit. Obviously, eating a big plate of spaghetti before class is also a bad idea. A small sports drink for during or after class is also a good idea.
  • Men – 
    • Compression shorts. 
      • This should be looked at as safety equipment.
      • Hard protective cups are not allowed.
  • Women – 
    • Sports Bra(s)
      • The type that you would be comfortable with being hung upside down and shaken in. …you’d be surprised.

Your clothes will be pulled on. All of them. In all directions. Things get tangled up and snatched.  Expect this and plan for it. It is part of the sport. Some women prefer to wear high-waisted leggings or cycling shorts.  Keeping yourself covered is your responsibility.

Everyone must wear a gi, with a belt, at all times during gi classes, until class is officially dismissed. I do not care how not comfy it is. This is fight school. Not a resort clubhouse. If you tell me you are having medical issues, I will call an ambulance.

Bring a notebook.  Write things down.  It’ll help you in the long run, and it’s neat to have a record of your training.  Don’t just record things with your phone (frowned on in a lot of schools), or make notes on your phone. There’s something about putting pen to paper that makes things stick just a little better.

Rank – In jiu-jitsu the primary belts are white, blue, purple, brown, and black. Typically, there are four stripes put on the belt between belt colors. How each person advances depends on that person. This is an individual journey. Each person will have their own recipe for success, and comparing yourself to anyone else in the room will only lead to frustration. Who is wearing what color is my responsibility, and no one else’s. Your job as a student is to show up and do a good job. Mine as your coach is to guide, evaluate, and promote.

If you’re not sure what you should be doing, ask. We promote a supportive environment where questions are welcome and help is given freely. Your question may be one that someone else also has or maybe hasn’t thought to have.  We all started somewhere, and we’re all here to help.

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