Getting started with Brazilian jiu-jitsu: Tips for beginners

Finn Mitoma
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brazilian jiu jitsu for beginners

Are you interested in learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) but need help knowing where to start? BJJ is a dynamic and challenging sport that can provide numerous physical and mental benefits for practitioners of all levels. Whether you want to improve your fitness, gain self-defense skills, or try something new, our comprehensive guide will provide tips and strategies to help you succeed in the sport. From finding the right BJJ academy to building a supportive community, we’ll cover everything you need to know to start your BJJ journey. So, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned athlete, read on to learn how to unlock your full potential in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

What is Brazilian jiu-jitsu?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is one of the core martial arts of the Japanese system of jiu-jitsu. It focuses on the use of grappling and ground fighting. Through specific techniques, BJJ allows a practitioner to gain a dominant position over an opponent and submit them using joint locks, chokes, and other pressure point tactics. BJJ has become even more popular with the rise of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), as practitioners are adept at controlling their opponents while attempting to score submissions.

BJJ is a great martial art for self-defense. It teaches practitioners how to control an opponent without relying on strikes. This makes it an ideal martial art for those looking to learn self-defense without using excessive force. Additionally, BJJ is a great way to stay in shape, as it requires great physical conditioning and strength.

Before starting Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), it’s important to have a basic understanding of what the sport is and what it involves. BJJ is a grappling martial art that focuses on ground fighting and submissions. Here are some key aspects to consider:

  1. Origins and history: BJJ originated in Brazil in the early 20th century and is based on traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu. The Gracie family played a significant role in developing and popularizing the sport.
  2. Techniques and strategies: BJJ emphasizes technique, leverage, and timing over brute strength and physical ability. The sport includes a range of techniques, including joint locks, chokes, and pressure. It focuses on controlling an opponent’s movements and submissions.
  3. Physical and mental benefits: BJJ offers a range of physical and mental benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, increased strength and flexibility, and enhanced focus and mental resilience.
  4. Competitions and tournaments: BJJ offers opportunities for competition at various levels, from local tournaments to international championships. Competitions are typically divided by age, weight, and experience level.
  5. Belts and promotions: BJJ uses a belt system to denote a student’s level of skill and experience. The belt system begins with a white belt and progresses through blue, purple, brown, and black belts. Advancement in BJJ requires dedication, hard work, and consistent training.

Understanding these aspects of BJJ can help you decide whether the sport is right for you and prepare you for your journey in learning the art.

Finding a gym or training facility

Finding a gym or training facility is essential when starting Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The right gym can make a significant difference in your training experience, so it’s important to take the time to research and evaluate potential options. Here are some factors to consider when selecting a gym:

  1. Instructors: Look for a gym with experienced and qualified instructors with a strong BJJ background. Check their credentials, such as their belt rank and competition record, and read reviews from other students to gauge their teaching style and effectiveness.
  2. Facilities: The gym should have adequate space, equipment, and amenities to support your training needs. Check for clean and well-maintained training mats, changing rooms, and shower facilities.
  3. Class schedules: Make sure the gym offers class times that fit your schedule and have various classes for different levels of experience.
  4. Fees: The cost of training can vary significantly between gyms, so make sure you understand the fees and any additional costs, such as for equipment or tournaments.
  5. Culture and values: Find a gym that aligns with your values and training goals. The gym’s culture should be welcoming and supportive, and the training environment should be safe and respectful.

Once you have a list of potential gyms, visiting and observing a class is important. This will allow you to see the instructors in action, evaluate the gym’s facilities, and get a feel for the gym’s culture. You can also talk to other students and ask for their opinions on the gym.

Understanding the basics of Brazilian jiu-jitsu

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a grappling martial art focusing on ground fighting and submissions. Before starting training, it is essential to understand the basics of BJJ. This section will cover the terminology, concepts, and techniques used in BJJ, the fundamental positions and movements, basic submissions and joint locks, and basic defense techniques and strategies.

Terminology, concepts, and techniques used in BJJ

BJJ uses a unique set of terms that can be confusing for beginners. Some essential terms include “gi” (the uniform worn during training and competition), “guard” (a position where one fighter is on their back with their legs controlling their opponent), “mount” (a dominant position where one fighter is on top of their opponent), and “submission” (a technique used to force an opponent to tap out or surrender). In addition to these terms, BJJ also uses various techniques involving joint locks, chokes, and pressure.

Fundamental positions and movements

BJJ practitioners use a range of positions to control their opponents and transition between different techniques. The most common positions include the guard, half-guard, mount, and side control. Understanding the different positions and how to transition between them is essential for success in BJJ.

Basic submissions and joint locks

Submissions are an essential aspect of BJJ. They involve using techniques to force an opponent to tap out or surrender. Common submissions include the armbar, triangle choke, and rear-naked choke. Joint locks, such as the kimura and the ankle lock, are also commonly used in BJJ.

Basic defense techniques and strategies

BJJ is not just about attacking your opponent; it’s also about defending yourself from their attacks. Basic defense techniques include shrimping (a movement used to escape from the bottom position), framing (using your arms to create space and prevent your opponent from getting too close), and bridging (using your hips to create momentum and escape from a position).

Getting started with training

Once you understand BJJ and have found a gym or training facility, it’s time to start training. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  1. Gear up: BJJ requires specific gear, including a gi (uniform), belt, and mouthguard. Talk to your instructor or gym staff about the specific gear requirements for your training.
  2. Warm-up: Before each training session, warm up your body with stretching, mobility exercises, and light cardio. This will help prevent injuries and prepare your body for the physical demands of BJJ.
  3. Start slow: BJJ can be physically and mentally challenging, so it’s important to pace yourself and not overexert yourself initially. Focus on learning proper technique and gradually building strength and endurance.
  4. Ask questions: Be bold and ask questions of your instructor or more experienced training partners. BJJ has a steep learning curve, and everyone starts as a beginner. Asking questions can help you better understand techniques and strategies and accelerate your learning.
  5. Be consistent: Consistency is key to improving in BJJ. Commit to regular training and attend classes as often as possible. This will help you build muscle memory, develop a deeper understanding of the sport, and progress through the belt ranks.

Starting BJJ can be intimidating, but it can be a rewarding and fulfilling journey with the right mindset and approach. Remember to gear up properly, warm up before each session, start slow, ask questions, and consistently train. With dedication and hard work, you can achieve your goals in BJJ.

Developing a training plan

To progress in BJJ, developing a training plan that aligns with your goals and fits your lifestyle is important. Here are some steps to help you create an effective training plan:

  1. Set goals: Identify your short-term and long-term goals in BJJ. These goals include improving your technique, competing in tournaments, or achieving a higher belt rank. Make sure your goals are specific, measurable, and achievable.
  2. Assess your current level: Evaluate your current level of skill and fitness. This can help you identify areas to improve and create a plan to address them.
  3. Plan your training: Create a schedule that includes regular training sessions and additional activities, such as strength training or cardio. Make sure your training plan is realistic and fits with your other commitments.
  4. Focus on technique: Technique is a critical aspect of BJJ, so make sure your training plan includes dedicated time for practicing and refining your technique.
  5. Track your progress: Keep track of your progress by recording your training sessions, your performance in tournaments, and your improvement in specific techniques.
  6. Make adjustments: Be prepared to adjust your training plan as needed. If you need to progress in a particular area, adjust your training plan to focus more on that area. If you’re experiencing fatigue or injury, take a break or modify your training plan accordingly.

Developing a training plan can help you stay focused and motivated in your BJJ journey. By setting specific goals, assessing your current level, planning your training, focusing on technique, tracking your progress, and making adjustments as needed, you can create a plan that supports your growth and development in the sport.

Maintaining good nutrition and recovery practices

In addition to regular training, maintaining good nutrition and recovery practices is essential to progressing in BJJ. Here are some tips to help you fuel your body and optimize recovery:

  1. Hydrate: Staying hydrated is critical for overall health and athletic performance. Aim to drink at least 8-10 cups of water daily and more if you’re training intensively.
  2. Eat a balanced diet: A balanced diet that includes a variety of whole foods can provide the nutrients your body needs to function optimally. Focus on consuming lean protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and various fruits and vegetables.
  3. Fuel before and after training: Eating a small meal or snack before training can provide the energy you need to perform at your best. After training, aim to consume a meal or snack with protein and carbohydrates to aid recovery.
  4. Get enough rest: Rest and recovery are critical for muscle repair and growth. Aim to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night and include rest days in your training schedule.
  5. Stretch and foam roll: Stretching can help improve mobility, reduce soreness, and prevent injuries. Stretching and foam are regularly rolling, especially after intense training sessions.

Maintaining good nutrition and recovery practices can support your body’s needs and optimize your performance in BJJ. Focus on staying hydrated, eating a balanced diet, fueling before and after training, getting enough rest, and stretching and foam rolling regularly. Good nutrition and recovery practices can enhance your overall health, fitness, and BJJ progress.

Embracing the BJJ lifestyle

BJJ is more than just a sport or physical activity; it’s a lifestyle that involves discipline, respect, and community. Here are some ways you can embrace the BJJ lifestyle:

  1. Respect your training partners: BJJ is a combat sport that requires physical contact, so it’s important to show respect to your training partners. This includes avoiding rough or unsafe techniques, listening to your partner’s feedback, and being courteous and supportive.
  2. Be humble: BJJ is a humbling sport that requires a willingness to learn and grow. Embrace a humble attitude and be open to feedback and constructive criticism from your instructors and training partners.
  3. Build a community: BJJ is often referred to as a “family” because of the close bonds that form among practitioners. Take the time to get to know your training partners and build a supportive community around your training.
  4. Learn the history and culture of BJJ: BJJ has a rich history and culture that extends beyond physical practice. Take the time to learn about the origins of BJJ, its key figures, and traditions.
  5. Practice outside of the gym: BJJ can be practiced outside the gym, such as through attending seminars, watching instructional videos, or studying the sport’s history and philosophy.

Embracing the BJJ lifestyle can deepen your connection to the sport and enrich your overall experience. Show respect to your training partners, embrace a humble attitude, build a supportive community, learn about the history and culture of BJJ, and practice outside of the gym. By fully immersing yourself in the BJJ lifestyle, you can enhance your understanding and appreciation of this dynamic and challenging sport.

Continuing your education and growth in BJJ

BJJ is a lifelong journey that requires continuous learning and growth. Here are some ways you can continue your education and development in BJJ:

  1. Attend seminars and workshops: Seminars and workshops provide an opportunity to learn from experienced BJJ practitioners and gain new insights into the sport.
  2. Study videos and books: Some instructional videos cover many BJJ techniques and strategies. Take advantage of these resources to deepen your knowledge and understanding of the sport.
  3. Compete in tournaments: Competing in tournaments can help you gauge your progress, identify areas for improvement, and challenge yourself against other BJJ practitioners.
  4. Seek out mentorship and coaching: Finding a mentor or coach can provide valuable guidance and support as you progress in BJJ.
  5. Experiment with different styles and approaches: BJJ is a diverse and dynamic sport with various styles and approaches. Experiment with different techniques and strategies to find what works best for you.

Continuing your education and growth in BJJ can deepen your understanding of the sport and develop your skills and abilities as a practitioner. Attend seminars and workshops, study videos and books, compete in tournaments, seek mentorship and coaching, and experiment with different styles and approaches. With a commitment to ongoing learning and growth, you can continue challenging yourself and reach new levels of excellence in BJJ.

Staying injury-free in BJJ

Injuries are a common risk in any combat sport, including BJJ. However, you can take steps to minimize the risk of injury and stay safe on the mat. Here are some tips for staying injury-free in BJJ:

  1. Warm up properly: Before any training session or competition, warm up properly to prepare your body for the physical demands of BJJ. This can include stretching, light cardio, and mobility exercises.
  2. Use proper technique: Proper technique is critical for minimizing the risk of injury in BJJ. Focus on maintaining good form and using controlled movements during training and competition.
  3. Communicate with your training partners: Communicating with your training partners is essential for staying safe on the mat. Let your partners know if you have any injuries or limitations, and avoid training with rough or unsafe people.
  4. Listen to your body: Pay attention to your body and take breaks or modify your training if you feel pain or discomfort. Ignoring pain or pushing through injuries can lead to more serious injuries and long-term damage.
  5. Wear appropriate gear: Wearing appropriate gear, such as a mouthguard, rash guard, and protective cups, can help reduce the risk of injury in BJJ.

By taking these steps, you can minimize the risk of injury and stay safe while training and competing in BJJ. Warm up properly, use proper technique, communicate with your training partners, listen to your body, and wear appropriate gear. With a focus on injury prevention, you can continue to train and progress in BJJ while staying safe and healthy.

Finding a supportive BJJ community

Finding a supportive BJJ community can be a key factor in your success and enjoyment of the sport. Here are some ways you can find and build a supportive BJJ community:

  1. Join a BJJ academy: Joining a BJJ academy is a great way to meet other BJJ practitioners and build a sense of community around the sport. Look for an academy that aligns with your goals and values and has a welcoming and supportive environment.
  2. Attend open mats: Many BJJ academies hold open mats, where practitioners from different schools and affiliations can train and build relationships. Attend these open mats to meet new people and learn from different perspectives.
  3. Use social media: Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram can be a great way to connect with other BJJ practitioners and build a supportive community. Join BJJ groups or follow BJJ influencers to stay up-to-date on sports news and events.
  4. Volunteer and give back: Giving back to the BJJ community through volunteering or teaching can help you build connections and contribute to the growth and development of the sport.
  5. Support others: Supporting other BJJ practitioners in their journeys can help build a sense of community and foster a positive and supportive environment. Attend competitions to cheer on your teammates and training partners, and offer encouragement and support when needed.

Finding and building a supportive BJJ community can enhance your sports experience and help you grow as a practitioner. Join a BJJ academy, attend open mats, use social media, volunteer and give back, and support others in their journeys. With a supportive community, you can push yourself to new levels of success and enjoyment in BJJ.


In conclusion, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu can be a rewarding and challenging sport that offers physical and mental benefits for practitioners of all levels. By following the tips outlined above, you can start your BJJ journey with confidence and success.

Recap of key points and tips:

  • Start with a beginner’s class
  • Focus on fundamental techniques
  • Consistency is key
  • Stay injury-free
  • Build a supportive community

It’s important to remember that learning BJJ is a never-ending journey. With each training session, competition, or roll, there is always something new to learn and improve. It’s a lifelong journey of learning and self-discovery that can provide endless opportunities for growth and development.

So, whether you want to improve your physical fitness, gain self-defense skills, or try something new, take the first step and start practicing BJJ. With dedication, hard work, and the support of your community, you can achieve your goals and unlock your full potential in this exciting and dynamic sport.

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Finn Mitoma

Founder @ The Combative

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