A few thoughts from a white belt
I stand opposite my instructor, a man in his forties, about a head shorter than me and at least 10kg lighter. Physically, I have this guy covered in all aspects, so keeping him pinned to the floor should be a breeze, right?
Wrong. Very Wrong
Before I can blink I’ve been flipped over, mounted, and had my arm bent at the joint forcing me to tap out. No force. No struggle. Just pure technique had left me dumbfounded as nothing I tried seemed to work. I’d consider myself a pretty athletic guy, so I was humbled to say the least! My instructor shoots me a cheeky grin and starts to slow things down, explaining exactly what he did and how he did it.
Then and there is where my Jiu Jitsu fascination began. Less than an hour into my first session I realise there is much, much more to this martial art than meets the eye. For an outsider, it may look like a rough-and-tumble sport, but to the initiated it is a contest based on skill, focus, and prediction. There are literally an infinite number of ways you can play the game. Each and every time you step onto that mat your game improves just a little bit more.
I’m not gonna lie, if you’re a newcomer reading this, the next few months of your Jiu Jitsu life are going to be the hardest of them all. Not only will it test you physically, it will test your patience and perhaps most of all your willpower. The best piece of advice I can provide a fellow newbie is to just accept the fact that you’re going to get submitted. After that, get up, tidy up your Gi, and go again! The faster you learn to accept the reality that the more experienced guys will always manage to catch you out, the more fun you’ll have in those first few months.
Also, don’t panic! It’s a little scary at first when first get choked out, it’s certainly not something the body is used to. Just stay calm, respect your limits, and you’ll come out injury free! Which leads on to another habit you should pick up as a beginner white belt: Ask questions!
Question everything! Every time you roll or drill a technique remember to break it down and think how you can do it better. When rolling anyone with a coloured belt, chances are they’ll pull off a move that will make you say ‘How the hell did you do that?’ They will be more than happy to show it to you, and then you can pass that knowledge onto someone else!
An excellent piece of advice my Head Instructor, David Tong, gave to me in my second month of Jiu Jitsu, was not to compare myself to others, but rather, compare myself to where I was when I first started. If you keep this in mind when rolling, your motivation will never leave you. Even in my short time at the gym, I’ve seen plenty come and go, perhaps they felt frustrated about constantly being submitted, or maybe it just wasn’t for them. Whatever their reasons, I hope any newcomers reading this have the mental toughness to see out the hard yards and reap the rewards! Your body will thank you; BJJ is a guaranteed way to get fit, strong, fast and flexible.
If there is one word to describe the mindset of a newbie it is curious. Curiosity is what brings most people to the mat in the first place. Many newcomers, including myself, have no idea how Jiu Jitsu operates and couldn’t pick it from a line-up of martial arts. It is the initial interest in wanting to learn a new skill and then following through with that first lesson that sets you on your way. My Jiu Jitsu knowledge started at square one. Curiosity took me to my first lesson, and curiosity is what keeps me searching for new moves, whether it be a submission, a sweep, or a sequence. Be curious as to how you can improve even the simplest of movements.
Pretty soon Jiu Jitsu will be all you think about. Before you know it, you’ll be on YouTube till the early hours of the morning watching instructional videos and the best of UFC submissions. Get ready to be obsessed!
// Rowan McClatchey