If you’ve committed to showing up to your first jiu-jitsu class ever, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed. BJJ puts a lot of people out of their comfort zones, and starting a new athletic endeavor can be nerve-wracking. While you’ll never be fully prepared for a completely new experience, here are a few things you can prepare yourself for as you approach your first day of BJJ:
1. You will be lost.
One of my favorite things my coach has ever said is, “If you have questions, you’re in the right place.” Every jiu-jitsu class is a new learning experience for almost everyone, from the newbies to the veterans. On your first day, though, you are definitely going to be a bit overwhelmed. You’re going to hear people using terms you’ve never heard before, and everyone else’s warm-up is going to be a serious challenge in making your body do weird stuff for you. You will likely retain anywhere between nothing to a very small portion of what you learn on day one. And that’s ok! Literally everyone in that room with you has been where you are, and they all kept showing up until it got less confusing day by day. If you feel like an expert on your first day, you should be going somewhere else that will challenge you more.
2. You will be exhausted.
If you think you’re in bad shape, you’re probably right. If you think you’re in good shape, you’re probably wrong, at least when it comes to jiu-jitsu. Grappling requires you to be a very specific type of “in shape,” and while you’ll probably have an easier time if you’re a life-long gym rat than if you’ve previously avoided exercise, you are almost guaranteed to be tired and sore after class. Bring a large bottle of water; even if you don’t think you’re sweating a lot, you’ll be able to focus and stay better energized if you stay hydrated. As your body adjusts, you’ll gain muscle mass, lose fat, and be better equipped to handle the kind of workout that BJJ gives you.
3. You’ll be in close contact with strangers.
A lot of people think they’ll be fine rolling around on the ground with people they don’t know, but when it actually happens, it feels a bit weird. If you don’t mind sharing your personal space with other people, the adjustment will be less dramatic for you, but you’ll still have to contend with people of all shapes, sizes, and smells sitting on you and holding you in weird positions. Trust me, though — you’ll get used to it.
4. You’ll probably feel awkward.
One of the best things about jiu-jitsu is that it gives you the chance to build a solid friend group as an adult. But before that happens, you need to get over the hump of being an “outsider” in a large group of people who all know each other. Any gym with a decent internal culture will make sure that you don’t feel left out (on your first day or any day), but there will, of course, be etiquette and procedures that you aren’t aware of. That’s ok, though! No one will expect you to know it all on day one. Just be respectful like you would in any classroom setting, and you’ll learn everything else with time.
5. You’ll have fun!
Jiu-jitsu is many things — challenging, exhausting, confusing, you name it. But most of all, it’s rewarding. No matter what your reasons are for trying it out, if you stick with it, you’ll find many more reasons to keep training. Jiu-jitsu is an opportunity to wrestle and play around on the floor like kids, and many people sadly don’t get that type of interaction as adults. Your first class will likely be at least a little overwhelming, but hopefully you can come away from it feeling intrigued and pleased with yourself for trying something new. Keep coming back, and one day, you’ll be the experienced grappler helping a newcomer like yourself to feel more welcome in the gym!