If a BJJ academy has the capacity for them, fundamentals classes can be a great way for beginners to learn the basics of jiu-jitsu before (or in addition to) getting overwhelmed with more advanced techniques.
Fundamentals classes aren’t just for new jiu-jitsu practitioners, though. Even if you could do armbars and flower sweeps in your sleep, these “basic” classes can help improve your understanding of jiu-jitsu techniques you already know and even teach you something new.
Many of us learn simple BJJ techniques on the fly or as “side notes” rather than in full, comprehensive lessons. Lots of fundamental techniques are used in class as building blocks to more complicated techniques instead of as the focus of the lessons themselves. Plenty of jiu-jitsu students can remember a time they helped a newer student learn a basic technique — say, a simple closed guard break — so that they could then move on to drill the actual technique of the day. Chances are good that, despite your best efforts to be thorough, the explanation was at least a little rushed and not as detailed as you might’ve hoped to make it. But hey, now the newbie knows the basics of how to break guard, and surely they’ll get the opportunity to refine the technique at some point, right?
Well, maybe. In all-levels or advanced jiu-jitsu classes, an instructor isn’t likely to spend a lot of time going over a move most students learned within their first month or two of jiu-jitsu. Chances are good that the quick summary of the technique will be all that student has to work with, and while they’ll surely figure out what works and doesn’t work for them as they progress, they may be missing out on key details that would’ve been covered in a proper class on the move.
If your academy has a fundamentals class, though, you can get this opportunity to re-learn the basics as they were meant to be learned. Even if you’re years into your jiu-jitsu journey, revisiting a basic technique and spending time drilling it can be an eye-opening experience. Your coach may know details about “basic” submissions that can drastically increase your finishing rate — details that may have been skipped over the first time you saw the move or figured it out on your own.
Beyond this, having another experienced jiu-jitsu practitioner in fundamentals class can be super helpful for newer athletes. Some people thrive when they have to work through techniques with someone else who isn’t quite sure what to do, but many others need to be walked through the movements even after the coach has demonstrated the technique a few times. Being around to partner up with newer practitioners can help them learn quicker… and teaching the move yourself might help you learn more about it as well.
Even if you put all the direct effects aside, attending fundamentals class can be just one more excuse to get into the gym and train. Sometimes, having an “easy” class that doesn’t send our brains into overdrive can be refreshing, much like how your body feels a bit less sore after a day of rest. If you’ve been getting frustrated with yourself in more advanced classes, it can help to go back to the basics. You still get your training in, but since you likely know the material being taught, you can spend some time working on refining details instead of trying to cram a lot of big information into your head.
Fundamentals are fundamentals because they work. You need to learn the building blocks of jiu-jitsu, and you can only benefit from reviewing them again in a structured learning environment. If you’re using basic guard passes or submissions or sweeps every time you roll, you’re only doing yourself a disservice by thinking of yourself as “too advanced” to learn them again and pick up on new details.
Whether you’re a day-one white belt or an experienced brown belt, fundamentals classes in BJJ can be an important asset on your journey. If your gym offers them, take advantage of them even if you’re already using the techniques in your game on a daily basis. You never know if you’ll learn something you didn’t even know you didn’t know.