You know those moments in your life when you start something new, and you feel like you know literally nothing about the subject matter? It is a feeling which leaves you overwhelmed by an interesting combination of fear, anxiety, excitement and curiosity. You ask yourself how well you might do, and while also potentially considering the worst possible scenario, there is also a thought that says “I’m going to kick ass…how hard can this really be? If I just believe in myself and hunker down, I’ll be fine!”
Let me say this: If you believe that you can go into a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class for the first time and whoop some ass, I HIGHLY urge you to try and prove it. Chances are, you’ll find yourself on the ass end of a choke…but you can’t learn unless you know how it feels 🙂
Now as a small disclaimer, I would like to let you know that I have taken a no-gi BJJ class once before, so this is technically my second class overall, but my first with a gi. I’ve actually had my gi for about 7 months, but just never mustered up the courage to throw it on and get on the mat. I’ve always been a bit hesitant to try new things, but I suppose it is human nature to fear things that you do not fully understand. Of course, I think it takes an entirely different kind of personality to volunteer yourself into a combative environment, especially with experienced grapplers. All that being said, I learned a few things that I felt were worth sharing.
Firstly, I learned what I believe is a loop choke from your closed guard (which is a position in which you are on your back and your legs are interlocked around your opponent’s back so that you can limit his or her mobility). Essentially, the loop choke demonstrated is one of most complicated things I’ve ever seen done in a grappling exchange, and I can’t conceivably see myself using it in a real-time scenario until I’m quite experienced. It requires maneuvering of your opponent’s gi, and flawless execution. Nevertheless, it was quite the move to learn for my first time, and highly effective I might add.
Secondly, I learned that it does not truly matter what level you are when you walk into a BJJ class; you will always be welcome. My experience is at the moment limited to the UFC Gym in Soho, but from everything I’ve heard from experienced practitioners and competitors, most BJJ gyms have quite a welcoming environment in which even beginners who have absolutely no exposure will be shown the ropes from more experienced classmates. There were no intimidation tactics, nothing that made it seem like I was a fish out of water. I was even lucky enough to have someone with experience go out of his way to walk me through the drills, and he did not once make me feel like I was slowing him down. As I gain more experience, I’ll be sure to pay it forward with a budding BJJ enthusiast that I may meet during one of these classes.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I was reminded that when you accept a challenge that you’ve presented to yourself, there is nothing quite as fulfilling. Granted, I’m at the very beginning of my BJJ journey, but one of the most challenging things about the initiation of this journey was actually getting myself to the gym and stepping onto that mat in the first place. It is so much easier said than done, and so glamorous in thought. BJJ is arguably the most important and necessary martial art to know and understand for any professional fighter. If you are defenseless on the ground, you are a guppy waiting to be fed to the sharks. To my point, just the thought of being choked into submission was incredibly nerve racking, but I knew I had to do this in order to make the proper strides in both my understanding of martial arts, and my need to overcome hurdles that are in front of me just waiting to my jumped. That is precisely why it felt so rewarding to cross the first threshold, and now I am confident that I will be able to further my learnings despite the fears that will remain.
Can’t wait for the next new experience!