When a person first ties on their first white belt, they have no idea as to the challenges ahead… The first month of BJJ can be very tough on a beginner. The beginner has no idea about what’s going on, and is probably very out of condition. The warm up and limbering phase alone can drain a beginner’s energy reserves, and that’s before the real training begins.
For many people, their first days on the mat are a round of alternating exhaustion and incomprehension, as they try to, for example, pass an opponent’s guard without even knowing what a guard is.
And then there’s sparring, which can be quite depressing, as a beginner is bound to be submitted by even a white belt with some experience.
So how does a beginner survive the first stage of BJJ?
Let’s break that down into bite-sized sections.
First, there’s the physical conditioning.
This really is the core of getting adapted to BJJ, since it’s difficult to actually adapt to anything if you can’t think straight because you’re near exhaustion. Fortunately, this is the part that comes easiest. Even if you were very out of condition when you began BJJ, and even if doing countless pushups drives you into a near-coma, all you have to do is stick with it, class after class.
This stage of BJJ takes a dogged determination to ‘just keep coming back’.
Yes, all you have to do to get through the conditioning part of starting BJJ is just come back, class after class, and keep trying to do what everyone else in the class (except absolute beginners like yourself) find so easy.
And that’s all that’s needed.
Before the first two weeks are out, you’ll notice a considerable increase in your stamina, and find that you’re actually able to think straight past the physical conditioning part of the training session.
One month into the training, and the physical conditioning will start to feel a lot easier – two months into the training and you’ll be doing it effortlessly.
The key to surviving grappling and sparring (especially a higher belt) is also rather simple – don’t panic, and admit your ignorance.
When you have no clue as to how to go about grappling, it can be quite a frightening experience to roll with someone twice your size who seems determined to crush you into the mat.
Keep calm, focus on your breathing, and try to not only move your body out of that unpleasant situation, but also think your body out of that unpleasant situation.
Not that you’ll be successful – at first. But by the end of the first month, you’ll be successful occasionally against other white belts. And by the end of the second month you’ll even be tapping out your fellow black belts – if you’re lucky, perhaps as often as they tap you out.
And suddenly you’ll realize that you’re not a beginner any more – you’re just a white belt.
But everyone starts somewhere, right?
After all, you don’t get as tired at the end of a physical conditioning session, you don’t panic when you’re rolling with someone twice your weight, and you occasionally tap out your fellow beginners and white belts.
Life is suddenly beautiful, and you realize that while being a white belt is really the lowest rung on the BJJ ladder, it’s still a far cry above being that extremely despicable animal you were at the beginning – the beginner at BJJ.
And as you climb the ranks – slowly – for progress is slow in BJJ, you must never forget the lessons of your first days on the mat.
Especially when you see new ‘beginners at BJJ’.
Extend to them the compassion and assistance that only one can who has not forgotten their own first days on the mat.