Brain Clutter

September 12, 2007

Confessions of a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Newbie: Day 1

Filed under: brazilian jiu jitsu, fitness, health, martial arts, MMA, personal — brainclutter @ 1:46 pm

Leading Edge MMAShrimping. Drawing guard. Sweeping to a dominant position. These were just some of the elements we practiced in my first ever Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class last night at Leading Edge MMA.

Hello. My name is Brooke, and I’m a martial arts newbie! This series, Confessions of a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Newbie, will be my way of tracking some of the exercises learned in my BJJ classes. I’ll also link to useful outside resources in an effort to make it somewhat comprehensive and usable by people other than myself.

Alright, let’s get started!

Let me start by explaining my sports background and reasons for starting up BJJ classes. I’m a fairly active guy who plays hockey one to two times per week (as a goalie) year ’round, softball twice per week in the spring/summer, and lifts weights at the gym (moderately two to three times per week). My current statistics are 27 years-old, 6’5″, 205lbs with about 14% body fat. The primary reasons for learning BJJ are to increase my stamina, focus, and flexibility, and yes, even to learn some of the moves I’ve been such a fan of in Pride FC and UFC (joint locks, choke holds, and sweeps).

In preparation for my first class, I read a few articles so I wasn’t a complete noob:

Armed with this rudimentary knowledge, I set off to the one and a half hour class with a pair of sport shorts, a fitted t-shirt, twenty groomed finger and toe nails (perhaps the most important step of all?), and an open mind.

I arrived a few minutes early to introduce myself but couldn’t immediately distinguish the instructors from the students because the previous MMA and Combat Hapkido classes was still in progress. Once the classes were over, myself and two other newbies (though they each had four months of training at a different academy) asked if we could participate in a free, introductory session to feel out the class. We were welcomed and asked to join the other students on the mats.

Warm-ups consisted of about 15 minutes of rolling (free sparring) at 50% intensity (tournament intensity is considered 100%), which I didn’t take part in because I wasn’t very comfortable with having never taken a class before. Also, some people were putting in a lot more effort than 50%, so it was slightly intimidating. Instead, I spent the time observing and stretching.

After everyone was warmed up, the instructor came out and started giving us some drills. He took note of the newbies in the crowd, and since this was the first session back after a bit of a summer break for many people, he concentrated on some of the “basics.”

  • Shrimping – A fundamental hip movement from your back used in many escapes
  • Two escapes from a kneeling position (when you’ve given up your back)
    • Variation one: You’re kneeling with face to ground while opponent is trapping you down in a forwards facing clinch. Step one is to plant your hands near his knees and lift your butt into the air while your toes stay on the mat. Step two is to creep backwards to throw off their balance – they will now be leaning forwards with a weaker center of gravity. Step three is to pop your head out to the left side (can be done to either side) while maintaining contact of your cheek to his ribs, plant your right knee firmly on the mat towards the same side as your head (left in this case), and reach your left elblow and shoulder towards the sky, while looking up (maintaining face-to-rib contact). This step should result in breaking his grip around your torso/stomach/hips. Step four is to bring your left leg, followed by your body around to the left side, rolling your face to the opposite cheek. This should take you out of his dominant position. Clinch up around his torso with your arms or legs and try to gain his back (leading you into a potential submission).
    • Variation two: Start in the same position and buck up the hips in the same fashion as the previous example. Now, pop your head out to one side and shoot the leg from that same side between his legs and hook his opposite leg (to your head). If successful, you’re now in half guard. You can then try for a half-guard sweep shown in this image. You want to grab under the knee of the leg that isn’t trapped, bridge with your hips, and roll over the trapped leg.
  • Upa variation – A bridge-and-roll technique from half guard
  • Basic guard 1 – One person tries to pass from standing, while the other defends with legs and hands from his back
  • Basic guard 2 – One person tries to pass from standing, while the other defends with hook pressure of the feet only (no hands allowed), while on his back
  • Basic guard 3 – Transitioning from full guard to butterfly guard to half guard, and back again

After these drills, which took about 45 minutes of the class, we were left with about 30 minutes for free-sparring. This is the time when the students are supposed to apply what they learned in the class and do a little bit of medium intensity freestyle, putting themselves in various positions (dominant, neutral, or submissive). Again, I opted out of rolling for a bit of discussion and one-on-one training with the instructor. I asked several questions about belt grading, tournaments, scheduling, training costs, gi vs. no-gi, etc. I explained my goals for BJJ training to give him an idea of what I was in it for.

It was explained that I could also participate in the MMA or cage fighting side of BJJ, but I think it’s a bit too early to make that judgment. I’ve never been much for striking, or for that matter, getting struck, so I doubt I’ll pursue that avenue of training. I’m definitely interested in advancing through the different belts and participating the sport BJJ tournaments as I’m driven by a sense of competition.

Overall, I had a very good experience with the training. I started out with a bit of trepidation because it felt slightly intimidating seeing a bunch of guys with much more skill than me free sparring against each other. After learning a few of the basic moves, I feel confident that I’ll participate in the rolling component in the near future. According to one of the articles I linked to above, the motto should be “position before submission,” so that’s where I’ll be focusing my efforts. In the tournaments, you can flat-out win by submission, but if the match goes to the score cards, all your points will be coming from the various positions you gained during the fight.

So, those are some reflections after my first class of BJJ. I should mention that I did sustain a bit of a pulled neck as I turned my head the wrong way whilst getting swept by a 250lb gentleman. I’m going to have to take it easy on that and pop a couple ibuprofen before my next session on Thursday! I believe we’ll be introducing the gi tomorrow, and I’m pretty excited about that!

My plan is the write up a summary after each of my classes, so stay tuned if you found this interesting.

Update #1: Dangit, I can’t make it out to class tonight because my neck is still pretty sore. Next week I’m off to the west coast, so I’ll be missing two classes there as well. The plan is to get into a good routine starting on Tuesday, September 25, 2007. A friend, who is an out of practice black belt and previous national champion in Judo has challenged me to a sparring match this Christmas when he visits town. There’s some major motivation for ya! =P



  1. PLEASE UPDATE YOUR ULTIMATE PVP GEAR GUIDE FOR SHADOW PRIESTS!!!!!! I’m trying to find a list of the absolute, best gear in the game for Arena. There is nothing on the net!


    Comment by anon — September 19, 2007 @ 1:30 pm

  2. Hah, I’ll go through the databases sometime next week.


    Comment by brainclutter — September 20, 2007 @ 10:10 am

  3. Good luck with the sparring challenge. Those Judo guys can be tricky. Don’t let him set you up.

    Comment by JiuJitsu365 — November 17, 2007 @ 8:46 am

  4. Thanks! It should be an interesting match up. Having trained with him a few times many years ago I’m familiar with some of his favorite takedowns, but I hope he doesn’t get crafty. 😛 I’ve only got 9 BJJ classes under my belt now and I’m weak on applying submissions (because I only know a few different chokes). I’m hoping to make it a draw.

    Comment by brainclutter — November 17, 2007 @ 9:55 am

  5. I enjoy martial arts training with my husband. He has over 20 years in the arts. I enjoyed the comments.

    Comment by Shannon Eileen — December 13, 2007 @ 11:11 pm

  6. So what happened? I started at the exact same time and was looking forward to comparing notes. You still going?

    Comment by Dave — January 1, 2008 @ 1:05 pm

  7. Hi Dave,

    I pulled my groin playing hockey and missed about 4 weeks in a row. Since then, I haven’t made it back to any classes. 😦 I’m hoping to start back up in the early new year but hockey has kept me busy three days per week, plus I’m locked into a gym membership for another few months.

    Comment by brainclutter — January 1, 2008 @ 8:47 pm

  8. I am actually resting [and meditating] after my first ever kung-fu class last night. Great going, will go back. Wish me luck…lots of it…

    Comment by Dea Fulgora — June 3, 2008 @ 2:22 pm

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