The Unknowns of Jiu Jitsu: Part One

The Unknowns of BJJ – Part One
By: Daniel Frank

     When starting out in jiu jitsu, you can only prepare yourself so much by watching classes live, scanning an endless supply of videos, reading books, and talking to others. There are quite a few unique experiences that the jiu jitsu practitioner must go through at the start of their jiu jitsu journey in order to fully understand them.

Weak Skin/Bruises

“Weak skin” and bruises occur most often with new students who are not frequently barefoot and for those who bruise easily. When doing basic, barefoot drills on the mat for the first couple of weeks the practitioner’s foot needs to ‘toughen’ up a bit. Blisters and torn skin often lead to a multitude of Band-aids and tape. Fret not! Your feet will grow accustomed to the wear and tear. Weak skin can’t last forever. Pretty soon you can walk on fire. Beware though. Extended time off of the mats will make even the toughest gym rat’s feet transition back to the ‘weak skin’ stage.  Bruises are another thing altogether. Bruises will show up anywhere on your body that an opponent can think of to grab you. Bruises will occur in the most unlikely of places, too. You didn’t think you could bruise your eyelid, did you? Surprise! Jiu jitsu. The bruises will subside also, enjoy the look while you can.

Your Strange Outfit

Once you have started learning gi jiu jitsu, you may have noticed that you are now cuddling your new besties while dressed in some weird pajamas. This leads us all to a few unique experiences themselves.

Wearing pants is not as easy as it seems – Jiu jitsu gi pants are not like your normal pants. The drawstring is fickle. Besides moving around, needing constant adjusting, continually tying and retying it, the drawstring can come completely out of your pants. Just remember to have the loops facing forwards and pull the drawstring out to the sides to cinch the waist. If you have any problems, don’t be afraid to tell your instructor that pants bewilder you.

All gi sizes are not created equal – There are many different gi brands. Each brand is unique in its material, look, and size. An A2 size gi in one brand is not necessarily the same A2 size with another brand. There are now specific gi sizes for long, short, thin, and husky people. The gi game is a new and sometimes confusing one. Follow charts as best as you can, but it might end up coming down to trial and error. Unfortunately, I have had to gift many a gi when I found out that the fit was not for me.

That smell could be you – Hopefully you haven’t walked away from a roll thinking, ‘that person stank’, just to realize that it was you. Hygiene is very important in jiu jitsu. Regular showers, deodorant, clipped nails, and a laundered gi are necessary. Wash your gi as soon as possible after training and dry it completely, either air dry or in the dryer. Contrary to popular belief, you cannot roll and then hang your sweaty, smelly gi in the sun and magically eliminate all bacteria and odor. Wash it. Dry it. You do not want to be known around the gym as the dreaded ‘Stinky Person’.

Training and Rolling

There is something very important for beginners of jiu jitsu to learn, eventually there will be someone worse than you. There are two ways that you can look at this epiphany. You can use this person as a chance to finally do some of the awesome submissions you have learned. Or, you can be a helpful guide and a valuable mentor to this poor soul who knows nothing of jiu jitsu. Remember, it is still okay to submit someone you are helping. Multiple times, if need be.

Jiu jitsu has a lot of rules when it comes to training in the academy or competing on the mats. There are rules regarding gear, conduct, points, and submissions. There are many unwritten rules to be learned. There are also tons of new experiences and the unknowns. Things to experience for the first time, and hopefully, sometimes, the last.

There are many more unknowns to be known in part two of this article, coming soon…

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