I began my BJJ journey nearly 12 years ago and like most starting out I had many insecurities surrounding starting something new. I can still remember making excuses not to go, turning up in the car park and then driving home or just trying to get through a class as quickly as possible so to limit the time of doing/saying something stupid. I loved BJJ from the moment I started and that was what always drove me to push through the worries I had surrounding training until I felt comfortable with the people I met and the technical challenge of classes.
It's been a while since I was the newbie at class but as the new year approaches there will no doubt be another wave of fresh blood coming to the gym to try BJJ. With it will bring many different characters all of which will have lots of mixed feelings attached to starting something new. Each new starter will be asking themselves, Will I fit in?, Can I handle the physical aspect of Martial Arts?, Am I too Old?, Will classes/people be intimidating?
The following tips are methods that I used (knowingly or not) to survive the first year of martial arts training. I believe after the first year classes become more fun as you are no longer a beginner so training is more fulfilling and by that time you will have integrated into the team. In the mean time these tips will get you through that first year.
1. Nobody starts out great - The hardest thing for adults to come to terms with is being terrible at new things, this is a lot of the time why we avoid trying anything new. Accept early on that you will make mistakes (lots of them) and that this is all a big part of learning. Everyone else at one point was bad at BJJ even the coach, so they will always have empathy towards that fact. If you can turn up to classes without your ego and just learn you will quickly improve.
2. Don't wait to get fit - I hear this all the time that someone contacts me and tells me they will start once they get in shape. No one in the history of BJJ went and got in militant shape before training BJJ. Don't get me wrong people in shape start BJJ but no one goes out of their way if they are already out of shape. Just start. The best part about doing BJJ is that a side effect of enjoying the training is getting in better shape . Doing BJJ should be the priority everything else is a bonus.
3. You're not too old - People of all ages can train BJJ. Most of the time you can train at your own pace even with the sparring aspect. Being too old is just an excuse. I have 50 year olds that train with me and spar hard too. If anything training at a ripe age will force you to clean up your diet and start treating your body better than you most likely were before BJJ.
4. Fitting in - I feel that peoples biggest fear in starting anything new is feeling useless at something or being laughed at for trying. When you first join a new group there will always be that fitting in period where you are learning peoples names, the etiquette at the gym etc. It usually only takes the initial couple of months to get to know people and realise that everyone started somewhere just like you and will be very helpful when it comes to giving advice and supporting one another. If you turn up once every two months though don't expect people to know your name, which brings me on to the most important tip of all.....
5. Just Turn Up - After all is said and done the best way to make friends and get better at Jiu-Jitsu is to turn up consistently. I have a lot of students that have managed to get through the door and start but they are very sporadic with training so don't really integrate with the team or really improve that fast at Jiu-Jitsu. Even if you intend to come once a week commit to it. Make that day the day that no matter what happens you turn up to train even if you feel you are having the worst day, chances are you will feel much better after training. Once you start to turn up weekly without fail you will start to see the difference. In a year you will know everyone else who trains regularly and you will also be starting to get good at BJJ.
In summary, your BJJ journey starts now, Pick up the phone and book in for your first session. From then on commit to participating in classes every week. In no time the years will fly by and you will have a hobby that brings you a sense of belonging along with being a bad ass!