🇧🇷 BJJ: Back to Zero

Last year, I decided to start taking Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu classes as I was looking for a new outlet in life, and figured I’d learn a useful skill why I was at it. Like most people do when starting something new, I went all-in. I went to class three to four times per week.

During that time, I got my first stripe, and then my second one. However, by the time I got my second, I was feeling a little disenchanted with the school’s program. Not the people, they were great. But the program was becoming boring.

My last class was in October 2023.

There were a few reasons why I stopped going:

Allow me to explain a bit more that second point.

A little about the Gracie Jiu-jitsu method.

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu has a focus on self-defensive over sport. I actually preferred this approach initially because I’m not interested in competing, and I was a little intimidated about starting.

However, I later found out that their format is pretty rigid.

There is no sparring (called “rolling”) for the first 8-12 months. Not even 50% positional sparring. This doesn’t come until you have “passed” out of the fundamentals stage, at which point you get a little more sparring.

To move onto this level, you need four stripes, to take each of the 36 classes three times, and then to train for a pretty big test where you demonstrate the 36 in a sequenced progression.

If you pass, you then get a special belt (white with a blue stripe in the middle) and are permitted to some of the higher-level classes that do include some controlled rolling.

Why I cancelled my membership.

For me, the classes became boring due to the repetition and no practical application. Everything was simulated with a non-resisting opponent. This was fine in the beginning, but after 50 hours or so of learning, I wanted an opportunity to apply what I have learned.

For example, if the class was about the rear naked choke, then you had the same class that you had the last time you took that same one. You practice the move with a partner who lets you apply everything without any real resistance. Literally nothing changes. This became pretty boring after a while.

The non-resisting aspect, in my mind, gave people unfounded confidence. I’d train with four stripe white belts who would attempt to teach me all the time. I respected that they had put in more hours than me, but at the end of the day, they were still a novice. They hadn’t even tested their skills with a resisting opponent.

While the instructors were very good at my gym (I liked them quite a bit), the one thing that stood out to me was that all of them would regularly train at other gyms as well. The gym owner got his black belt in the traditional way. Learning, rolling, and competing a little. He didn’t get it from a Gracie certified training center. That was eye-opening for me.

I am starting 2024 at a new gym.

California has no shortage of BJJ options. I did a ton of research and narrowed it down to four that were within 15 minutes of my home (better than the 25-30 of my previous gym).

I’ll spare the finer details, but I chose one that has a smaller number of students, but a high ratio of black belts to white belts.

In my first class, there were five of us:

My first day, I did positional sparring with everyone. As a reminder, I didn’t do this even once after six months at my other gym. Sure, the higher belts just toyed with me. I felt like I had a competing chance against the other (more experienced) white belt, but he too was more practiced in rolling.

For me, the combination of instruction (both judo and ground technique), small class sizes, and proximity to my home, all won me over. Plus, the head instructor was really cool. Very personable, knowledgeable, and just a nice guy all around.

At the moment, I’m trying to incorporate two classes per week into my schedule, but hope to do three when time allows.

My goal by the end of the year is to feel more comfortable in the fundamentals, and maybe have a stripe or two on the belt. It’s 18mo to 3yrs to get a blue belt, so I have a long way to go until (or if) that day comes. For now, I’ll just focus on learning.


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