8 Beginner BJJ & Grappling TipsBy
Most people can throw some sort of punch which enables them to jump into stand up sparring and at least do something offensive in the beginning. When it comes to groundwork training things are quite different; most people don’t have a clue as to what to do. If the matted area that you grapple on was an ocean, a well trained BJJ student would be a shark and you, being new, can’t even swim yet. Now that’s Scary!
The good news is that there are a few things that you can incorporate into your rolling and overall training mindset that will bring things into the proper perspective, take some pressure off of you, make you a little harder to tap out and cause your training to be way more fun.
Here they are…
1. Guard Your Arms!
Extending your arms to push a rolling opponent away from you at the wrong time is one of the quickest ways to get yourself submitted. There are times when you should push with fully extended arms but in the beginning you unfortunately won’t know when it’s a safe time to do so. Therefore, It’s a good idea to try to keep both of your arms close to your body at all times, rarely extending them past a 90 degree angle. If you do get arm locked –you probably still will from time to time– try to recognize how your opponent caught you and the next time your find yourself in that same position, work even harder to protect your arms!
2. Guard your Neck!
It’s pretty much guaranteed that you will be choked into submission often when your first start rolling (sparring) with live opponents. Keep this from happening way too much by guarding your neck in several different ways; first don’t let them grab inside your collars with their hands if you’re training with a gi on; secondly avoid putting your head and neck underneath one of their armpits and you’ll avoid the dreaded guillotine choke; and third, when their arms are moving aggressively towards your neck area fight hard with both of your hands to stop them from locking in any sort of choke otherwise it’ll quickly be game over.
If you find yourself caught in a tight choke, remember it won’t hurt very much but it will render you unconscious in only a few seconds. Tap out and you can train again right away; don’t tap and when you awaken from unconsciousness, you’ll feel surprised that you’re lying on the mats in the gym instead of home in your bedroom. Not a good feeling but don’t worry though it has happened to us all.
3. Use your Hips
Try your best not to just lie there while your opponent works you into some sort of choke, arm lock of leg lock. Your two legs can create an incredibly strong bridging motion when you plant them solidly on the floor and lift your hips up high. This bridging motion can destabilize your opponent forcing them to release certain holds in order to maintain their positioning and balance. A explosively strong bridge can also get you out of bad positions sometimes allowing you to move from the bottom position to the top. Keep your hips and entire body moving at all times and you’ll instantly make yourself much more difficult to control and submit.
4. Learn Your Escapes and Defenses
In terms of technique drilling, positional escapes can sometimes seem less exciting to practice than a flashy submission hold or a big takedown but they are exactly what you need to get good at when you first begin training on the ground. Pay attention to detail when learning escapes and spend a lot of time practicing them because it will pay off greatly by allowing you to survive a little longer with the tougher rolling partners.
If you have the money to invest in some private lessons with your instructor do it and use those lessons to hone your escape and submission defense skills. It’ll be well worth it.
5. Leave your Ego at the Door
This is the most important tip of all in my opinion. If you let getting tapped out, flipped, twisted, and squished by students –sometimes ones smaller and weaker than you—depress you and make you feel down, get ready because you’re going to be depressed for quite a while. These things are all part of the learning process and all who have achieved the upper belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (or a high level of proficiency in another ground fighting style) were once in your shoes. Instead of looking at training like a competition, try to enjoy your workouts, the fact that you are able to get out there and do it and when you get tapped out simply jump back in there and get back at it. Train hard and you’ll soon feel more like the hammer instead of the nail. Being the hammer is so fun!
6. Drill, Drill and Drill some more…
Underestimate the importance of practicing a certain technique many times and you will pay the price; your movement will never be executed smooth enough or fast enough or with the necessary details needed for it to work against a strong resisting opponent.
When you learn a technical movement, be sure to practice it often within the next month or so. It’s better to repeat one technique hundreds of times within a month then to learn a new technique every day and practice each of them very little. With focused practice you will be great with a few techniques instead of knowing many techniques that you pretty much suck at. This will arm you with a strong technical foundation that you will be able to build upon in the future so be sure to drill, drill, and drill some more…
7. Spend Some Time Stretching!
When you are new to mixed martial arts you will definitely experience some soreness after rigorous training sessions. A lot of punching will tighten the arms, kicking with work the hamstrings and other leg muscles, and groundwork (BJJ or some other grappling art) will take a pretty good chunk of time for your body to get used to.
Most often an instructor will put you through a complete warm-up to prep you for the remainder of class but you will find a lot of benefit in supplementing your training with some additional stretching. Yoga classes are a great option or you could simply repeat, on your own time, the many warm-ups and flexibility improving exercises that you learn in your martial arts classes.
Improved flexibility will help prevent personal injury and will also allow you to perform certain manoeuvres that those with limited flexibility cannot. I can tell you from personal experience that facing a very flexible opponent on the ground is a pain in the butt; their guards are often difficult to pass, they are tough to tap out and often have a great ability to escape trouble. Stretching early in the morning will also make your feel great and set a positive tone for the rest of your day so be sure to try it out.
8. Show up for Classes
As an instructor the most common question that I am asked is “How do I get good fast?” My answer is simple. I tell them to just keep showing up for class.
Over the years, my best students have been those people that rarely miss a training session, the type of student that trains so often that when they don’t show up, you assume something bad has happened. That’s the type of dedication it takes to really excel in any martial art and it’s extra important for MMA training because there is so much stuff to learn.
If there was a magic pill that could make people champions I’d sell it and become very, very rich but for now all I know is that you must put in the time to become a diamond on the mats. So remember, no excuses! Train anytime you get the chance, participate in seminars, book private lessons and immerse yourself in mixed martial arts training to the fullest and I guarantee that good things will follow.
Train Hard, Train Smart and Have Fun!
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