Fundamentals BJJ Class - Alliance BJJ Madison

BJJ for Beginners – Madison


Alliance Jiu Jitsu of Madison 

Begin your BJJ the right way by Building the foundation for long term training and success in BJJ!


There are many different ways in which BJJ academies introduce new students to BJJ.  The goal of this article is to address the advantages and disadvantages of different systems.  Hopefully this will help those new to BJJ to find the proper place to train.  If you are looking to start BJJ for beginners here in Madison, this article is a must read.  The goal being not only to begin to learn BJJ, but to build a strong foundation so that they may train for a lifetime!

Starting a new sport, especially a contact sport like BJJ, can definitely be intimidating.  Most people spend their lifetime trying to avoid physical confrontation.  So choosing to do this as a recreational activity isn’t a decision people take lightly.  But in this day and age, learning how to defend ourselves should be a strong consideration for everyone.  If done properly, BJJ can prepare the average person to apply self defense when needed.  So where should we start?

Back in the “Good Old Days”, when you started your BJJ training here in the U.S., you most likely faced adversity on your very first day.  Many places would throw newcomers into live training to “prove the effectiveness” of BJJ.  This is a pretty rotten mentality, as many people don’t stick around after that first lesson.  Imagine going to your very first boxing class, only to be thrown in with a pro boxer and have to fight for your life!  This is how many people felt walking into their first BJJ class and many never stuck around to find out exactly how great this art can be. 

I’ve heard plenty of stories from new students about trying out local academies and getting injured on their first day.  When I asked about the situation, I was told they were put in a very bad position and told to “escape”, without being provided the knowledge to do so.  Not only did the student get injured and never return to training, they also had poor things to say about Jiu Jitsu.  That’s upsetting because they never got a chance to see what BJJ could do for them.  They simply got beat up, injured, and had a bad experience.  None of that speaks well for the art I love so much.  It is a disservice to BJJ to start a student this way.  

In my personal opinion, the days of proving BJJ’s effectiveness are long over.  For many years, things like the “Gracie Challenge” existed in Academies all over the U.S.  People would offer money for strangers off the street to come in and fight a BJJ expert.  Big surprise, someone with years of training beat an untrained opponent.  Soon after came the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship).  The UFC pitted fighters from different skill sets against each other, to finally find out which martial art was the most effective.  Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) came out on top and everyone took notice.  This was repeated again and again, and now in today’s UFC, every fighter trains BJJ as part of their preparation for a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fight.

Today, Many Jiu Jitsu academies, such as the one we operate, have found much better ways to start out their new students.  We understand that not everyone grew up with an athletic background.  We also understand that not everyone started to train BJJ with the intention of getting beat up on a daily basis.  NONE of those things are necessary to excel in BJJ.  The fact is you will develop athleticism from training BJJ.  You will learn how not to get injured, by learning to train safely.  And you will have fun in the process.  

Now, I’ll be perfectly honest, I didn’t start out this way.  Although I wish I had, but I didn’t.  I started in the “Good Old Days”.  I’ll use that term loosely, as many of us look back with fond memories to our first days of training.  But if I could start over, knowing what I know now, I would definitely start out the way we start our new students now.  As I look around the Academy, I see so many people who have developed knowledge and skills that I never had at their belt level.  I’m almost jealous.  So what’s the secret and why does it make a difference?

Step One, we start our students out with private lessons.  We find that, to put the student at ease, a one on lesson works best.  This gives the student a chance to learn and ask as many questions as they need, without feeling that they are being a burden to the rest of the class.  Many can also feel embarrassed by trying to perform all the new movements they learn.  This gives them a chance to learn and practice without feeling like they are being watched and or holding up the rest of the class.   We do multiple private lessons with the students before putting them into the Fundamentals classes.  This makes sure they have a good basis of knowledge before they start their group training. 

Even if someone has trained before, if they are still at a white belt level, I have them do the one on one lessons.  I recently had a student join, coming from another local academy.  He had been training for about 6 months and said that he mostly felt like he was just getting beat up every day.  After the first one on one lesson he told me that he learned more in that one lesson than he had in his first 6 months!  That’s the kind of response we are hoping for.  

Step Two, we put the new student into group training.  Now that they have successfully completed their one on one lessons, it’s time to join classes!  Group classes are lots of fun.  The new student will participate in warm up drills with the class.  After, they will be paired up with a partner to practice the lesson of the day.  Techniques are taught one at a time, then each student gets a set amount of time to practice the move.  Once both students have practiced a technique, the next one is taught.  There are usually 3-4 techniques per class.  Once the technique portion is taught, it is time for drills.  Drills consist of combining the techniques of the day, along with other techniques taught in fundamentals, to create a “flow” of moves. 

This allows the student to know how to connect or chain one move to another.  The goal of drilling is moving at a pace in which all the details of each move can be applied.  This is one of the biggest steps to move the students in the right direction.  They get to learn how to connect and create moves at a pace much slower than live training.  Many students notice once they get to live training, they are able to move and anticipate moves easier because they were able to learn it without the pressure, speed, and intensity of live training.  This also gives the students a chance to learn about safety, when to “tap”, or how to escape bad positions, without the chance of injury.  

Step Three, we move the student into live training.  Once the student has demonstrated they have the necessary skills and the control to train safely, we move them into live training.  Live training consists of learning more complex techniques as well as “rolling” (sparring) in class with their fellow students.  By this time they have developed the necessary skill to know how to train safely, they have developed friendships with their fellow students so they don’t feel threatened or intimidated, and they have enough skills to feel that they can be competitive in the live training session.  This is nowhere near the end of their journey and now they will begin to hone their skills on their way to their first belt promotion.  (The Blue belt).

Some people say that we shouldn’t wait so long to put people into live training.  I mostly feel this is due to impatience.  We live in an impatient society that seems to need instant gratification.  BJJ requires patience not just to learn, but to be successful.  Many instructors worry that students will quit if they don’t get to live train.  I worry that students won’t succeed if they start with live training too soon.  They may get injured, demoralized, feel unsafe, or just have a bad experience.  They will also develop bad habits and learn how to fight out of survival, versus fighting with skill.  This last one I see often in students who come to us from other academies!

If you think back to the first time you threw a baseball, or rode a bike, it was probably awful.  When a Major league pitcher first threw a baseball, it wasn’t a 100 mile per hour fastball, he was probably 3 or 4 years old and the ball probably went about 2 feet.  Those guys who do BMX tricks off of 30 foot ramps, at one point they had training wheels on their bikes.  

We all start somewhere.  Even as adults we need to realize that we start slow and ease our way in.  The better we get, the more we take off the training wheels.  That is a different timeline for everyone.  Rarely does somebody get up on two wheels on the first try and never look back!  Having a method that allows everyone to safely start and learn in BJJ means that more people will train.  The longer they train, the more will speak well of the art.  Most of all, they will be able to progress and safely train for the rest of their life.  We want to start you out the right way!  Come check us out and see why starting BJJ will be the best decision you’ll ever make!