It wasn’t long into my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu journey that I realized this was gonna be a game changer for me. Going in I had no idea what to expect, but what I found was more than I could have ever imagined. Even though I come from an athletic background nothing could have prepared me for what lied ahead. They say in Jiu Jitsu you either win or you learn…let’s just say I’ve done a lot of learning along the way. I hope that I can save you some heart ache and headaches by sharing my perspective.
Here are 10 things I wish I knew before I started. Now, keep in mind this is coming from an older woman (nearly 40) who is still a white belt but did a lot of athletic things before ‘The Gentle Art’. Use these preemptive nuggets wisdom if you are on the fence about how to get started with BJJ!
If You Have Booty, Finding A Gi Will Be A Nightmare
Gurl, if you got booty like I got booty, finding a good gi is like trying to find milk in non dairy creamer. Don’t be like me; research before you drop stacks on uniforms that don’t fit. Nothing is more embarrassing than having your pants pop off your junk in the middle of a roll. Buy big and go to a tailor. #yourewelcome #savethebooty
Rolling and Long Hair Is Possible If One Learns Protective Styling
Spoiler alert: I have dreadlocks. I’ve been in BJJ for almost two years and guess what? I still have dreadlocks. Long ones and I only lost one strand. My secret? Protective styling. Ladies, you can keep your hair, but only if you learn the power of French braids, cornrows and high buns.
You Shouldn’t Be Afraid To Speak Up About Your Needs
Just because you see everyone else smearing themselves to a one way ticket to the Cauliflower Ear Nebula doesn’t mean you have to. I was afraid to speak up when I first started and man, I hobbled for weeks! Brutal rolls are the only way to go; it’s BJJ, right? This mentality is not only false, it’s counterproductive! If I would’ve known that I could set the pace of my practice, I would’ve rolled more and had a better experience when I first started.
The Gym Will Teach You Community
My initial seven months echoed that of Jay Zaballos: sit in the back, take instruction, leave. Despite having massive flags of ‘Stay Back!’ and ‘Nope!’, my gym coaxed me to open up, taking small steps to gain my trust and make tiny chips at my anti-social wall. As time rolled on, *yes, went there*, my team rallied in my corner when I needed encouragement with my goals on, and off, the mat. As a loner, it’s strange to understand the power of community. While I did expect to learn an intriguing martial art, I did not expect to gain a family as well.
Being A Big Woman Will Terrify A Lot Of Your Teammates
I’m 5’8, 185 pounds. I power lift on my non training days. I’m one of six women in my gym and the largest. Hell, I’m larger than some of the dudes. I didn’t think this would be a issue, but it is at times. There are not a lot of women in the sport and being ‘Big Girl’, or ‘Tall Girl’, is BJJ unicorn status. Do not feel rejected about being passed over, it is normal. Take control of your training and talk to higher belts about your needs and goals. Being big is awesome! Enjoy your bigness!
Your Spouse May Not Be Supportive
When you start BJJ, heed my advice and take your husband/wife with you for the first month. Invite them to bare witness to the sweat, the grunts and the ‘funky boneless chicken on the mat’ impersonations. Show them that the collegiate wrestler with the sparkling six pack is a hated nemesis, not a love interest. Be open and transparent about you bjj passion. Heck, your loved one might even get bit by the bjj bug after seeing how fun it is!
Weight Lifting, Grip Training and Yoga Will Mitigate A LOT of Injuries
Techniques conquers most, but lifting iron will taper the tide of being ‘matkill’! Lift weights as early as possible, even if you are a white belt. Take care of your hands;learn proper grip training and, gurl, do ALL the yoga. I mean all of it. At least four times a week!
You’re Going To Suck For A Long Time. Embrace it.
As someone with an athletic past in aerial and ballet, my initial BJJ experience royally pissed me off. It sucks to realize that despite how good you were at other things, in BJJ you’re going to suck and there is no way around it. Why? Because you’re learning movement on instincts, not choreography. So take the pressure off yourself on being the best. Enjoy the ride, have patience, and fun, on the mats!
You Are Going To Be A Magnet for Thirsty Fighter Dudes
Be prepared ladies guys will think it is hot that you train. At some point you will probably get DMs or hear comments like “You think you can beat me?”, “We should train sometime together” or “I’ll give you free privates”. Chances are they are not asking you to just train.
Him: Wait. You do BJJ?
Me: Yes. Yes, I do.
Him: Describes his MMA, Krav Maga, Wrestling,or some other blood sport that he’s super hype about.
Me(whispering): Hey…I love your Cauliflower ear. You really put in dat work.
Him: …Marry me. Like now.
Your Friends Will Change Because You Will Change
The deeper you dive into the gentle art, the more your habits will change. You won’t drink so much, stay out late or eat that much junk food because it will make you feel like hot garbage on the mats. Your old friends will rag on you about going to bed early and not getting crunk. Don’t sweat it. Hangovers are so 2007.
Jada ‘JC’ Brazil
Jada ‘JC’ Brazil is a voice actor, writer and cat lover in Seattle, Washington. JC is a second stripe white belt under Professor Brian J. Johnson of Northwest Jiu Jitsu Academy. She also has over a decade experience as a project manager in the Video Game and Tech industry. Thankfully, she doesn’t do that anymore. When not wrasslin’ in sweaty pajamas, she is writing comics, reading comics, lifting weights, playing video games and talking into a microphone. Her website is Cake N Iron (www.cakeniron.com) and her Instagram is @ashymcgee.