Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

About a month and a half ago I decided to try out BJJ class. I’d heard lots of good things from friends, and I’d even taken a class about 6 years ago (that I was in no physical shape for) while practicing Muay Thai. I went in with no expectations, no future plans…essentially a blank slate. Here are some things I would have wished I would have known before starting:
  • Daily laundry
    • You have to wash your gi after every training, regardless of whether or not you ended up sweating. If you rolled with a sweaty human, chances are you got their bacteria-laden sweat on your gi. I live in an apartment without in-unit laundry facilities, so this proves pretty annoying.
  • Sweat in your eyes
    • No, not your own sweat, but other people’s sweat. You might spar with someone who ends up drenched and dripping sweat and that shit is scary when they’ve got you in their full mount and their face is so close to yours you know it’s inevitable. And then it happens…but you can’t rub your eyes because they’ll put you in an arm lock (or you can’t move your arms at all).
  • Sweat in your mouth
    • See 2.
  • [insert a body part/area you never ever would have ever wanted to be] in your face.
    • Example: crotch.
  • Pubes in your mouth
    • I remember the feeling. Something was in my mouth, but I was worried about checking to see what it was because my hands had been all over the mat, which I’m sure is a breeding ground for new species of microorganisms. Hesitantly, I scratched at my tongue with my index finger, trying unsuccessfully to grab whatever was on it. Finally, I’d made contact and pulled out the culprit. It was a thick, dark, short hair. A pubic hair. I shuddered as I shudder now, at the mere thought.
  • Injuries
    • I’m a pretty strong woman, physically speaking, as I lift really heavy weights on a regular basis. Usually when people start BJJ, they aren’t in the best shape, but I came in with all the guns. So, while I lack in technique, I am really, really tough to submit simply because I’m strong. Now, I’m not trying to toot my own horn here, it’s just the truth of the matter. Upper level belts, I think, are really surprised by this and will get a little rough, which I find completely understandable. However, I end up leaving with some pretty gnarly injuries and bruises because of this. My last was a mean-looking mouth injury, which I was pretty proud of, to be quite honest. I also secretly dislocated my pinky toe as well and had to set it back mid-spar.
  • Inexplicable exhaustion
    • Imagine what it might be like to fight a bear who has no nails or teeth to maul you. That’s the best way I can describe sparring with some of these tall and weighty upper level belts. As a white belt who can’t seem to remember any techniques, I’m always defending myself, which is absolutely normal and acceptable, and even expected, for a beginner. But let me tell you something, friend, the exhaustion is out of this world. It’s beyond the exhaustion from going up in weight at the gym while lifting. Needless to say, after BJJ training, I usually have no issues with my sleep (but sometimes I get to the point where I’ve forgotten who I am, which might not be a good thing).
  • A burning desire to be accepted into the club
    • As someone who doesn’t care (at all) about fitting in, I really, really want to be apart of the ‘in’ crowd at my BJJ school. I feel like the support along your jiu jitsu journey is exponentially increased once you get past everyone expecting you to end up quitting after a few months. So I guess I’ll give it a few months. After that, I’m going to start begging. That should work…right?
  • Pain in places you never even knew existed inside of your body
    • Okay, so I do tricep curls at the gym, right? Well, I’ve noticed that after jiu jitsu training, I have this intense pain in an area somewhere around my triceps. But it’s sort of like Narnia, because I can’t seem to pinpoint it to massage it. BJJ is like a wardrobe to this secret land of pain in my body.
  • Learning lots of names in the span of 1.5 hours
    • Most people think it’s weird to growl out a person’s name right after you learned it (re: House Bunny). Thus, I refrain. This means that I often forget all these kind people’s names right after we spar and they’re super nice for sparring with me, the unlearned. Well, this is true unless their name is really unique. Sorry to all the Andy’s, Erin’s, Aaron’s, and Josh’s of the world.
  • How in absolute love with this martial art I’d be
    • I loved Muay Thai. The issue was that I had a huge problem with hitting people in the face. There’s just something about being the reason someone ends up with a broken nose or jaw that makes me sad all day. Yeah, you can break people’s stuff and injure them in jiu jitsu, but that’s not really a common occurrence, and the injuries appear to be pretty minor. Honestly, I didn’t think I’d continue after the first jiu jitsu class. I wanted to try it to see what the hype was all about, and the hype is fuckin’ lit, I tell you what. You have to be a certain level of comfortable touching people in ways that are very, very intimate but with no intimacy involved. You have to be okay with not being the best. You have to be honest with yourself and push yourself to distances you never thought you could/would go. You really have to humble yourself for this sport, which should be the case in anything you do, but especially here. I learn so much about myself during every class, and I’m so motivated to be better and get better and grow more within jiu jitsu. It’s a challenge, and Aminah fuckin’ loves a challenge.

If you’ve ever desired to try something, whether it’s jiu jitsu, another martial art, or something completely unrelated, I urge you to bite the bullet and go try it out. The worst thing that’ll happen is you’ll end up loving it and wanting to devote some (or all) of your free time to it.

Tune in next time for lessons learned in Engineering Empathy.

♥ AJ