Positivity, Consistency, and the Keys to Success as a BJJ Novice

The mentality you develop in your early days of BJJ that is crucial to long-term success in the sport.

Everyone starts somewhere. No matter what sport or hobby you did before your first day of Brazilian jiu jitsu, everyone had a first day that was filled with various emotions. Sometimes, people are excited. Other times, they are nervous and scared.

But after that first class, you no longer have to experience the pain and discomfort we all went thought on that first day of BJJ. Once that first day is behind you, what follows could change your life – just as it did for all of us who continue to train. But there is a mindset required for this opportunity to present itself. A mindset that asks you to let go of the past and remain a beginner for the length of your jiu jitsu journey.

Train Who and Where You Are Right Now

We all like to think we can still accomplish the same things we did when we were younger. A comment I hear frequently from new students is, “I used to be able to lift this much” or “I played this sport.” What you could bench in high school is great, but you can’t do that now. So, stop thinking that is going to help you or that you are going to get back to it. One of the biggest mistakes I see new students make is comparing their physical conditioning now to what they have done in the past. This type of mindset is going to cause nothing but frustration.

“Every class, including your first one, is an opportunity to learn. Don’t forget this as you move forward in your BJJ education, either.”

To get better at BJJ, you must let go of the past. Thinking about what you used to be able to do is going to get you hurt and set you back. Most of the new students I see at the gym are starting BJJ in their late twenties or early thirties. Many of them have not done anything physical for years. If they did, it was going to the gym to lift weights or run. Nothing is going to prepare you mentally and physically for Brazilian jiu jitsu except Brazilian jiu jitsu.

Always Learn as Much as You Can

At the beginning, there are no expectations. The instructor does not expect a new student to tap everyone out. You are not supposed to. Your only job is to learn. At first, the amount of information is going to overwhelm you, but that is normal. You are not expected to learn everything at once, just learn as much as you can. Every class, including your first one, is an opportunity to learn. Don’t forget this as you move forward in your BJJ education, either.

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Be a Good Training Partner

Part of the learning process is understanding how to be a good training partner. You do not get better at jiu jitsu alone. You need your teammates. Your mindset during class is not all about you. You should be thinking about helping those around you get better. As a result of helping others, you get better, too.

Be Respectful

Each academy may have their own set of rules that students are required to follow. Part of the learning process is understanding those rules.

One of the common rules you will find in an academy is the requirement of bowing when you enter and leave the mat. Another common rule is that class starts and ends by lining up in order by rank. Higher belts are at the front of the line and lower belts follow. As a beginner, it is safe to assume that you will be lining up toward the end.

“Showing up to the gym again after a bad day is going to teach you more about yourself than anything else.”

The final rule that is important to understand is the training partner rule. Some schools do not want lower-ranking students asking higher-ranking students to roll. Other schools do not care. So, when you are just starting out and feel like you want to roll with the black belt instructor, asking may come off as disrespectful. Again, not all schools follow this, but it is important to know the rules of your school so you do not accidentally disrespect anyone.

And as you advance in your studies, don’t forget this mindset. You may visit another academy and their rules may be different. But you should continue to be respectful.

Keep Showing Up

Every day is a new training opportunity. There will be good and bad days. The key is to keep showing up. BJJ has the potential to change your life. But most people will never reach this point because they stop training before they truly understand this benefit.

There is no way to avoid bad days. They are part of the process. What is important is to keep training and trying. Showing up to the gym again after a bad day is going to teach you more about yourself than anything else. Do not let those bad days get you down, but instead, use them as motivation.


It takes a lot of courage to begin Brazilian jiu jitsu. And it takes the right mindset to stick with it for years. During your early stages of BJJ, forget the past, learn as much as you can, be a good training partner, and be respectful. Last, but not least, keep showing up. And don’t forget these rules as you continue to train.

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Photos 2 courtesy of Dan of Earth.

Photo 1 and 3 courtesy of David Brown.

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