Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
There are many reasons why people choose to train BJJ. Some people are motivated by a desire to learn to defend themselves, while some people are interested in the sporting side of the art, or train it alongside other martial arts so that they can compete in mixed martial arts competitions. Other people choose to train because they enjoy the exercise, and see it as a good way to get fit. All of those reasons are valid.
At Origin BJJ, we teach both Gi and No-Gi Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and cover self defence techniques as well as sports-focused techniques. Our classes are attended by a broad range of age and ability levels, including competitive BJJ players, mixed martial artists, fitness enthusiasts and those who are training for self defence.
Training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu will make you stronger and more flexible, and will improve your cardiovascular fitness. Many people find that they make new friends through training, become more confident, and find a passion for other related sports along the way.
The stereotype of BJJ is that it is a sport for older teenagers or people in their 20s, but this is not necessarily the case. Our main classes are attended by people as young as 16 through to those that are in their 50s. The late Helio Gracie, who was one of the co-founders of Gracie Jiu Jitsu, was still training and even teaching the art when he was 95 years old. Check out this article if you would like to learn more about the Gracie family and the evolution of BJJ.
The beauty of BJJ is that it is a very versatile system, and there are many different techniques that you can employ. A young, flexible and fast person’s way of “rolling” (this is the term used to describe sparring in the sport) may be very different to the way that a person who is less flexible or slower may roll. As you learn the sport you will find moves, positions and submissions that suit your size and body type.
BJJ is a sport that involves using leverage and timing to overcome your opponent, and a skilled small person can use those techniques to defeat an unskilled opponent that is bigger and/or stronger. This makes BJJ a good choice for women who are interested in learning a martial art for self defence. However, it is important to remember that it takes a lot of time and practice to get skilled enough to overcome a stronger opponent, and we encourage everyone – male and female, to prioritise avoidance and awareness when it comes to self defence. It is good to be able to defend yourself should the worst happen, but it is better to avoid confrontations and dangerous situations as much as possible.
Striking itself is not a big part of the curriculum at Origin BJJ. We do touch on protecting yourself from strikes in some of our fundamentals classes, but if you are interested in a full self-defence program we recommend that in addition to taking BJJ classes you consider cross training in a striking art such as Kickboxing or Muay Thai.
From a sporting point of view, BJJ is a great workout, and there are regular competitions taking place throughout the year. Competitions are divided into gender categories, experience levels and weight classes, so you will be able to test your skills against people of a similar size, strength and ability level.
Mature teenagers are welcome to attend our adult BJJ class and the associated wrestling class. There is a children’s program aimed at pre-teens. The children’s program is run by Origin Sports, and in addition to offering Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes children will have the opportunity to learn leadership and creativity skills and earn Sport England recognized awards such as the Playmaker and Young Leaders certificates.
There is no fixed lower age limit for the children’s program, however we recommend that children know left from right before they join the junior classes. This class uses BJJ related games and drills, and focuses on developing balance, timing, spatial awareness, co-ordination, confidence and discipline. The skills that your child learns will transfer well to BJJ (or any other martial art) should they choose to pursue the sport when they are older. Contact us for more details.
BJJ is a contact sport, and accidents do sometimes happen, but it is a fairly safe sport if it is practiced responsibly and under the supervision of an experienced instructor. There is no kicking or punching, so you are less likely to get a black eye from BJJ than you would from, say boxing or Muay Thai. In addition, because most sparring starts from the knees, rather than from standing, the risk of knee and back injuries is low.
BJJ focuses on controlling and submitting someone who is on the ground, but striking is not a core part of the curriculum, and it does not devote a lot of attention to the process of getting your opponent to the ground in the first place. If you are interested in self defence, or becoming a “complete” martial artist then it is a good idea to cross train.
Judo is a good complement to BJJ because it focuses on throws and trips that work well in the context of gi-focused BJJ. Wrestling is also a good choice because of the focus on takedowns and pins. If you are interested in striking, then Muay Thai or kickboxing are good choices, and fit well with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
We have ties to local Judo clubs and gyms that teach striking arts, and there is a weekly wrestling class as well as a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) class at the gym, so there are plenty of opportunities to cross-train if you are interested in doing so. See the club timetable for more details.
Most of our Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes use the following structure:
A short warm up
The warm-up will involve some running around the mats (or running with knees up/heels up), circling your arms, forward and backward rolls, breakfalls and BJJ specific mobility drills such as bridges, shrimping or partner-drills. There may also be some bodyweight exercises. The warmup will prepare you for the technique that you will learn in class. If you can’t do some of the warmup exercises, don’t worry about it, just replace the exercise with a different movement and try again later when you’re more experienced.
After the warm up you can expect to learn three or four related techniques – each of these techniques will be demonstrated by the instructor, then “drilled” (practiced) for a few minutes. For example, you may learn a submission, a defence to that submission, and then one or two options that you (as the attacker) have if your opponent chooses that defence. Usually, the techniques are drilled compliantly for a few minutes, but towards the end of the session you may try something called “positional sparring” where you and your partner try to use the techniques you have learned on each other while the other person tries to resist the techniques.
In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, sparring is known as “rolling”. A large portion of each class is devoted to this. Sparring usually starts on the knees, although some people who are preparing for a competition may start standing. A round of sparring lasts for five minutes, and the objective is to make your opponent submit using either a choke or a joint lock.
It is up to you whether you spar in your first few lessons. If you prefer to sit and watch to get an idea of what goes on, that is OK. If you are interested in sparring you will be partnered with the instructor or an experienced student who can help you learn the rules as you go.
Depending on the activities carried out in the class, there may be a short cool-down with gentle stretching at the end.
Throughout the class you will have opportunities to take a break to drink some water. Take advantage of these, because staying hydrated is important for injury prevention.
In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu there are five belt colours – White, Blue, Purple, Brown and Black. When you first start training, you wear a white belt. Each belt level is divided up into ranks that are designated by stripes.
Belts in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu are awarded based on your performance in the gym and in competitions. Each Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school has its own promotion system and criteria. Some schools award stripes based on the amount of lessons you attend, and have grading days where belts are awarded. At Origin BJJ, we do not use this kind of system. Stripes and belts are awarded on a case-by-case basis. The instructor will watch your performance over time in the gym, and take into account how you do in competitions (if you choose to compete). When the instructor believes you are ready for a new belt, you will be promoted.
Promotions in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu take much longer than promotions in most other martial arts. It is not uncommon to spend 18 months or two years as a white belt, but this does not mean that you are not learning and progressing in the art. Do not worry about the colour of your belt. If you are training for fun, fitness or self defense, then the belt you wear in the gym does not matter. If you are someone who enjoys competing then it would be counter-productive to be promoted before you are ready, because competitions segregate competitors by belt level.
It takes a long time to get a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu – the median length of time for a dedicated practitioner is about ten years, but some people take longer (because of injuries, time off related to work, travel or family issues, or simply lack of access to an instructor qualified to promote them). There are some prodigies who train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu full time and achieve their black belt more quickly, but they are special cases and it is unlikely that someone who has a full-time job and family commitments could copy that sort of training schedule and devote the time required to achieve such rapid promotion.
The Gracie Barra organization has rules regarding the minimum amount of time that people must spend at each stripe/belt level before they can be promoted. These rules are minimum time periods, not targets or time scales that must be followed. Don’t worry about how long it takes to get promoted. If you keep showing up and working hard, you will get there in the end!
There is a Maurico Gomes Origin BJJ Newcastle competition team, which includes people from all levels in the club. The club competes in several competitions each year, and also runs its own interclub competitions with other local BJJ and MMA gyms. We also organise biannual gi and no-gi tournaments – the Vs Grappling series – that are open to all.
Our competition team attends local tournaments and travels to major events such as the British Open. In addition, we have some high level competitors who take part in submission-only invitationals such as SubF15een and some who compete in mixed martial arts events, including Senshi MMA.
Competing is encouraged and we do everything we can to support people who are interested in taking part in competitions at any level of the sport, but is not compulsory. Whether or not you choose to compete will not affect your treatment in the class or your chances of promotion.
Origin BJJ Newcastle is a member of the UKBJJA, and is run in compliance with the UKBJJA’s guidelines for member clubs. Students are encouraged to become members of the UKBJJA as well as the IBJJF if they choose to compete on a regular basis, however membership of these associations is not compulsory.
The head instructor at Origin BJJ Newcastle is Ian Malone, a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt who has also competed in both Muay Thai and MMA. He trained under Dave Elliot, and was awarded his black belt by Dave Elliot’s instructor, Marc Walder.
Marc Walder was promoted to black belt by Maurico Motta Gomes, one of the “famous five” – a select group of people that were given their black belts by the late Rolls Gracie, a renowned pioneer of the sport.
As long as you are generally healthy, there is no need to worry about “getting in shape” before you come to your first BJJ class. Of course, if you have a pre-existing health condition then you should talk to your doctor before you start any new exercise program. If you have any injuries, tell the instructor before you start the class so that any movements or exercises you do can be modified to keep you safe and accommodate any limitations in your mobility.
BJJ is a sport that uses your whole body, and even people who have trained other sports beforehand, or who are coming from other martial arts, often say that they find their first few classes very tiring. You will not be forced to do exercises that you cannot do, or judged if you feel that you need to sit out of a round of sparring to get your breath back.
Our classes have people of all ages, abilities and fitness levels. If you keep coming to class on a regular basis your fitness will improve dramatically. Remember that there is a good chance that the super-fit blue belt that is showing you some moves today was once in the position you are now. Everyone who shows up and works hard is deserving of respect.
Most of our BJJ classes are gi classes (although we do teach some no-gi, sports focused classes). The gi is a traditional uniform used by many martial arts, but a BJJ gi is a much thicker and heavier garment than a karate or Japanese Jiu Jitsu gi. You do not need to buy a gi for your first class, however.
For your first class, we recommend you wear shorts or tracksuit bottoms and a t-shirt. The garments you wear may be grabbed and pulled on, so choose something sturdy and that you don’t mind being tugged at. For safety reasons, do not wear anything with zips, pockets or buttons. If you have long hair, please tie it back with a soft hair tie.
It is a good idea to bring a bottle of water with you. There are regular water breaks throughout the class, and you will need to stay hydrated to avoid injury.
The good news is that BJJ is not an equipment-heavy sport. All you need is a gi (or rash guard and shorts/spats), and a gum shield. Tatami make high quality and affordable gis. We have links with several gi manufacturers, including Gameness and Roll Supreme, so we can often get good deals on gis and other BJJ apparel. Just ask at one of the classes and we’ll supply you with the latest price list. If you are not sure what size to buy, we would be happy to give you some advice. Most people end up buying a couple of gis to make it easier to cope with the laundry load if they train several times per week.
You can buy “boil and bite” gum shields for just a few pounds from most sports stores, but these are usually low quality and do not fit very well. If you enjoy the sport, consider purchasing a custom-fit gumshield from your dentist or a company such as Gumz.co.uk. Custom-fit gum shields cost around £30, will last for a long time, are much more comfortable and offer better protection.
The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu community is a very friendly and welcoming one. Try to relax when you come to class, and just follow the example set by some of the more experienced students. We are a fairly informal school, and there are only a handful of rules that you should try to remember, they are:
- No shoes on the mats – if possible, bring some flip-flops with you to wear while you walk around the gym (otherwise, just wear your normal shoes). Take them off by the side of the mats, and put them back on when you leave. This rule exists for hygiene reasons. The mats are cleaned between sessions, and we want any dirt from outside the gym being brought onto the mats.
- Please remove all jewelry before you start training – BJJ is a contact sport, and if an ear-ring or a bracelet gets caught in someone’s gi it could cause you a nasty injury.
- Please trim your nails – again, BJJ is a contact sport and it involves a lot of grabbing and gripping. No-one wants to get scratched by their training partners, and by the same token it would be unfortunate to have your nails ripped out or caught in someone’s gi.
- Wash your gi (and yourself) after every session – just as with other sports, you will sweat a lot when you practice BJJ, and sweaty skin and garments are a breeding ground for bacteria, including MRSA and staph. There is also the risk of other skin conditions, such as ringworm. Wash your gi (and the belt) after every training session, and take a bath or a shower yourself too. There’s no need to spend a fortune on special “fight soaps” unless the brand appeals to you for other reasons. Washing your body thoroughly with a normal soap as soon as possible after each training session will protect you from infection. You can read more about the different soaps and how to protect yourself from infection here. If you do notice something strange on your skin, don’t just keep training. See your doctor and ask them for advice before you get back onto the mats.
- Relax – Training a contact sport for the first time can be a little intimidating, but try to relax. For your first few lessons you will be looked after by the instructor or an experienced student. Don’t be embarrassed to ask questions if you don’t understand something, and remember that if anything feels uncomfortable you can always stop. In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu the universally understood way of saying “stop” is to tap your hand on your training partner’s body. People usually tap when they are in a submission hold (such as a choke, or where one of their joints is being extended), but you can tap for other reasons too. Your training partner is there to help you learn and keep you safe.
- Listen to the instructor – Origin BJJ is a fairly informal Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school. We do not do a lot of bowing, or use formal terms of address for instructors. However, we do ask one thing. When the instructor is demonstrating a technique, please stop what you are doing to watch and listen to them. Follow the directions that they give you, and practice the techniques that they describe. Please do not use class drilling time to practice techniques that you saw on YouTube or on the latest UFC!
- Keep coming back! There is a lot to learn in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and it can take many years to progress through the belts. Don’t expect to become a master overnight. Keep showing up to class and remember that the best way to measure yourself is not against the other people in the gym, but against your former self. If the you of today is stronger, more knowledgeable and more skilled than the you of six months ago then you are doing well.
How often you train depends on your personal goals, your level of fitness, and how much you can afford to spend on training. We offer classes Monday – Saturday each week, and it is up to you how many classes you attend. Some people train once per week, others train almost every session.
The most important thing is consistency. A beginner can make good progress training once or twice per week if they turn up every week, pay close attention to the details shown during the technique section of the class and work hard. It is a good idea to take notes after each training session, so that you can look over them later. If you can train more often, then you will progress more quickly, but if you cannot make it into the gym several times per week don’t worry about it. Try to stay fit in other ways, and make sure that the training time you do get is high quality.
Remember that rest and recovery time is just as important as the time that you spend on the mats. Many beginners fall in love with the sport and spend all of their free time either training BJJ itself, or in the gym trying to improve their strength and conditioning or their cardiovascular fitness. While this enthusiasm is admirable, it is easy to burn out or to injure yourself. If you have only just started training, ease yourself into your new lifestyle to minimise your risk of injury.