Beginner's Guide to BJJ: What It Is and Why Should You Start BJJ?

Beginner's Guide to BJJ: What It Is and Why Should You Start BJJ?

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a martial art that started out in Brazil when Mitsuyo Maeda taught young Grandmaster Carlos Gracie his Jiu Jitsu-based Judo.

Though the history of BJJis quite interesting, most of you who’re looking to begin are probably inspired by legends like Rickson Gracie, Marcus Almeida, etc.

And there’s no denying that you could be the next best BJJ hall of famer.

But, to get started, let’s start small and take a look at what makes BJJ what it is today.

1. What is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a martial art and combat sport that involves takedowns, grapples, submissions and holds with most of the fighting happening on the ground.

This innovative fighting style has become the second most effective fighting style according to the UFC.

Back in 1993 when Rorion Gracie co-founded UFC, BJJ was introduced to the world by Royce Gracie, who proved an undisputable winner among all the world’s fighters.

However, it didn’t start out like this.

Tracing back to Japan, Jiu Jitsu started out as a fighting style developed by Buddhist monks who considered life sacred and thus wanted a non-violent self-defense measure.

After it reached Japan and Jigoro Kano presented his Kodokan, which would later become Judo, Mitsuyo Maeda brought it to Brazil.

From there on, the Gracie family became notoriously associated with the martial art.

It was finally given the name BJJ when it was clear that most of the pioneers, professors and participants of the style were coming from Brazil.

2. Who is BJJ For? Health and Fitness Requirements of BJJ

While there are no age limitations in BJJ, there are some crucial health and fitness requirements that you need to fulfill.

Firstly, you need to make sure that you don’t have any musculoskeletal problems. This can involve any bone injury, fractures, etc.

Moreover, if you have aching muscles, joints or limbs, you can be putting yourself at risk.

People with breathing or stamina problems will have to check in with their physicians to recommend the best course of action.

This is because BJJ isn’t necessarily a competitive sport. As you’ll read below, it also serves as one of the most effective workout regimens as well as self-defense measures.

Although it’s suggested for everyone, you should refrain from training if you have any serious medical complications such as spinal injuries or heart problems, etc. 

It’s worth knowing that BJJ involves a lot of endurance, strength and cardio training beforehand.

While experienced BJJ professionals learn to conserve energy throughout their bouts, it’s important for beginners to make sure that they have the stamina to learn it.

3. Benefits of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

As a combat sport invented by Buddhist monks, anyone can rely on this martial art to grant them more than just combat effectiveness.

Surely, everyone can agree that the sport requires much more than just sheer strength or will.

Your determination won’t get you out of a deadly submission. Ego doesn’t work in your favor in BJJ.

Unlike boxing and wrestling, you can’t rely on your muscles or your anger to do the work for you.

BJJ involves accepting your body as it is and understanding how it works.

A BJJ athlete can easily pinpoint crucial areas that can restrict the mobility of their opponents and use them to their advantage.

This is why Royce Gracie, Helio Gracie and all the other legendary BJJ athletes of all time could best their opponents regardless of their physical differences.

3.1. BJJ for Physical and Mental Health

Does BJJ help in losing weight and getting in shape? Can Brazilian jiu jitsu build muscle? The answer is yes.

BJJ guarantees a calorie burnout enough to bring a 150-pounder below 100 pounds in a year.

However, for those who wish to have a shredded physique, BJJ isn’t probably for you.

That’s because this martial art requires physical attributes that are different from other fighting styles.

While you build upon strength and endurance, you won’t exactly be getting hard pecs and shredded biceps and triceps.

Instead, you will be gaining knowledge on how to control and use your opponent’s body while being aware of your own.

This means that not only do you train to get physically strong, but you also work on your mental health.

After all, no hothead beginners have ever made it to a competition.

This signifies the importance of having emotional, cognitive and behavioral control of yourself.

BJJ allows you to free your mind from the shambles of limitations and false ego.

You explore yourself in a manner like never before as you figure out your weaknesses and strengths.

Not only is BJJ declared therapeutic, but it’s also highly recommended to people who are looking for a good workout.

Being an effective exercise, BJJ helps burn calories and achieve weight loss goals while also relieving a considerable amount of stress.

3.2. BJJ for Self Defense

BJJ has proven itself as one of the most effective self-defense techniques for everyone, especially women.

Perfect as it allows you to use your opponent’s body against them, BJJ gives you the power to subdue any attacker dumb enough to engage in an assault.

Being underweight or smaller than your opponent means nothing in BJJ as shown by countless athletes throughout history.

4. Basics of BJJ for Beginners

Now that we know what BJJ is, let’s take a look at the most prominent question you must be asking yourself the following:

4.1. What are the Belt Systems in BJJ?

To explain it briefly, let’s just say there are federations that decide the rules and regulations that are followed in BJJ tournaments everywhere.

So, if you’ve reached a belt level according to one federation’s standards, you might not be qualified for the same belt as per another federation’s rules.

Having said that, there are eight belts for adults in BJJ:

  • Red Belt ( a.k.a 9th and 10th Degree Black Belt)
  • Red and White Belt ( a.k.a 8th Degree Black Belt)
  • Red and Black Belt ( a.k.a 7th Degree Black Belt)
  • Black Belt
  • Brown Belt
  • Purple Belt
  • Blue Belt
  • White Belt

Starting from the white belt, you earn 4 stripes in each belt before progressing to the next one.

Depending upon the type of school that grades you, your grading system can be based upon either your mentor’s view of your progress or your individual techniques and movements.

4.2. What are the Basic Positions in BJJ?

It can save you a lot of frustration and confusion if you learn about the five beginner BJJ positions in the start.

These include:

  • Guard
  • Side Control
  • Mount
  • Rear Mount / Back Control
  • Turtle

Those who follow competitions closely will know that each of these positions is assigned points which tells us how effective they are.

For example, for a person on top, the best position would be having someone on your top rear.

Whereas, being the person on top in a turtle position means you’ve almost lost.

Not only will the person on top lose points for landing in a turtle position, but this advantageous position will also allow their opponent behind them to apply deadly submission holds.

As per Renzo Gracie’s book, Mastering Jiu Jitsu, here’s a breakdown of the best and the worst positions in BJJ:

Since the martial art is based on the art of manipulating the body of the opponent against them, you need a position of control.

From there on, you can practice some of the most important movements and submissions in BJJ.

4.3. What are the Basic Movements in BJJ?

To get into controlling positions or getting out of an unfavorable one requires strategic movement.

Since you can’t risk giving yourself up for a submission hold, you have to be careful in what you do even when you’re trying to escape.

For beginners, the names of all these movements might seem confusing.

Therefore, it’s imperative that you get familiarized with them and practice to see their practical potential.

Some of the basic movements that you’ll find in BJJ include:

  • Bridging
  • Shrimping
  • Escapes
  • Sweeps
  • Guard Passes
  • Transitions

The importance of the right movement can be judged by the fact that Sweeps and Guard passes have 2 and 3 points respectively in any organized match.

So, learning how to execute all these movements at the right time and in the right manner will give you a head start.

4.4. What are the Best Submissions in BJJ?

Submissions and grapples are to BJJ athletes as punches are to boxers. It’s the only way you’ll end the match with a sure win.

Guillotine, Americana, Arm bar, Triangle and the Rear Naked Choke are some famous submission holds.

However, it’s important to note important rules that surround submissions in order to avoid disqualifications in professional match-ups.

For example, in a submission hold, you can’t intentionally get off the mat with your opponent just to get the referee to intervene.

You’ll be disqualified.

Similarly, there are rules that referees ensure are being followed to determine whether your submission holds are indeed legal.

4.5. What are the common Terms used in BJJ?

Here’s an overview of some common terms you’ll come across in a BJJ class:


short for Onegai Shimassu, which is a respectful greeting.

Learn more about what oss means here.


The foundation you have when you grapple. Having a strong base means better control.


A move in which you keep your shoulders on the ground and lift your hips to help you escape or overturn your opponent.


A move in which you trap your opponent’s arm and a leg to roll them using a Bridge and gain an advantage.


This is another escape movement that is also known as the hip escape.

As you move your hips away from the opponent, you gain a tactical advantage while escaping a sticky situation.

4.6. How Do You Train for BJJ?

Sparring is the only way you can train for BJJ other than using BJJ workouts to strengthen your body.

That is why it is preferred you join a class and train for at least 3-4 days a week.

This will help you get quicker progress towards your goals without chances of fatigue, burnouts, etc.

Additionally, training with partners will enable you to learn more.

Being in a socially inclusive atmosphere such as those in a BJJ class will eventually help you have a better time.

Feel free to take a look at our app that offers BJJ training courses online!

4.7. What is the Required Gear in BJJ?

BJJ athletes require mouthguards, rashguards and board shorts if they’re not wearing a gi.

A gi is a robe-like outfit that consists of a jacket, pants and a belt, all made of cotton.

You can find tons of fashionable, reliable, combat effective and affordable gis here.

Including the above, here’s a checklist of the gear you need for BJJ:

  • Gi
  • Rashguard
  • Mouthguard
  • Spats / Compression Thighs
  • Finger Tape (for injuries and recovery)
  • Water Bottle

5. Important Tips to Know Before Going for BJJ

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the perfect martial art for a lot of reasons.

However, it’s still not invincible. This has been proved in every scenario. No technique has remained unbeaten.

The secret to always being on top is to be in a process of continuous development and improvisation.

A lot of people argue that Royce Gracie dominated UFC the first few times only because no competitor had studied BJJ enough to devise counter-strategies.

Aside from the starting gear above, here are other important tips to know before going for BJJ:

5.1. It Takes Time

Like almost all other physical workout regimens, people tend to get demotivated when they find that the initial time, they’ve spent in the program hasn’t yielded results.

Moreover, the time it takes to progress in any BJJ program will require consistent training.

This is something every BJJ athlete encounters, especially when they’re progressing in between belts.

You should convince yourself to be patient enough to learn, spar or even compete to keep developing your technique and figuring out your weaknesses.

5.2. There’s Going to Be Pain

While BJJ doesn’t give you injuries and broken bones like other combat sports, you can still encounter a need to carry finger tapes.

It’s true that almost all black belt masters have broken bones, ribs and/or back problems in later life.

However, that’s because of extensive exposure to MMA fights that incorporate other styles of fighting, most of which are much more brutal than BJJ.

The only pain you can expect on a daily basis is the one your muscles make you feel while recovering from the training.

It’s advised by experts that you quit as soon as you start feeling pain and take a rest.

Should the situation persist, it’s recommended to have a physician check you.

5.3. Learning and Growth

Both of these depend upon the intensity and frequency of your training.

Moreover, as stated above, you need to continue studying new techniques and perfecting your own.

For example, if a specific type of submission holds or guard position isn’t seeming to be your forte, explore.

There will be situations in which your fellow classmates figure out your techniques and you have to come up with new ones.

Another plausible situation to expect in this regard is facing tall opponents.

Not only will ordinary strategies not work against them, but you’ll find yourself at significant disadvantages.

This is where your experience in technique will determine how you fare.

Chances are that there are variations to the same position in other styles or cultures.

Once you find what works for you, keep practicing it to make sure that nobody can expect your perfect execution.

Start early on and learn the major positions and guards first. You’ll realize the time it saves later on when you learn things like the quadrant theory beforehand.

Quadrant Theory

For those who don’t know, the quadrant theory states that each limb acts as a base of support that covers a 90-degree angle, making a complete 360-degree with your two arms and two legs, each covering a quarter of the complete circle.

5.4. Prepare to Be Surprised

In BJJ, regardless of how physically fit you think you are, the initial days will probably be excruciating.

This is probably because rolling in a BJJ class isn’t as easy as it sounds. Your body won’t be used to it until at least a few weeks.

During this period, it’s crucial that you train through the frustration and witness the rewards later on.

Depending upon your physical routines, you might find other movements and techniques challenging as well.

That’s why you need to be prepared for surprises before you start. Otherwise, you’re bound to quit when push comes to shove.

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