I remember turning up to my first BJJ class 20 minutes late, we drove from out of town and misjudged the duration of the journey but little did that matter...
When we walked through the door there was only 3 guys in the little porta-cabin which from the outside was labelled as either a karate or a kickboxing gym, I can't exactly remember anymore.
Despite us being late these guys were absolutely chuffed to see us and no surprise really. They were used to training with the same couple of guys week in and week out and then all of a sudden 4 fresh faced young men walk in eager to learn! I was 17 at the time and my mates were all around the same age.
Anyway getting to the point of the story... I remember a couple of months down the line, our Coach Tim couldn't make it in to teach and another old school (to us at least) BJJ blue belt Adam came down to cover the lesson for him. He asked what we knew, we said: "a few chokes, rolling back takes, throws and armbar set ups" - all of Tim's favourite things (Judo background).
He said: "What about the scissor sweep? The guard break? The mount escape? Etc." Basically listing a good foundation of beginner techniques which he thought, we should know by then - a good few months in now - but we didn't.
He was baffled and lo and behold we seated ourselves for a crash course in beginner BJJ techniques.
What an eye opener that was and credit to Adam that session really did help..
The toughness, tenacity and resolve that Tim embedded in us has paid of ten-fold so if I could go back and change my introduction to the world of BJJ I would have it no other way.
BUT I do accept that if Tim had thrown in a few more basic techniques we may have been a little more 'well rounded' by that point!
So this story begs the question:
What techniques should I focus on as a BJJ beginner?
1) Stance & Base:
This is SO important!
Learning stance and base means getting to grips with how to position your feet when in the standing position so that you are balanced and not easily pushed or pulled over.
Every fight starts on the feet and every standing technique must first begin with you being in a proper stance with a solid base.
If you watch any of the old masters such as Mauricio Gomes, when they are teaching standing techniques (particularly those aimed at self defence), you tend to hear that their first instruction is to ensure that you are stood with a good stance and base.
2) Technical Stand-up:
The technical stand-up teaches you to stand up from the ground in the safest way available to you and with a solid stance and base!
Rather than standing with one foot next to the other (squared up) where the chance of you being pushed back over is dramatically increased and your ability to effectively execute a technique afterwards is dramatically decreased.
When you stand up with a technical stand up the stance is much stronger, with one leg behind the other producing a better base and a greater ability to generate power through your legs in order execute your own takedowns.
The technical stand up also allows you to better defend yourself on the way up as well...
By utilising one leg and arm on opposite sides of the body to push your weight up off the ground, you still have your other leg and arm to manage the distance between yourself and your opponent.
As well as being able to block and cover with the free arm, you can kick with the free leg, offering a much safer route back to the feet.
The break fall is another essential technique that teaches you to fall in the safely!
Curling up the torso when you fall ensures that when you hit the ground you will better absorb the impact by rolling on the curvature of the spine rather than just hitting the ground like a plank!
By tucking the chin to your chest you can significantly reduce the likelihood of the back of your head hitting the ground and increase the aforementioned curvature which also results in a less impactful fall...
Finally by slapping the hands and arms along the ground, you can redistribute the impact of the fall from the centre of the body where the vital organs live through the arms and then into the ground.
Much superior to absorbing all that impact into the centre of your body and potentially losing the air from your lungs!
The hip escape (or 'shrimp') is an absolutely fundamental technique that involves moving your hips backwards from their starting point and turning onto the side of your body.
In doing so you can create space between yourself and an opponent who is attempting to pin you.
Creating this space gives you a much greater opportunity to escape and return to a more favourable position.
The real power of the hip escape is that it can allow you escape bad positions with much greater efficiency than simply using what our instinct would tell us to do i.e push away with the arms.
Simply pushing with the arms to create space will be much more exhausting, significantly less effective and potentially dangerous (armbars!).
Whereas with a hip escape you can create the space with the movement of your hips.
This way you can use your energy much more effectively, and not wear yourself out unnecessarily.
Hip Escaping From Bad Positions:
All BJJ beginners should be shown the basics of how to use a hip escape in order to escape from bad positions such as mount and side control and retain what we call the 'guard' - a position on bottom which gives you more control and safety.
This should involve teaching the student about the concepts of creating a frame, and then creating space with the hip escape and filling the space with limbs in a way that allows them to then grip onto the opponent in a favourable manner.
This is by no means an extensive list, there is still many techniques that a BJJ beginner will greatly benefit from learning in the first few months of their practice, which are not listed here.
This is just my interpretation of some of the most important aspects of BJJ that a beginner should learn in their first few months! I'm sure I will come back and edit a little here and there in the future as my knowledge grows.
What techniques do you think BJJ beginners should be taught and focus on? You can always let us know in the comments, or get in touch with us on Instagram!