The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”
- Lao Tzu

It is a fairly common concept that to achieve proficiency in an art or discipline, you have to first assume the mind of the humble student. It could not be more true. Malcolm Gladwell has come forth with the famous 10,000 hours required to achieve true mastery of a subject.

The Grammy-award winning vocalist has to drill countless hours of vocal warm-ups before achieving notoriety. It is no different in Jiu-Jitsu. The black belt with 25 years of experience had to be a first-day student at one point, learning the most rudimentary techniques.

Jiu-Jitsu is complex and because of that, is also immensely rewarding. But that can also be fairly daunting to the new student. If you arrive knowing what to expect, you have already scored a small victory before even stepping into the gym.

Like all endeavors it begins with the proper mindset:

1.) Proper Mindset

Realize that every single person you will train with were in your shoes at one point. Everybody had to have their first day. It is what helps build the bonding and life-long friendships in jiu-jitsu. You will encounter several different levels of athleticism, ages, and backgrounds, but you all began the same journey in the same way.

A good gym should be primarily concerned about raising the sea level so that ALL boats rise as well, regardless of whether you are in a battleship or a blow-up raft. The upper belts are supposed to dial down their technique and aggressiveness while drilling (“rolling”) with new students and white belts. When you are elevated in rank and recognition in jiu-jitsu, it comes with the added responsibility of helping guide the lower belts. Their goal is to help “bring up” the lower belts and not to bully or harass.

So after donning the right mindset and taking a nice deep breath, you should think about what you need to wear for class:

2.) What you will need to wear?

The common martial art Gi (or kimono) is not actually required in all instances in jiu-jitsu. There are no-gi as well as gi classes. This goes for tournaments, competitions, and special seminars as well.

So what is the difference between attending a gi or no-gi class for your first time?


Gi – Email or call the instructor and let them know what day you would like to come by. Expect to arrive 15 minutes before class begins so they can find a proper fitting loaner gi and you have plenty of time to change.

No-Gi – A regular shirt and some kind of stretch fabric bottoms such as basketball or gym shorts will work. Buttons or zippers are not allowed.

However, some sort of rash guard is ideal. A rash guard is going to be more comfortable and allow for more flexibility, and many are built to be anti-fungal/microbial. Several high-quality rash-guard tops and bottoms can be found for $20 online. It is a worthy investment because you can use them for any kind of other workout (running, lifting weights, etc.)

Regardless of which you choose there are some universal guidelines of etiquette and basic best practices the new student may not be aware of……

3.) Etiquette/Best Practices

Jiu-Jitsu at its core, is based off of reciprocity and trust. These best practices help maintain respect for the gym, your training partners, as well as your yourself:

- If possible, get a good night sleep of 8 hours the night before class, and eat a small protein-rich meal an hour beforehand.
- Bring a full container or bottle of water and stay hydrated.
- Arrive early on time and do not skip warm-ups.
- Bow before stepping on to the designated training area mats.
- Do not wear shoes or any kind of footwear on the mats.
- If you attend gi classes wash your gi after every class and hang dry to preserve the fabric.
- Also, wash yourself! Shower and wash your face as soon as possible after class. Things like staph and acne breakouts can be easily avoided with some simple cleanliness.
- Do not wear bracelets, anklets, watches, necklaces, or any loose/low hanging jewelry or piercings. These can turn into hazards while rolling with your partner.
- During training and warm-ups: no matter what, always remember to breathe.


4.) Enjoy the Ride, Relax, and Have Fun

New students are the lifeblood of any vibrant well-run gym. If it is only the same group of people at class every week, things can get stale. New students are required to continue the lineage and operation of the gym and to add variety and new looks to drilling sessions.

Don’t be afraid to assume the childlike apprentice mindset. Don’t be afraid to ask questions early and often. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to have fun.




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