So due to my Judo club being closed for the summer I finally made it to my first BJJ class and what an eye opener it was.
As I approached the club I was hit with a smell which can only be described as men’s sweat. This smell intensified as I walked in to the club and was an indication of what my body would be doing very shortly, I.e. sweating……a lot.
I introduced myself to the instructor Ricardo and was made to feel welcome I then made my way to the corner of the room where I changed in to my gi. I noticed as I was doing so the chiseled physiques of most of the other guys which made me realise that this was a serious dojo.
After a short wait we started to warm up which involved us running around the mat for about 5- 10 minutes before we took it in turns to do various break falls and various methods of shrimping up and down the mat. Apparently tonights class would be different to the normal lesson which would normally consist of 45 minutes of warm up and cardio followed by 45 minutes of techniques and 45 minute of sparring. Tonight our warm up only lasted 15 minutes but then we went straight in to light sparring.
First up I paired off with Ryan, my friend from Judo who had incidentally only recently received his blue belt. This was to prove the most gentle roll I had all evening as Ryan was clearly being nice to me and allowed me to work some submissions and transition from side control to mount although he did sub me a couple of times just to keep my ego in check.
After Ryan I was feeling good, and thought that my 4 months of Judo Newaza was going to stand me in good stead for the rest of the lesson. I then paired up with a young lad who didn’t have a gi. This meant he was either a beginner or maybe an MMA guy who prefers no-gi BJJ because it more closely relates to the grappling in MMA fights. We started to roll and he immediately caught me in a triangle but I managed to squeeze my other arm between his legs thus forcing him to give up on the sub. I then worked on trying to pass his guard and was able to do so and go straight in to kesa-gatame. As this isn’t Judo holding him down in Kesa-gatame would not score me any points so I transitioned in to Mune-gatame and then I got mount. From here I managed to work an Americana until he tapped.
I was feeling good now as I thought I had just subbed an MMA fighter. We started again and this time I pulled guard. I was then able to sweep him so that I got full mount. He tried to bridge but I let him turnover and then I had his back with both hooks in where I was then able to sink in a choke.
We started again and this time he was slightly more aggressive. Again I pulled guard but this time he passed and got side control where he tried to work a Kimura and almost had it when Ricardo called out to change partners so I was saved. We shook hands and I asked him how long he had been training. He said this was his second week and then it suddenly hit me, I was a complete beginner doing BJJ and unless we started sparring from standing I was gonna have a long tough night.
As there were probably around 30 guys everyone took it in turns to grab a drink and I didn’t mind sitting out for a few minutes so I could catch my breath. I was then approached by a blue belt for a roll and off we went again. In Judo you bow before you spar but at this club you kinda shake hands and then touch fists which fits in with the more modern feel and as this is a Brazilian Martial Art certainly feels more normal than bowing would be which is a Japanese custom.
From here on in the rest of the night was a total blur as I was submitted and totally controlled by everyone else I sparred with. I did manage to spar a Purple Belt who managed to submit me 4 times in 60 seconds, surely a record. What I would say though is that, certainly with the Blue and Purple Belts, they were very willing to give me advice and help me. In fact everyone I sparred with seemed like a nice guy even though a couple of them looked like the kind of people you would cross the street to avoid.
We had a brief respite from the sparring when we stopped to do a couple of techniques but this only lasted 30 minutes before we went back in to sparring.
Things I learnt from tonight’s lesson were as follows:
· 4 months of Judo equates to about 4 lessons in BJJ where Newaza is concerned. Obviously this is because each Judo lesson is split about 60/40 in favour of throws to Newaza whereas every 2 hour BJJ lesson is 2 hours of Newaza.
· Passing the guard and good guard control is essential in BJJ and is probably the most important thing to work on rather than flashy submission.
· If someone is sitting down trying to pull you in to their guard do not grab the lapel of their gi or go straight in to their guard with your arms stretched forward as they can easily control and probably sweep you. What you should try to do is to control their legs so that you can pass their guard.
Towards the end of the class the mats, in some places were so saturated that puddles had formed and if you were unfortunate enough to walk on one of these puddles your feet squelched beneath you.
When the lesson finally finished we all lined up to shake hands with the instructor and give each other a manly slap on the back. There was just one more thing however. One of the guys in the club had been disrespectful towards Ricardo, not in a malicious way but more of taking the Mickey out of Brazilians type of way, which is not clever when your Black belt instructor is a proud Brazilian. Anyway as punishment this guy had to run a type of gauntlet between the rest of the club whilst we are whipped him with our belts. Again this was all done in good spirit but was a lot different to what I am used to at Judo.
The morning after I am aching like I have never ached before so there is no chance of me going to the next class on Thursday however will I be fit for next Tuesday’s lesson? Just watch this space.