Congrats! Congrats on stepping onto the mat for your first BJJ class. This is huge, and I’m very happy for you because I know the potential it has to change your life. It definitely changed mine.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is one of the most effective martial arts in the world. Whether you want to learn self-defense, get in shape, or even compete, this is the place to be. But trust me, your first class will be a mix of excitement and nerves.
I remember my first day of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu — nervous doesn’t even describe it. I made some rookie mistakes that could have easily been avoided, and I’m here to make sure you don’t go down the same path.
Knowing how to prepare and what to expect at your first jiu-jitsu class isn’t just about easing those butterflies in your stomach. It also shows respect for the sport and the people you’ll be grappling with.
Considering you might be spending a lot of time at your BJJ gym, building a solid relationship from the start will make a difference.
We’ll teach you everything you need to know to get started in BJJ.
What Gear And Clothing Should You Bring?
What should you pack in your gym bag for your first BJJ class? Here’s a quick checklist to make sure you got everything:
- Mouthguard: You’ll be sparring with people; some Gyms won’t let you spar if you don’t wear one. Make sure to buy a Mouthguard before your first rolling session.
- Water Bottle: You’re going to sweat. A lot. Stay hydrated. Nothing worse than forgetting to bring my water bottle to practice.
- Towel(s): You can use one towel to wipe off sweat and another towel to use after class to shower.
- Soap: Opt for that specialized antifungal soap we talked about earlier. It’s embarrassing how many times I forgot to bring soap…
- Flip Flops: Remember, never step on the mat with dirty feet or shoes. Equally embarrassing how many times I forgot to bring those..
- Workout Clothes: If you don’t have a BJJ Gi uniform or rash guard yet, wear something comfy but fitting. No baggy clothes. If you’re training No-Gi, check out our Guide on what to wear for No Gi BJJ.
- Hairband: If you’ve got long hair, tie it back. Nobody wants a mouthful of your hair.
That should cover the basics. If you want to go all out, consider buying a rash guard or BJJ Gi, but for your first class, workout clothes should do the trick.
The Importance Of Hygiene in BJJ
Proper Hygiene is the number one rule in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. BJJ gyms can get super sweaty and up close, so showing up clean is everything.
Trust me, skin issues like staph infections are not uncommon in this sport, mostly because not everyone is as diligent about hygiene.
You can’t control what others do, but you can set an example. Clean yourself like you’d want your training partner to clean themselves. Here’s what that involves:
Pre-shower Before the Class
Taking a shower before stepping onto the mat is crucial. You wouldn’t want to grapple with someone who’s not fresh, so don’t be that person.
Plus, it helps you wake up and get in the zone. I highly recommend buying specialized antifungal soap or soaps for intense jiu-jitsu training. Many BJJ practitioners use those.
Shower Again After Class
After class, shower immediately. The aim is to wash off any germs or bacteria you might have picked up during class. You’ll sweat a lot, and your sparring partners, too, so shower directly in the gym if possible.
Trimming Fingers and Toenails
You’ll be using your hands and feet a lot. Long nails can not only scratch your training partner but also become a breeding ground for bacteria. Keep those nails short and clean. I have seen instructors send people home if they had long nails.
I clip my nails every week. I keep my nail clipper in my gym bag. So I cannot forget it.
Flip Flops are Essential
Alright, here’s the deal—you should never, and I mean NEVER walk barefoot in the areas surrounding the mat.
You don’t want to bring outside germs onto the mat, and wearing flip-flops is an easy way to prevent that.
If you walk onto the mat with dirty feet or shoes, you’re instantly breaking rule number one.
I broke this rule at the beginning. I was walking barefoot outside the mat, and then I stepped on the mat.
Right away someone came up to me and told me it’s a no-go. Mistakes can happen, but I wish I could’ve avoided this one.
Hygiene is everything in BJJ. Not only does it keep you healthy, but it also helps you build a good relationship with your gym and training partners.
No one wants to drill, spar, or learn BJJ techniques with someone they find gross. So, show up clean, and you’ll be good to go.
What Should You Do On Arrival in Your BJJ Gym?
Show up early and give yourself some extra time to settle in. It’s like when you go to a party; no one wants to be the first one there, but being early has its benefits.
It’s a good time to get a feel for the gym, find out where everything is, have some conversations with your fellow students, and get some one-on-one time with the instructor before class starts.
I travel to many Gyms. It’s uncomfortable if you come late. By the time you check in and find dressing rooms and stuff, practice starts. You don’t want to disrupt class just because you are new.
I made it a point to be 15 min early. That way I can get to know the coach and the students. By the time class starts I’m already comfortable with the new environment.
I know, a BJJ Gym can seem intimidating at first, but don’t be shy; this is your new family. Go ahead and introduce yourself to the instructor and your fellow BJJ practitioners.
It’s a great way to break the ice, and you’ll feel more at ease once the class starts. Plus, it’s a sign of respect. And respect is everything in BJJ.
Be On Time
I noticed that many students in BJJ show up late to skip the warm-up. Don’t be that person. Warm-ups are an essential part of every BJJ lesson, and they’re included for a reason.
Plus, constantly showing up late doesn’t sit well with BJJ instructors or your future training partners.
Being early or at least punctual shows that you’re serious about learning and respectful of other people’s time. So set that alarm and be there when you’re supposed to. Your first day of BJJ will go a lot smoother, trust me.
How Does A BJJ Class Look Like?
Okay, you walked into the gym for your first BJJ class, got your gear sorted, and now the class is about to start. First up is the warm-up. Don’t zone out; this part’s important.
You’ll start by warming up your neck, wrists, knees—pretty much every joint you’ve got. Expect to do some shrimps, solo drills, and light jogging around the mat.
Why is warm-up so crucial? It should be obvious, but warming up gets your blood flowing and muscles loose, which is essential for any contact sport. Many BJJ injuries can be avoided if you take the warm-up seriously from day one.
I didn’t take them seriously and I paid for it. I believe everybody will pay for it eventually.
After you’re all warmed up, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty: here you learn all the techniques you need to know, such as takedowns, sweeps, and submissions. Learning the correct technique and drilling it over and over is key in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
I had resistance toward drilling in the beginning. I wanted to roll straight away. But that’s silly. You need to learn the basics first.
How to Remember the Steps: Go into class with the mindset to learn. Some gyms even recommend bringing a notebook to note down what you learned. As a beginner, don’t just go through the motions; focus heavily on drilling. The mantra here is drill, drill, drill!
Next up is positional sparring. Wondering what that is? It’s a type of practice where you and your training partner do sparring, but you’ll start from a specific position. It’s an addition to drilling – now the goal is to use the drilling techniques while your partner is resisting.
In this position-specific sparring situation, you’ll be put in the positions you were in when you were drilling; only now, you will do them with the full resistance of your training partner.
This is great for testing out what you just learned. I made it a point to try to pull of the drill we just did.
Finally, we get to “rolling”, the BJJ term for sparring. The goal here is to get into a dominant position and, eventually, use submissions on your opponent. Here you can apply everything you learned in your BJJ journey.
Here you won’t start in a specific position, you’ll start standing. Even though some will pull guard immediately (don’t worry, you’ll learn about that soon enough…).
But listen, if you’re a beginner, focus on surviving first. It’s okay, everyone’s been there. Keep calm, have fun, and remember, you’re learning one of the most effective martial arts in the world.
What Should You Do After A BJJ Class?
So, the class is finished, and you’re sweating like you just ran a marathon. I have never sweated so much than during a BJJ class. But hang on; the class isn’t over yet.
Usually, the instructor has some closing words, share some insights, or give some reminders.
Once that’s over, you go around in a circle and shake everyone’s hand and/or give a group clap. It’s the traditional way to close out the session in BJJ.
Remember hygiene? It’s time for another shower. You’ll have the sweat of many people on you, do everyone a favor and wash directly after.
Use the antifungal soap we talked about earlier. Trust me, everyone appreciates a clean training partner.
Chat with Your Fellow Students and the Instructor
Before you go, take a minute to talk with your fellow students and the instructor.
It’s a great way to get some extra tips or clarify anything you didn’t get during class.
Don’t forget to thank the instructor before you leave; they just shared a ton of knowledge with you.
People will like it if you do that. Even if some won’t show it.
You want to form a good relationship. You don’t have to say much, just acknowledge them.
Go Home and Be Proud
You did it! You survived your first BJJ class. Whether you felt like a fish out of water or a born natural, be proud of yourself for stepping on the mats and giving it a go.
Every black belt started as a white belt who kept showing up. So go home, get some rest, and maybe even note down a few notes on what you learned today.
I remember how I felt after my first BJJ class. Proud and hungry. It’s the beginning of a beautiful journey. Just keep showing up, and you’ll see.
Wash Your Gear At Home
You’ll sweat a lot, and there are bacteria in the gym. The earlier you cultivate the habit of washing your clothes directly after you get home, the better.
How Do You Prepare For Your First BJJ Class?
Watch a Class Online
Consider watching a class online. It’s a good way to get a feel for what to expect. This prep work helps you understand the techniques and positions you’re about to learn.
It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with some basic terminology so you’re not totally lost during the next part of the class.
Watching Do’s and Don’ts Videos
If you’re new to BJJ—especially if you’re a white belt—watching videos that cover the do’s and don’ts can be super helpful.
These videos often break down common mistakes and offer tips that can accelerate your learning process.
This video saved me before my first class:
No Training When Sick or Injured
Common sense, but let’s say it anyway: If you’re sick or injured, skip class. First off, you won’t be able to give your best.
Secondly, and more importantly, you risk spreading germs or worsening your condition. The mats will be there when you’re better, so take the time to heal.
Last but not least, if something’s unclear or you’re stuck on a technique, don’t be shy—ask questions! The only foolish question is the one you didn’t ask.
Everyone on the mat started as a beginner. Be courageous enough to ask and learn; it’s the best way to improve.
In my experience, people appreciate when you ask questions. It’s a sign that you are engaged and motivated. And there’s a high probability that somebody in the room was wondering about the same thing.
Learning BJJ: Final Words
Your journey in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is special, unlike anything else you’ll experience. From your first day of class as a white belt to getting your black belt down the road, this path is filled with opportunities for personal growth.
But keep that in mind—like anything worth doing, it takes time, patience, and consistent effort.
Starting BJJ is an exciting but humbling experience. Don’t expect to be a pro from day one; even the most accomplished fighters had to start somewhere. Your first jiu-jitsu lesson will probably feel overwhelming, but that’s completely normal.
The goal is to get better each time you step on the mat. As you progress, you might find that BJJ becomes more than just a hobby—it could turn into an obsession.
While passion is great, balance is crucial. Manage your expectations and take each lesson as an opportunity to grow, both as a BJJ student and as a person.
Your time in the BJJ gym will be a transformative period in your life. With each roll, each drill, and each class, you’ll become not just a better fighter but a better version of yourself.
So, as you prepare for another class or decide to take the plunge for the first time, keep these considerations in mind. Trust me, you’ll be thankful you did.