roger me andy

Learn to speak Jiu Jitsu

Published On October 26, 2014 | By Helen Harper | News

Three and a half years ago I was lost. I was going through the worst break up I’ve ever been through and I didn’t know which way to turn.

A friend of mine suggested I try Jiu Jitsu as both as a form of defense and a way to get my head straight. The suggestion couldn’t have come at a better time. Within weeks I had immersed myself in the world of Jiu Jitsu and there was no turning back.

At this time, I was severely traumatized from a previous experience which meant that every time my head was trapped (mostly triangles and guillotines) I would have a panic attack. The panic attacks used to put me out for the majority of the session, so I felt like my progress was slow. Thankfully I had a very patient coach and several training partners I could rely on to get me through it.

The attacks became more and more infrequent, and I honestly can’t remember the last time I had one now. Overcoming this panic was perhaps the most significant hurdle of my journey, and something I often see in others who are new to Jiu Jitsu.

The most important thing I did was to keep training. I’ll be honest, I felt like giving up some days. So many times I went home to my cousin and cried my eyes out to him. I was embarrassed because I felt I wasn’t getting any better and I felt stupid for having so many panic attacks.

Although he didn’t agree with “fighting” he never once told me to give up. The encouragement kept coming, and with it my confidence grew.

After a few months a wonderful thing happened. I got two stripes!! I couldn’t believe it. My first two stripes. I did that. I trained hard. I got through the panic attacks. I got the stripes. I was unbelievably proud of myself.

Looking back, many people have a similar story. We all start somewhere, and we all go through similar teething issues, many people temporarily fall out of love with Jiu Jitsu. But something draws us back in.

Sometimes I sit and watch the beginners’ class at my current gym (ARBJJ). It puts everything in to perspective for me, and helps me to see how far I’ve come.

Jiu Jitsu is like learning a language. First you learn your basic movements, like shrimping and rolling. I look at this as your ‘yes’ and ‘no’, the real basics. Then you start drilling, maybe learning a submission, or a sweep. I see this as the numbers, maybe a few random words like ‘beer’ or ‘sandwich’ (after all, what other words do you need on a European holiday?)

After a while, you begin to string a few words together and form a sentence. In other words, you’re starting to put that sweep and submission together, and make it a little more fluid. Scissor sweep, land in mount. Grab an arm and go for the arm bar from mount. It’s not pretty, it’s not perfect, but neither is your grammar at this stage. It’s ok, you’re still learning.

Soon you will want to have a basic conversation. Maybe chat to a local about the weather, or the best place to go at the weekend. You can more or less understand a basic response by now, and are doing your best to answer without sounding like a complete idiot. This is when you start light sparring. Your sparring partner will know you’re a beginner and use basic language to help you out.

The more structured your sentences become, the more you want to practice your new found skill. You will find yourself at every Jiu Jitsu class possible, simply drowning yourself in the language.

When you find yourself striking up a conversation with a complete stranger, you will know you’re ready to compete. Go out there, test yourself amongst the best. The first time you do it, you will feel your heart in your mouth. But the more conversations you have, the better you will get at them.

The real landmarks aren’t the belts and stripes. It’s your first sweep, your first submission, your first competition. The first time you get your hand raised. The first time you sweep your instructor. The first time you submit your instructor! (Still waiting for those two myself)

Nothing in the world will compare to that first win. The first time you hold a conversation with a local, use the correct grammar, and chat about what ever you want. Maybe they even mistake you for a native speaker!

Of course there will be set backs. Using a word in the wrong context, incorrect grammar, forgetting which language you’re speaking and switching mid sentence. Getting tapped out what seems like one hundred times in a session, not being able to submit anyone, feeling like a punch bag for the higher grades.

It’s all part of the journey, it’s just Jiu Jitsu testing your love and dedication. Remember how far you’ve come, how much you’ve learnt. Where were you at the beginning of your journey? I guarantee you will be in a better place both physically and mentally than when you started.


roger me andyRoger Gracie, myself and Andy Roberts (my head coach)

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About The Author

English Mixed Martial Artist fighting out of Andy Roberts BJJ and Legacy BJJ with a pro record of 4-1.

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