30th June 2015 – I went into my first BJJ class with a lot more nerves than I wanted, and good amount more confidence than I should have had.
I had sent a few emails back and forward with the instructor Diccon Lynes at the BJJ Lifestyle Team in Kingston, and he met me when I came in, gave me a BJJ Gi to wear and introduced me to the class. Everyone was welcoming, asked about what I did, what experience I had had, and a few guys showed me some of the basic moves whilst we did a few jogs and stretches to warm up. Someone was even kind enough to show me how to tie the white belt I was given round me (which is no easy feat to start with – see here for BJJ belt meanings).
This class was structured around breaking and passing a closed guard…. first I had to learn what breaking and passing a guard was. Then I had to learn what a closed guard was… The women on top is IN the closed guard of the woman on the bottom.
The class was drills and feet/hand placement to get their legs to pop open behind you to enable you to either escape, or move into a position to attack them. It was a real struggle to get my legs together around the guy on top of me, to lock them in and keep them locked.
When I was on top in closed guard, I found the positioning of my feet and using my knee to create leverage to open their guard very difficult at first, but after 45 minutes and several helpful and patient partners, it was starting to make some sort of sense… just.
Then came my first experience of sparring. Everyone in BJJ has to roll. It’s part of what made me so interested in the sport to start with, and I was crazy excited about it… and then the pain started.
I figured I’d be able to wrestle a bit, use my strength to find a way through, and practice some of the guard passing we had done earlier. Instead I found myself on the receiving end of no less than 5 arm-bars, 3 triangle chokes, 2 lapel chokes and 2 rear naked chokes… I loved it!
It was full panic mode, arms everywhere, pushing everything I shouldn’t, grabbing at things that weren’t important…. but each partner gave me little bits of guidance – “try putting your arm here” – “move your leg to here and try again” – “stop having a fit” (that one hurt a bit).
I was exhausted, almost fainted but couldn’t wait for the next session!