I have been thinking for a while after many long conversations about how to improve retention of new students at BJJ. Clearly, from my experience at least, the one or two free lessons and then jump into the class aren’t working. Much of the feedback after a beginner class that is received is mostly positive in that people can see immediately how these skills are practical and effective but once they start free wrestling they are lost and their body and ego gets squashed simultaneously and they never come back. They know its good stuff but maybe too hard or too overwhelming too soon. As a result, it is often said that BJJ is not for everyone. All of our students that do overcome this initial shock and continue to enjoy training do so because they have extensive experience in other fighting forms and are used to the rough and tumble of physical contact and realise early on that this initial discomfort will ultimately give way to long term development of useful and reliable skills. In short, they relish the challenge. But this result is in the minority. How do we provide people with an introduction to the art without the high confrontation level and perhaps develop some fundamental skills that even if they choose not to continue training will still be practical? The problem has always been how long can you shield someone from the uncomfortable reality of grappling with a non-compliant opponent? A week? A month? I wanted at least to give a Mr Joe Average potential student a taste of what this stuff is before dropping them in the deep end.
The answer, for right now at least, is a 6 lesson beginner course that everyone who comes to train must do before they even consider any free sparring or participation in general classes. The course is focused on fundamental positions and how to improve your existing position or to recover from a bad spot when necessary. The goal is to provide a very basic road map early on to act as future guide in general classes. Now, I know the map is not the territory but at least it’s a start. Each person will be given a copy of the syllabus outline and told this is what you will learn from the get go. I wanted the lessons to appeal to as wide an audience as possible and not just the 18-34 male who has been watching the UFC and wants to be BJ Penn or Tito Ortiz overnight without sweating please. Lessons are conducted after participation in the warm up with the whole class.
This program can of course be modified to suit different groups. For instance, when teaching to teenagers or kids it might be worth removing the RNC and replacing with an Armlock or Figure 4 from mount instead. The lessons are well detailed and ideally should be able to be taught easily and effectively by senior students and just become part of the process of training. All lessons are based on BJJ 101 classes that are regularly taught already. As well as the techniques listed in each lesson the student must always be given an indication of how these movements fit into the big picture of street defence or overall grapping tactics and strategies. Teaching always in principles and not isolated techniques. I don’t want to get too bogged down in detail early, develop gross motor patterns and reflexes first and then refine movements from there down the track. At least this way everyone who walks through the door is guaranteed to get the same skill set delivered every time regardless of the instructor. The lessons are position and transition heavy and submission light, this may not appeal to the guy who wants to rip everyone’s head off with a guillotine but it gets the position over submission message in early.
The first class as normal is complimentary and then if they choose to do the six lesson course after this its $80 upfront and classes are Tues nite from 7-8pm or during the dedicated beginner time. From here if they choose to continue training it reverts to the standard training fee structure or contracts. If the student is super keen to wrassle then they can get these lessons out of the way in 2-3 weeks and get into it or alternatively weekly sessions are an option.
Six Fundamental Lessons In BJJ
Lesson 1 Fighting from your Back
• 5 count arm-bar from guard
• Simple Sweep
• Bridge Escape from Mount
First explain that fighting from your back is possible and that a fight can be finished from this position. Explain that if you are on your back at least have the person between one or both legs to increase control, and ultimately grappling is about getting, keeping and using this control in different positions. Then go on to teach the submission and then explain how sweeps and reversals are also important demonstrating a simple sweep and finishing in the mount. Then demonstrate bridging technique without a partner and then go on to show them with a partner using it to escape from mount.
Lesson 2 Mount and Back Control
Mount Control using arms to post and base to the left/right and in-front, swimming arms inside to keep control when grabbed. Explain that the top position is good to use your weight and stay mobile and gives you the option to punch and/or escape.
Taking back control when person turns by getting hooks in one at a time. Then move to
RNC (start practice with partner in kneeling position in front of the mirror and then apply with back control as taught earlier) to finish.
Lesson 3 Guard Passing
Basic Guard Pass (posture, stay behind imaginary wall, break legs, underhook, rock over step, stacking with head and hip control, stay low)
Cross Side Control principles controlling head and hips to prevent rotation and how to properly take the mount
Guard Pass Drill to develop flow (ie. Pass to side then mount other person bridges and repeat)
Lesson 4 Intro to Open Guard
Basic principles of using your feet as levers to move an opponent.
Seated Guard and Hooks In Sweep (Correct angle, head position, underhook etc)
How to most safely return to standing position from Guard
Lesson 5 Closed Guard Recovery
Two Methods to Re-guard from failed Half Guard attempt. Defending against cross face and underhook by blocking hip and returning to closed guard or getting a single hook to lift partner back into closed guard or hooks in guard then pushing back to seated position.
Lesson 6 Getting off your Back
Side Control Escapes back to guard or bridging back to knees/turtle
How to correctly frame your arms, Making space with hips and replacing bottom knee
Bridging to turtle