Learning BJJ: How hard is it? (Beginner’s Guide)

How hard is it to learn BJJ

As a new BJJ student, I had heard that BJJ has a steep learning curve and I was interested to know how hard BJJ is to learn. After years of training now, here’s what I’ve found.

BJJ can be hard to learn because it involves lots of technical moves, positions, and submissions which take some practice to get used to. However, most BJJ schools follow a progressive training program, meaning you’ll start off learning the basics, before moving onto the harder, more advanced stuff.

So, why is it difficult at the early stages of learning BJJ? In this article you’ll learn about:

  • Why BJJ can be hard to learn
  • BJJ’s progressive learning curve
  • The use of leverage in BJJ to make it easier
  • And 2 bonus related questions at the end

How Hard it is to Learn BJJ

In BJJ, there are many moves, positions, and submissions that are commonly used, all of which rely less on strength and more on technique to be able to complete the move.

This is because BJJ was originally formed out of adapting Judo and Japanese Jiu-Jitsu to be able to be used by a smaller or weaker person against a larger or stronger attacker.

So inevitably, BJJ requires a solid understanding of the proper technique for each move or submission.

However, for new BJJ students, its normal to not have a good understanding of the technique and what is needed each step of the way in setting up their moves.

Then, when you throw into the mix the fact that we all still DO use maximum strength and effort in BJJ training, both in offense and defense, it’s clear to see why BJJ can be very difficult to learn and to be effective as a beginner.

For example, lets say you’re new to BJJ and have just been shown how to do a certain move. Then, you’re matched up with someone who is stronger than you (or maybe has a bit more experience than you), and you begin live training going 70-80% effort.

You try as hard as you can to land the move you’ve just be shown on your training partner, but it just seems impossible. Your opponent is too strong and you can’t remember each little step of the setup, meaning your technique is off.

“BJJ is all about technique, but we all still use maximum strength too, it’s just the way it is. Discover more about using strength in BJJ in my other article all about it”

This situation is normal, we see it all the time in BJJ, I still struggle with it today. What’s needed is repetition, to practice the move again and again at a slow pace, practicing each little step of the setup.

In BJJ, this type of repetition training is known as drilling, and its what’s needed in order to start making your BJJ start to click. For more on this, check out my other article on when BJJ starts to get easier.

BJJ’s Progressive Learning Curve

The fact that BJJ can be difficult to learn as a beginner shouldn’t put you off. In fact, when you are just starting out, you will be at the beginning of a well-structured, progressive learning program, meaning, you’re in good hands.

Most BJJ gyms follow a similar structure when it comes to teaching new students, but not all, I’ve trained at some BJJ schools where you are thrown in at the deep end and left to sink or swim (mainly sink).

However, most will gradually introduce new students to the fundamentals of BJJ in a structured way. Meaning, training is progressive, starting with the basics, and only allowing you to progress once you have a solid grasp on the fundamentals.

Gracie Barra are a great example of a BJJ school who follow a structured, progressive training program designed to teach you a solid Jiu-Jitsu game from beginner through to advanced. Check out my article for an honest Gracie Barra Review

This means you will get the chance to get good at the basics in your own time, before being thrown into the advanced stuff without having a clue what to do.

It is worth mentioning though, that as you begin to improve and progress into the more advanced classes, it may start to feel like training is getting harder again.

This is because you’ll be learning more technical moves, and be training with people who are more advanced than you are.

Meaning, as you level up, and all your training partners level up around you, it can seem like it’s continuously tough. Until of course you train with some of the lower belts in your gym again, in which case you will really notice how you’ve advanced.

Learning to Use Leverage in BJJ

Another key element to how hard BJJ is to learn is how well you can implement the use of leverage into your BJJ game.

As I’ve mentioned, we use strength throughout BJJ training, all the time, no matter what our rank is. But as a beginner, we use even more strength than we do technique or leverage.

This means that, in an attempt to move our training partners the way we want them, we use a lot of energy and effort in a head-to-head battle of strength-on-strength.

This makes BJJ just seem even harder. However, once you learn how to use leverage in your game, you’ll find that it takes less effort and seems to become easier.

You can learn about the use of leverage in BJJ in my other article.

Related Questions

1. Is BJJ a Hard Workout?

BJJ can be a hard workout because it uses all of the muscles in the body, requiring them to perform both in endurance and strength for the duration of the class. Classes start with a warmup before progressing into the Jiu-Jitsu aspect of class, if you’re relatively fit though, you should be okay.

I have actually covered this topic in much more detail in my complete guide to BJJ fitness, go check it out.

2. Is BJJ Painful (Does it hurt)? 

A common concern for someone just starting out in any martial art is whether or not they will get hurt. And BJJ is no different, so, is BJJ painful?

BJJ can be painful, with most common pains coming from bumps and bruises, or sore and stiff muscles. As with any contact sport, you may also get hurt with accidental cuts or black eyes, or even cauliflower ear. With an existing injury, BJJ will likely be more painful. But generally, BJJ is safe to learn.

For more information on learning BJJ as a beginner, go check out my other article: BJJ White Belt: What to Expect

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