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Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Newbie Guide - FAQs

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Instructional Materials

There are so many supplemental Instructional materials to choose from that it can either be very confusing and expensive for a beginner! All beginners should concentrate on the Basics, and then decide what path you wish to take. Some people do Jiu-jitsu for self-defense, some for sport, some just for exercise. Regardless of what you will eventually end up doing, the one thing that will always be the same are the Basics. Our recommendation for this is the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, Essential Techniques DVDs. The Essential Techniques series is good for all levels and will keep you busy for a while.

One of the greatest values for the dollar is our eTraining program. For a relatively low cost, you will have access to more information than on any video series. Additionally, you can interact with a Black Belt instructor to answer all of your questions.

Our Top Sellers On DVD

Beginners: Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, Essential Techniques DVD Set
Fitness/Exercise: Fight Fitness DVD
No Rules/No Gi/Street Fighting: No Rules Brazilian Jiu-jitsu DVD Set
Advanced: Mastering Brazilian Jiu-jitsu - 8 DVD Set
Jiu-Jitsu Advanced - Top Game and Top Guard Series
MMA Instruction: Jiu-jitsu for Mixed Martial Arts


The official uniform of Jiu-jitsu in which you will be training is called a "Kimono" or "Gi". This uniform consists or 3 pieces: a jacket or top, a pair of drawstring pants (usually padded at the knees) and a belt. The uniform is made out a specially weaved cotton material that will be able to withstand the rigorous practice of Jiu-jitsu without immediately tearing. Your Kimono should be kept as clean as possible and treated as your armor.

Why Train with the Gi?

As you practice Jiu-jitsu, you will find it useful as both an offensive and defensive tool; you will also realize its value as a common uniform to promote safe and technical practice of Jiu-jitsu.

The gi game obviously has a lot more to it. Everything that can be done without the gi can be done without it, making it a more complex game. Additionally, taking away the gi allows physical attributes such as size strength and slipperiness to come to play with greater effect due to the lack of levers and friction. Working with the gi is generally considered more of a 'thinking man's' game. Not that no-gi isn't, it's just that the gi removes many physical advantages and ads more techniques.

For now, you should view your kimono as a set of training wheels. As you develop a higher level of proficiency, you will learn to perform Jiu-jitsu techniques both with and without a kimono. For now, the kimono will add a level of sophistication to your game that will result in you as a student becoming a more advanced and technical fighter.

Why Train with the Gi (Uniform) in the Grappling arts?

The following is a short article pointing out some of the benefits to training with the gi (uniform) in grappling arts like Jiu-jitsu or Judo.

Chess and Checkers

It is simply logic that when you add the gi to a grappling match, it will add more possibilities; it is therefore a more complex game. It would be much easier for a good chess player to join in on a game of checkers than the other way around.

Making Big Fighters More Technical

There is no better way to take the physical attributes from someone than putting him in a gi. Without the gi, a bigger person can use more of their strength and faster opponents, more of their speed. The point of any art is to use more technique and skill than strength; using the gi will help develop that skill.

You can always take it off

I've seen submission grapplers and wrestlers with ten years or more experience get choked by people with half that time-in while wearing the gi; they look as if you've just put them in a straight jacket.

When you train with the gi (properly), it is just a matter of a few grip adjustments in order to fight without it. If you do not train with the gi enough-- you're the checkers guy.

Military and Law Enforcement Application

Unless you are patrolling a beach (in which case, you have a sweet assignment and nothing to complain about), your opponents are wearing clothes. There have been many reports from the Military personnel I train saying that they favor training with the gi and make good use of collar chokes. In fact the core of the Modern Army Manual is based on Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and soldiers often train in their BDUs.

It gets cold

For those of us that live in places that get cold now and then, you'll be wearing something that resembles a gi for a large part of the year. Even if you are in a hot climate, you'll most likely be wearing some sort of pants or shorts and a t-shirt that an opponent can grab onto. Additionally, the gi is great for training because it won't rip like a t-shirt.

Training both with and without the gi is important for anyone who practices any type of Grappling art. Make it at least 50% of your practice and you will be better for it.

Where to Buy?

Check out our discounts on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu uniforms in the Online Store.

Tying Your Belt

Most students go with the efficient and easy square knot. First, fold your belt in half and find the middle point. Keeping a finger on that middle point, hold the outstretched belt in line with your belly button/navel and wrap the belt around your back and hold each end in front of you. Adjust so that the belt ends are more or less the same length in front of you. The belt should appear to be overlapping if viewed from behind you.

Depending on the person and the preference, the rest can differ from here. You can take the right end down and over the central point and bring the left end over the right. Bring that now right end (previously the left end) up and under the belt line. Now tie a simple-knot with both ends from there.

Belt Ranks

The ranking system in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is done through a series of colored belts. Each belt represents a level of proficiency. Each belt generally takes between 2 and 5 years of consistent practice to obtain with the exception of Blue belt, which can be obtained within a year of diligent practice.

These are the Belt Ranks typically worn in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu:

Note: There are different federations and associations of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. These are the belt ranks that are commonly worn.

The order of belts is as follows: White, Blue, Purple, Brown and Black. Some schools give four (white) stripes on white through brown belts. Black Belts will have up to 5 stripes (degrees), usually given every three years, then at sixth and seventh (degree) a Red and Black Belt is worn. At ninth and tenth degree (considered Grand Master), a red belt is worn.

Giving Promotions

The practice of awarding rank to others is best left to experienced Black Belts. In some cases, Black Belts will give permission to Brown Belts to evaluate the performance of lower belts and recommend a student for blue belt (the first belt in BJJ). Otherwise, giving rank is a practice reserved solely for Black Belt instructors. In Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, there are different types of Black Belts which include both fighters and instructors: a black belt with a white band signifies that a person is a "Fighter" Black Belt. Teachers are awarded Black Belts with a Red Band and have the ability to give rank up to Brown Belt. Once an instructor receives his first (white) stripe on the red band, he may award Black Belts to deserving candidates.

Under 16 Belt Ranks

Q: My son's BJJ instructor has said that under BJJ rules, kids under 16 do not get a blue belt but must wait until they turn 16 to reach that goal, at which point they will be evaluated and possibly go straight to purple belt. Under 16 belts go white, orange, green, green with stripe, then they stay there until 16, continuing to learn. Is this belt system for kids under 16 correct?

A: What your son's teacher told you about belts is pretty much true. Under 16 years of age, it is white, yellow, orange, and green, with 4 stripes on each belt. When a student becomes 16, he or she then reaches 'adult' belt levels, which are white, blue, purple, brown and black. The belt levels for children do translate into adult levels, for example, a kids orange is usually around blue belt and green is usually around purple.


Before you train, you should consult your physician to make sure you are fit for Martial Arts practice. If you do become injured during your training, you should immediately consult your physician.

Do Injuries happen in Jiu-jitsu? Yes.

Like any physical activity, injuries do happen. The best way to prevent them is by training under the supervision of a professional and accredited instructor. During your practice, avoid people with large egos and get rid of your own. If you feel uncomfortable working with someone, it is ok to say no. Remember that at each school, people are practicing at different paces and for different reasons so it is important to work with people that have similar motives for training.

Basic Etiquette

These are some general rules to follow during training:

  • Keep your uniform clean.
  • Avoid foul language.
  • Respect everyone.
  • Never challenge an instructor to a fight. (Ask politely for help.)
  • Be on time for class.
  • Call your instructor if you will be absent for a length of time.
  • Always bow or shake hands before sparring.
  • NEVER get too aggressive while sparring, you should relax and go easy - don't grind away, or go too hard trying to tap people out.
  • No Shoes on the mat.
  • Refrain from horseplay, talking, and interrupting while your instructor is teaching.
  • Keep yourself properly groomed.

Finding A School

It is important to find the right school; this will determine the rest of your Jiu-jitsu 'career'. Once you have searched locally through the Internet and yellow pages, you must decide which school is right for you. Your first concern should be the legitimacy and experience of the school's instructor. You should be looking for a school with a certified Black Belt instructor on hand who teaches regular classes and has done so for some time. The practice of people teaching at lower ranks was a necessity in the 1990's due to a high demand and so few Black Belts living in this country to teach the art, but at this point in time, most areas of the U.S. have Black Belt instructors within a reasonable distance. Another important thing about learning from a Black Belt as opposed to lower ranking people aside from the obvious issue of experience and ability to give rank when deserved is that you want to be your teacher's student, not his training partner. People under the rank of black belt are still working on personal goals and may be a better training partner than teacher. For those of you who are still in areas without a Black Belt instructor nearby, check out our eTraining Program as a great learning tool, especially if you have training partners to work with.

Make sure the school has good mats and good people. No egos or bad attitudes; the students are a reflection of the teacher. If you feel like the students are going too hard on you, they probably are and you shouldn't go back. People more experienced than you 'beat' you at some point; after doing so they should show you how they did it so that you can learn and progress. Remember that you are there to learn, not get hurt; it would be ironic to get hurt trying to learn Self Defense.

Check out our school listings section and look for "Accredited Academies", signifying academies that have more experienced and qualified instructors.


Do I have to compete?

No. Competition is not for everyone. In fact, the term "Sport Martial Arts" is a sort of oxymoron. Competition is an excellent way to promote a particular martial art and help it to gain popularity with the public. Additionally, sportive martial arts allows a practitioner a way to balance realistic practice with safe everyday training. This sportive practice can be done in the school or in public at large competitions. Although sportive practice has many benefits, they are sometimes overshadowed by ego and a typical sports-fan type behavior that is contrary to a good Martial Artist's conduct; newbies can often be confused by this or turned in the wrong direction quickly.

Know why you want to train ...

It is important that you know why you want to train in the martial arts before starting; if your goal is self-defense or personal protection of some kind, then there might not be any need for you to compete. Some people enter the martial arts looking for a challenge or have a very competitive nature; in this case, searching for a school that focuses on competition might be for you.

Regardless of what you do, it is important to understand that the greatest thing about Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is the fact that it has so many outlets for everyone.

Remember that sport is one way to practice the martial art we call Jiu-jitsu; it shouldn't represent the art as a whole.

What is the difference between Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Japanese Jujitsu (Jujutsu)?

The first and most important reason can be found in the art's history and is primary to all others discussed afterward. When you research the history of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, you will understand that it came from "Judo" in its time of renaissance. In the early 1900's, Judo was being developed from a variety of Jiu-jitsu styles in order to make it the most complete and effective martial art in the world. Some older Jiu-jitsu schools only focused on one area of fighting (some practiced primarily standing techniques) and had been left without a realistic battlefield testing ground for hundreds of years. If you recall the history of Judo's beginning, you know that it was made up of mostly standing techniques at first, from Kito Ryu Jiu-jitsu and a few other styles. This alone was not enough, so the groundwork of Fusen Ryu was added, making it more complete. When you say "traditional" or "Japanese" Jiu-jitsu, you are referring to only one of these Jiu-jitsu styles, which is incomplete alone. When you say Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, you are referring to the best techniques from a wide variety of styles.

Our Jiu-Jitsu in the United States was underdeveloped compared to the Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil. Only now are we beginning to catch up, and we are still suffering from the inadequacies of the 'older' and more traditional schools of Jiu-Jitsu in this country. To give you an idea of what I mean, I'll tell you a little about my training. I earned a black belt in a classical style of Jiu-Jitsu, which taught all the Judo throws of the Kodokan and Aikijitsu (the grandfather of Aikido). It was a great art, but one that could not be used on anyone with skill effectively before complete mastery. I was subsequently defeated by a student of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu who was only at blue belt level, while I was a black belt in traditional Jiu-Jitsu. Why? Lack of realistic practice is the reason. There was too much of: "you stay perfectly still while I try an extravagant technique on you and you play along." There are many techniques which is where Judo is great, and some traditional schools teach techniques that were designed thousands of years ago whose applications have not been modified or thought about since. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is simple to learn, so simple that a dedicated student of one year can easily beat martial artists of other styles who have many years of experience.

Some styles of martial arts spend hundreds of hours working on a rigid stance and one hundred standing techniques that cannot possibly be mastered in a reasonable amount of time. I once interviewed Royce Gracie and he gave a response that supports this point quite well:

"We don't believe in teaching a ton of moves every class and the student walking away with limited knowledge. We prefer our students to know 20 techniques at 100%, than 100 techniques at 20%."
(Interview with Gene Simco for

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu focuses on techniques that are easy to learn in a very short period of time. The techniques taught in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are also effective and have been tested on knowledgeable martial artists who are not cooperating. A small amount of simple but high percentage techniques makes the difference. If all you do is practice five or six techniques, you will be very good at them in a year or so, but if you have to divide your time between a hundred or more techniques, you will most likely be a jack of all trades and a master of none in a year's time.

The differences in the two styles of Jiu-Jitsu are not necessarily in the technique, but in the practice and application. First of all, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has a very sophisticated ground-game, where Japanese Jiu-Jitsu places importance on standing techniques, as does Judo. Judo as a sport does not allow leg locks, where Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu does. Sport rules for Judo dictate that if a player has been pinned by his/her opponent for twenty-five seconds, he or she will lose the match. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has no time restraints on ground positions and stalling most often occurs while standing. Older styles of Jiu-Jitsu (often spelled jujutsu or jujitsu) are usually preceded with their style name or Ryu (the Japanese word for "style"). These Ryu of Jiu-Jitsu were developed long ago and have no sport application to allow them to develop technically. The lack of realistic practice is what makes some styles ineffective or obsolete.

To really understand the differences between Brazilian and Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, one must research the history of both arts. In particular the birthing of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu by Carlos Gracie, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu's founder, who was an avid boxer. Most Japanese Jiu-Jitsu fighters were studying traditional Karate strikes, which are much different from that of a boxer. Maeda, the man who introduced Gracie to Jiu-Jitsu, was also a student of Judo, which at the time was considered an updated version of Jiu-Jitsu, or Kano 's Jiu-Jitsu. As discussed previously, the Judo that the Gracie family was introduced to was a Judo whose focus had turned to ground fighting in recent years. This ground fighting came from only one style of Jiu-jitsu (Fusen Ryu), the other styles that made up Judo had not focused on ground work, so as their practice continued, they stayed to their traditional roots, which considered mainly of standing techniques. While older styles of Jiu-jitsu stuck to their core curriculums, Judo soon forgot about experience and turned its attention to gaining world wide exposure as an Olympic sport, which would eventually restrict the once great art and cause it to focus once again on primarily standing techniques. Maeda was also exposed to western wrestling, as he had encountered one wrestler in particular at the West Point Military Academy in New York, and had more experience fighting throughout Europe and the Americas than any other Japanese fighter of that time.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a progressive style of Jiu-Jitsu; once a technique is developed and used in competition, other Jiu-Jitsu players begin to design counters to that technique, and counters to those counters, which allows Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to evolve freely. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu players do not prepare for the untrained opponent; they assume that their opponent may be more technical.

The problem with some 'older' styles of Jiu-Jitsu is the same problem with old cars, or anything that has not been updated or modified. I earned a black belt in Japanese Jiu-Jitsu and now that I am at an advanced level of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I notice the similarities and differences. Some of the self-defense movements are identical; it is typically in the groundwork (ne waza) where the Judo or Japanese Jiu-Jitsu practitioner lacks ability. It is for that reason I started training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Comparing "old" Jiu-Jitsu to "new" Jiu-Jitsu is like comparing old cars to new. Both a Ford Model-T and a Ferrari will do the same job, but a Ferrari will do it more efficiently. The ability of Jiu-Jitsu teachers can be compared to the mechanics certified to work on these cars; if you take a mechanic from 1910 and show him a Ferrari, some things would look familiar, but he would not understand the new design and complexity of the modern variation without proper training.

BJJ vs. Other Martial Arts

All Martial Arts have their redeeming qualities, it is simply the underlying principle that makes each different, not the techniques. Most martial arts have choking techniques or joint locks, it is how they are taught, practiced and applied that makes them different.

Jiu-jitsu is supposed to be practiced as a martial art where you can use little to no strength to subdue a much larger opponent without causing them harm.

It is important to find the art that suits your needs and never-mind what others are doing. It is equally important to recognize that people train for different reasons and part of being a good martial artist is respecting that.

Check our History section to learn more about the how Jiu-jitsu became what it is today.

Groundfighting on the Street

I wouldn't want to go to the ground in a Street-Fight. Is groundfighting effective for Real Self Defense?

If you avoid the story-tellers and the opinions of Internet Keyboard warriors, any Professional Bouncer or Law Enforcement Officer will attest to the likely hood of a fight ending up on the ground; with all opinions aside, the statistical fact is that most fights end up on the ground. Although it is not (always) in a fighter's best interest to go to the ground in all situations, the chances of being put there (even against your will) are very high. Considering these facts, it would be unwise to ignore groundfighting techniques.

The Advantages of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu

If your goal is to become a fighter or to be able to defend yourself completely, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu has significant advantages over most other martial arts. It remains the only single style that addresses all areas of fighting completely without the need for cross-training. Brazilian Jiu-jitsu was designed as a fighting style to defeat other martial arts, where styles like Boxing, Karate, Kung Fu and Tae Kwon Do all specialize in striking someone, none of them present solutions for someone who is pinned on the ground; conversely, Jiu-jitsu offers solutions for defending against striking attacks while standing and on the ground in addition to all methods of grappling attacks. With the popularity of contests like the Ultimate Fighting Championship, you will see people naming their styles as Wrestling or Kickboxing, but they all (and must) supplement their training with Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. To this day, there are still fighters entering the cage with Brazilian Jiu-jitsu as their only method of training to ensure their victories.

The Military has recognized the effectiveness of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu as a martial art not only for sportive contests, but in the real world as well. America's Army cannot afford to buy into theories or Hollywood myths about martial arts; for a soldier, knowledge of martial arts is life and death, not a hobby or a film script. Through a scientific method, trial and error and process of elimination, The United States Army chose Brazilian Jiu-jitsu to be the core of their Combatives Program. In 2002, SFC Matthew Larson re-wrote the Army Combatives Manual (FM 3-25.150) and made Brazilian Jiu-jitsu the backbone for the entire work. Today, it is hard to find any elite Military or Law Enforcement agency that does not incorporate Brazilian Jiu-jitsu as a serious part of their doctrine.


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