How To Learn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu by Yourself (Full Guide)

At some point, most people have thought about earning a black belt in some form of martial art. However, the goal dwindles when a person considers the amount of time, money, and dedication they would have to put into the art at a dojo or gym. Fortunately, all is not lost – those who are truly serious about the art still have an opportunity to train themselves in their very own homes.

Self-training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (or BJJ) is possible if students have enough commitment, discipline, and suitable sources. Here are some ways to learn this discipline on your own:

  1. Understand the art of BJJ.
  2. Know the proper safety precautions.
  3. Possess the necessary supplies and equipment.
  4. Do drills.
  5. Practice with a dummy.
  6. Find a friend/partner for sparring.
  7. Consider taking online classes.
  8. Take a test if you desire a belt.

Learning BJJ is no easy feat, but if you have enough willpower and a strong motivational drive, you can accomplish it all on your own. This article will discuss the many steps you can take to train yourself in the art of BJJ.

However, it is critical to understand that you will NEVER progress as far as you can if you do not actually practice this martial art against a live opponent. With that in mind, let’s dive in to what you can do to improve your BJJ skills.

1. Understand the Art of BJJ

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of how to train at home, it’s crucial to go over a few essential aspects: What exactly BJJ is, the benefits of learning BJJ, and why you’re considering training yourself rather than using a gym.

What Is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

BJJ is a ground-based martial art that focuses on grappling and chokeholds rather than directly striking an opponent. BJJ focuses more on grappling and non-striking defenses, making it distinct from other forms of martial arts.

Its origins are Japanese. However, it picked up a unique Brazilian rendition as a result of being imported into the country.

The Philosophy of BJJ

BJJ is a gentle form of martial arts that thrives on a certain kind of philosophy: simplicity.

There is either the easy way, the hard way, or the “dumb way.” None of which are necessarily wrong or right.

BJJ takes on the mindset that it is all a learning experience and that through it all, something valuable comes out of it.

Reasons To Learn BJJ

There are numerous benefits to learning BJJ. The following are a few of the best reasons you should know the martial art:

  • A study found that those practicing BJJ had less body fat. BJJ is a perfect way to exercise the body and keep you fit.
  • Mental health. BJJ is a unique way to improve your mental health. BJJ is even listed alongside art therapy, meditation, and other activities designed to assist with mental health.
  • Because BJJ focuses on gentle self-defense techniques and grappling, your flexibility can improve significantly.
  • Increased confidence. BJJ shapes your fitness and mental health, but it is also a huge confidence booster.

Reasons To Consider Training Yourself

Solid and well-trained martial artists typically spend years training in a gym and practicing their techniques daily.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the money for or access to a dojo or gym.

Here are some reasons you should consider training at home rather than a gym:

  • People spend an average of $40 per hour taking martial arts classes. The amount of money and commitment towards your local dojo can seriously take a toll on your wallet – yet training by yourself comes at a minimal cost in the long run.
  • It can’t be very encouraging when you’ve worked hard, yet you can’t see the fruits of your labor. Training by yourself ensures that you go at your pace and progress at the rate that you desire.
  • Gym location. Even if you had the money and the patience to train, there may not be a gym or dojo in your area that offers BJJ classes. If there is no gym in your city – or even in your state – the best option you might have is in your own home.
  • Time/Commitment. Life is busy. If you are a parent, a full-time employee, or a college student, you need the ability to choose when you train instead of fitting scheduled classes into your already busy schedule.

Keeping these factors in mind, training on your own is an affordable and flexible option for learning BJJ.

2. Know the Proper Safety Precautions

Before you begin training, there are some vital points to know regarding safety. The last thing you’d want is a broken bone because you didn’t learn how to fall correctly.

To avoid any injuries, ensure that you know the following:

  • Use a mat. Purchase a mat before starting any practice session; it will prevent an injury.
  • Technique over strength. The word “jiu” derives from the Japanese word for “gentle,” while “jitsu” derives from the word “art.” Because BJJ is a “gentle art,” it is significant to remember that the martial art form focuses on technique rather than brute strength.
  • Do not resort to anger or violence. When you start sparring with a partner as a beginner, it can be frustrating to escape choke holds and grapples, making punching and kicking a viable way to get out of your partner’s grasp – but don’t. BJJ is a self-defense method rather than a pain-inflicting fighting strategy; take a break or a deep breath if you feel anger or frustration.
  • Learn to roll and fall. In training yourself for BJJ, you must learn to fall and roll. This Youtube video demonstrates how to do both:

 

 

3. Possess the Necessary Supplies and Equipment

All serious students in the art of BJJ know that they must purchase the proper gear and equipment to practice BJJ effectively. Before training, be sure that you buy or already own the following:

  • BJJ Gi or Kimono. You will want to feel comfortable during training, so a BJJ Gi or Kimono is a must. It allows for movement and is a staple in the BJJ world.
  • In every martial art, students begin with a white. You can buy one online or at a local gym.
  • Knee pads. Knee pads protect your knees because BJJ will use them frequently. If you want to avoid getting sore knees (or even breaking them), knee pads are a must.
  • When it comes time for sparring, you will need this. Mouthguards will protect your jaws when trying to defend yourself or falling.
  • Grappling dummy. For your first few times training by yourself, you will need to have a grappling dummy to practice grips and chokeholds.
  • Grip trainers. Part of the training in BJJ is building a firm grip. Grip trainers will help you to gain just that.
  • Gear bags. These are not required, but they work well for keeping all of your gear stored away after your at-home sessions.

4. Do Drills

Drilling in BJJ is the repetition of specific actions and techniques. The purpose of drilling in BJJ is to build muscle memory.

Drill every session that you have. Drilling during every session will help you down the road to know which techniques to use, and it will keep your mind and body sharp for when the time comes that you have to defend yourself.

Start slow. Don’t push yourself to go faster or take on drills you do not feel comfortable doing.

Additionally, be sure to do it numerous times in every session. Try to aim for 500.

The following are some of the common types of drilling:

  • Single techniques
  • Sequential
  • Responsive
  • Randori (R&D)

For the remainder of this section, the article will go in-depth on the different types.

Single Techniques

Simplistically, single techniques focus on doing one process at a time, whether a sweep or pull.

After warming up, try to practice numerous sweeps, grips, passes. These are basic movements but will help you gain muscle memory for more complicated techniques.

Sequential

Sequential drills appear to be more advanced and an excellent way to move up in drilling.

Sequential drills involve mixing different single techniques in a combination. It is a perfect step-up from the single methods and a great way to build more muscle memory.

Responsive

You will need a partner for this one. Responsive drilling involves practicing pulls and sweeps to deflect opponents.

These drills are especially crucial before tournaments or sparring.

Later, the article will elaborate on having a friend or partner for training in BJJ.

R&D

R&D is more flexible and lenient. It also involves working with a partner on a mixture or combination of all the drills above.

However, because of the nature of its leniency, R&D may not be as rigorous as the other drills.

Therefore, it might not be an ideal tactic for consistent training.

5. Practice With a Dummy

Dummies are best for practicing movement and single techniques or sequential drills.

Some dummies come with arms so that you can practice your grip or grappling, like this one below.

Make Your Dummy

If you’re a bit more creative and hands-on, or you’d prefer to make your dummy – it is not that difficult.

Make sure you collect the following materials:

  • Two towels
  • A pillow
  • Zip-up hoodie
  • Stuffed animal
  • Belt
  • A Gi or BJJ Kimono

Now that you’ve gathered the materials, here are the steps to making your dummy:

  1. Open up the Gi while placing the hoodie over the top.
  2. Roll up the towels into the armholes (these will be the arms).
  3. Place the stuffed animal and pillow inside of the hoodie.
  4. Tie with a belt to finish.

If you have followed the instructions, you should now have a finished and hand-made dummy that you can use to practice.

Cons of Using a Dummy

Though dummies are an excellent drilling method at home, there are still some cons to using them.

Some of the cons of utilizing dummies are:

  • No restraint. Unlike a legitimate sparring partner, a dummy won’t restrict against any grappling or chokeholds. They also cannot defend themselves during drills.
  • No feedback. When drilling, a dummy will not give any constructive feedback on your movements and techniques. If you want feedback, consider taking an online course or invite a partner to practice with you.
  • A limited variation of drills. Furthermore, you cannot perform responsive exercises with a dummy, and you might not do as many R&D combinations.

6. Find a Friend/Partner for Sparring

Sparring in BJJ is a training method where you fight with a partner without inflicting pain or severe blows on them.

If you need a sparring partner and know a friend who is training in BJJ like you are, it might be time to give them a call.

If you don’t know anyone who can or is willing to help you become a more skilled BJJ student, and you don’t know where to look – all hope is not yet lost. Consider searching on the internet for available partners through sites like Fightura and putting those thumbs and fingertips to good use.

However, as with any form of online communication or social site, proceed with caution and keep yourself and your information safe.

Safety tips when looking for a sparring partner online:

  • Keep your passwords safe and secure. When you open an account, you enter private information such as your email, full name, cell phone number, and even your home address at times. Make your password difficult for others to guess, and don’t tell any other users what it is.
  • Use finances with caution. Do not enter any financial information (such as debit/credit cards, account numbers, etc.) on websites that aren’t secure or seem illegitimate.
  • Computer updates. Sometimes, your computer or laptop will request that you schedule an update when one comes out. Schedule it – updates sometimes contain security features that could keep you safe when surfing the web.
  • Avoid public Wi-Fi. Public Wi-Fi is prone to cyberattacks; use your private Wi-Fi whenever possible.
  • Pay attention to strange transactions and bank statements. If you notice a withdrawal, deposit, or transaction that you did not initiate – call your bank immediately.
  • Do not use your name as a username. There is plenty of information associated with your name. Therefore it is wise to withhold your actual name until you feel comfortable with the other person.
  • Do not reveal private information. When chatting with potential sparring partners, please do not give them any confidential and identifying data such as your address, mobile phone number, or card information. These pieces of information can trace you and put you at risk. You may share certain pieces of information when you have built some trust with the other party.
  • Never accept payments or services/offers. One of the quickest ways to identify a scammer within these sites is if the party asks you to pay for sparring sessions. You do not have to pay to have a sparring partner; it is significantly unnecessary.
  • Report suspicious/abusive accounts or activities. When utilizing these sites, pay attention to any off-putting behavior or harassment. If you receive inappropriate messages, see a user that seems illegitimate, or witness a user harassing someone else, report it immediately to the site’s admin and block the profile.
  • Use your gut. If something feels off, then you might be right. Go with your instincts – they could save you a lot of trouble.

7. Consider Taking Online Classes

Though you are mainly trying to train at home, it is acceptable to consider taking online courses.

There are numerous courses and schools that you can search online. Maybe you’d want to take a class to improve your form? Perhaps you need more assistance with how to do specific drills? Or maybe you need feedback from an actual master of the art so that they can point you in the right direction.

Here are some things to consider when selecting a school or course:

  • Some courses and schools will be cheaper than others. It is imperative to figure out your budget and how much you’re willing to invest in a particular class or online school.
  • Some courses follow the instructions of great masters in the martial art form and have excellent features to learn more right from the comfort of your home. However, some classes or schools consist of smaller, lesser-known teachers and may not offer as much as you’d like; do your research and ensure that you’re choosing the right online institute or class and that you’re getting the best value for your money.
  • If you want to earn different belts as you progress on your BJJ journey, consider finding a school that offers tests. Belts will assist you in moving up the ranks in the BJJ world and are a display of your hard work and skill.
  • Along with the quality of the classes you select, you also want to ensure that your school has an excellent reputation. Research, read reviews, do whatever you need to do to figure out if your school is perceived favorably overall in the BJJ world.

8. Take a Test if You Desire a Belt

Belts are a very noble goal to want to achieve while learning BJJ (or any martial art, for that matter). When starting in the martial art form, you have a white belt. However, the harder you work and train, the more you move up the belt system until you eventually earn the highest belt of all: the black belt.

Though getting belts is not easy, you can keep practicing your drills and techniques. When you feel ready for a belt, consider taking a test at an online BJJ school.

The following is a list of the belts you earn in BJJ and what they might require of you:

  1. White. Learn the basics – this is the time to learn techniques, gain some muscle memory, and get the authentic feel for BJJ.
  2. Blue. Compete in a tournament or competition. This belt also demands that you master two techniques for passing the guard and escaping.
  3. Purple. Learn three combination attacks, submissions, and understand different kinds of guard positions.
  4. Brown. Master counterattacks and teach a class.
  5. Black. You have made it to the top. However, you will never make it to a point where you will stop learning – continue to refine your skills and techniques.

Earning a new belt might take trial and error, blood, sweat, and tears, and maybe some failures along the way – it can take years to move up the belt system – but with the right amount of ambition and labor, you can earn a black belt.

I’ve Earned a Black Belt and Have Been Practicing – What Now?

You’ve practiced, trained for an extended period (by now it’s been many years) to earn your much-deserved black belt. However, the black belt doesn’t – nor will it ever – symbolize the end of your martial art journey.

If you’ve strived to achieve success within your BJJ journey, here are some fantastic ways to continue:

  • Now that you’ve accomplished the black belt, you can now move on to other ambitions. If you are passionate about the art form and have a gift (and the patience) for teaching, consider becoming a BJJ instructor as a career choice.
  • Learn other martial art forms. Don’t just stop at BJJ. Many other martial art forms will continue to challenge both your mind and body.
  • Use your self-defense skills. Now that you have a black belt, you can continue to protect yourself. When needed, use all the techniques you’ve learned in BJJ.
  • Continue to hone your skills and techniques. You’ll never finish learning. Keep practicing all your BJJ drills and movements.
  • Donate old Gi’s. You’ve likely used up some different Gi’s throughout your journey. Consider donating them to your local gym.
  • Develop your style. BJJ is a martial art form. Take the “art” aspect of it and shape your fighting style to best fit you and your future goals in the BJJ or self-defense world.
  • Become a mentor to a lower-belt. BJJ is a difficult journey, and you probably already know that. Offer support and encouragement to lower-belt students, and push them to be their best and most confident selves.
  • Get into another sport if you haven’t already. Now that BJJ has given you more confidence and fitness, consider taking on other sports. If you were shy or unsure about playing ball or getting into boxing, you know that you can make it now. Additionally, sports will keep your body fit and strong.
  • Continue to compete. Stay humble, but don’t neglect to continue improving yourself and your reputation in the martial arts world. Participate in tournaments, compete in competitions, and always congratulate yourself on the accomplishments you will continue to receive on your never-ending journey.
  • Offer to be a sparring partner. Don’t forget what it was like to need a partner when you were practicing at home. Volunteer to be a sparring partner to another student who needs it.
  • Study BJJ history and contemporary fighters. Keep your knowledge of the BJJ world sharp.
  • Enter a World Championship. If you think you have what it takes, try to aim for a World Championship. Make a name for yourself.
  • Network with others. Be sure to connect with teachers, fighters, masters, students, and other figures in the BJJ world that you can get your hands on. See what moves they’re doing in the world of martial arts, and follow suit.

There are endless possibilities to keep yourself involved in martial arts, and you have numerous opportunities to advance yourself in BJJ.

Other Martial Art Forms To Study

If you decide that you want to expand your abilities in martial arts by adopting another form, do it. You will build up your body more and take on new journeys to improve your self-image and authentic self.

In addition to BJJ, you can start learning these other martial art forms:

  • Karate is debatably one of the most popular martial art forms. It focuses on power strikes, defenses, and other strong combat moves. It also has deep roots within philosophies of discipline and respect.
  • Kung Fu. Kung Fu is mainly an umbrella term for different combat styles that focus on a person’s unique abilities. Some notable figures of the martial art form are Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee.
  • Judo is another Japanese martial art form that is a bit more modern. It focuses on strength and overcoming a fighter’s opponent.
  • Muay Thai. Muay Thai originates from Thailand and is considered one of the country’s biggest and most enjoyed sports. It utilizes the body as a weapon and focuses on close combat.
  • Krav Maga. Krav Maga is a martial art form in Israel. It borrows many styles and movements from other art forms and is intended primarily for self-defense.
  • Once again created in Japan, Aikido focuses on self-defense methods. The form focuses on disarming weapons and using an opponent’s energy against them.

There are many forms to choose from, but there is no formulaic or concrete rule that deems that you must do another specific form next. You can decide what is best for you and what goals you have set up for yourself.

Conclusion

BJJ is not an easy feat to learn at home, but having discipline, motivation, and a commitment to the art can get you far enough.

Sources

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