How Hard Is It To Learn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?


BJJ is an amazing martial art both for self-defense and for fitness, but the fundamental movements are quite difficult to learn, but how hard is BJJ to learn in general? I decided to find out.

It takes around 6- 12 months to learn all the basic BJJ positions, framings and to get a solid level of fitness. However, body type, mentality, and athletic ability, and having martial arts experience will affect how hard BJJ is to learn. It takes 1-2 years to get a blue belt, the first belt in BJJ.

BJJ is a life long journey that will change your life forever but no one said it would be an easy journey! I will explain the 5 reasons why BJJ is so learning to learn. Sounds good?

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5 Reasons Why BJJ Is So Hard To Learn

1.BJJ Has Unconventional Movements

The typical BJJ warmup involves many movements that are quite awkward, for example in my gym our first warm-up will be backward and forwards rolls. I NEVER was good at gymnastics as a kid and did my first roll because of BJJ at the right age of 25! Crazy right?

These movements are essential for BJJ success, and unlike combat sports like Muay Thai,(see how hard it is to learn here) everyone knows how to throw some sort of kick or punch but in BJJ even basic concepts like the guard and shrimping are very confusing and for me, without an athletic background it took a LONG time to understand.

Also, it can be intimidating not knowing how to roll and being shown up in the class especially if your instructor isn’t a nice guy so I recommend learning how to roll before your first BJJ class as it’s an unnatural movement and takes a while to get used to.

For a guide on the 5 solo BJJ drills you can do from the comfort of your own home, please check out the YouTube video above that explains all the fundamental BJJ techniques.

2.BJJ Is The Most Complicated Martial Art

Unlike other arts like Boxing, BJJ can never truly be mastered and it goes on forever. BJJ has six basic positions mentioned below with many variations of each asic position.

To become decent at BJJ you must know 2 transitions and 2 submissions from every position to make yourself a well rounded BJJ fighter, however, this can take a long time as every position is different. Click here for a guide to the best 16 beginner BJJ moves.

Fundamental BJJ Positions

  • Guard
  • Sidemount
  • Mount
  • Kneemount
  • Rearmount
  • Turtle

Your body type will change which positions and techniques speak to you, if your long and lanky like me the Guard will be your home at triangles(choke with the legs) will be your submission of choice. However, if your shorter butterfly guard makes sense.

With other arts like Boxing and Karate, your body type also makes a difference but nowhere near the same as BJJ. In BJJ you need type to understand which positions speak to you the most and this feeling out period takes a long time.

In BJJ a class will evolve the teacher drilling a specific sequence of moves, split into about 4 different segments depending on the average class time which for my gym is 1 hour 30 minutes drilling with 30 minutes of sparring.

The problem is, even one segment can made up of a LOT of different individual moves and if your anything like me it is very difficult to remember what you need to do. If you make even ONE mistake your segment can fall apart and without a keen eye, it is difficult to tell what mistakes your making.

With learning Muay Thai the process is similar but the combination you learn will be NOWHERE near as complicated as beginner drills in BJJ.

In BJJ think more about learning a choreographed dance routine than a martial art because that’s what BJJ is like especially for a beginner.

3.You Will Suffer Injuries

I never broke a bone in 24 years on this Earth, until my first month of BJJ! BJJ due to the nature of people rolling around even those with excellent body control will get injuries, this is worse with new beginners!

Injuries happen whenever newbies who have poor technique or body control with an unchecked ego spar too early. I will not recommend sparring on your first day, maybe your first-month as it is just too easy to hurt someone.

My rib fracture happened as someone had me in a knee on belly position during drilling and I heard a CRACK and thought nothing of it until I woke up in pain the next day.

This study found that white belts were at the highest risk of injury and I can agree, it takes a long time to develop basic BJJ control and I see BJJ carries a higher injury risk than Muay Thai.

Do not allow injuries to get the better of you, as getting injured in your first month of training will not be fun for everyone. If it happens to you keep on training and be smart with your learning and don’t spar until you feel comfortable to minimize your risk of training injuries.

4.BJJ Has A Very High Learning Curve

Rener Gracie head coach of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu said the following

90 percent of the white belts will never become a blue belt. Only 1% of the blue belt will reach the black belt.

Rener Gracie

Most people quit at white belt and I know why. It’s not that BJJ is very physically demanding and the sparring is difficult which is true, it’s that it’s very hard to see gradual progress.

I mentioned before why BJJ is so complicated and a large part is it’s learning curve.

Unlike other martial arts(see my post here) getting your first BJJ belt takes around 1-2 years with the hardest black belt in martial arts taking roughly 10 years to get.

Picture this, your the new guy or girl in the gym, and you get utterly DEMOLISHED every sparring session and you don’t feel your technique is improving. Do you quit? A lot of people do as BJJ is very hard and people lose motivation.

A black belt is just a white belt who didn’t quit, but if your not naturally athletic or have grappling experience it is difficult to embrace the suck and work on improving without ego being involved.

Stick with it and work on getting a little bit every day and I promise your brain neurons will start firing and BJJ will get a little easier!

5. The Sparring Is Tough Physically & Mentally

Sparring in BJJ is when start standing up or on the ground and you’re trying to choke the other person so they give up(tap) and then you reset your position. Usually, sparring happens at the end of the lesson after the technique section has finished

In BJJ sparring other belts are super difficult when you have limited knowledge, you honestly will feel hopeless and will constantly fight for your life in every spar.

Unlike other martial arts like Muay Thai, BJJ allows you to spar with 100% intensity as there is no striking but you can still get injured.

3 Reasons Why BJJ Sparring Is So Hard

Sparring someone better than you. You will never feel more helpful than sparring a higher belt, as BJJ has the highest technique ceiling of every martial art, you will feel like you cannot do anything! Higher belts will practice new submissions and special techniques on you so are ready to be a human guinea pig!

BJJ sparring destroys your ego. BJJ is rare among martial arts as a technique is more important than athleticism. A 115-pound girl CAN choke out a 180-pound man in BJJ, I wouldn’t say the same about Muay Thai or many other martial arts.

Even if your a big athletic guy you will be destroyed again and again by people who are way smaller than you, I’ve regularly tapped out to guys 20 pounds lighter than me and I’ve become used to it.

This is a BIG ego check and is difficult to come to grips with if your someone who has an ego problem as getting choked out by a small girl or a smaller man can be demoralizing. If that sounds like you, it’s even more important to train BJJ as it humbles you and teaches you self respect.

BJJ Sparring Is Uncomfortable. Have you ever been chocked out? I can ensure you it is not comfortable, and worse still being in the bottom of certain BJJ positions like the bottom of the mount are HORRIBLE and very awful positions to be in.

To truly succeed as a BJJ white belt, you must become comfortable with being uncomfortable and still be able to think and breathe clearly, and calmly escape from these positions. BJJ is fantastic for real-life BECAUSE of being able to think under pressure and this is why I recommend you should learn it.

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