Beginners Guide

So you want to learn Jiu Jitsu? Well follow our step by step guide to getting started and you won’t go wrong.

1. Find a Club

The first thing to do when starting to learn Jiu Jitsu is to find a club to train at. There are two Shorinji Kan Jiu Jitsu club’s in York so if you live in York or nearby this bit is going to be easy.

Clubs in York

If you are a student at the University of York then the University of York Jiu Jitsu Club is the club for you otherwise you will want the city centre based York Jitsu Club. There’s lots of information about these clubs on the web site including maps of where exactly to find them. Just follow the club links in the top left for further details about a particular club.

Even though the two clubs run independently both clubs do work closely together and students from either club are welcome at the other and there are a number of students who regularly train at both clubs.

Clubs Outside of York

If you live outside of the York area (including outside the UK), then fear not. The Jiu Jitsu Foundation maintain a list of contact details and locations for all the clubs.

Advice on Clubs

When selecting your club keep in mind not only the location and the costs but also the quality of instruction available at the club. Remember that being good at something doesn’t mean that you can teach it well. Look for clubs where the instructors are constantly developing their coaching skills as well as their martial arts technique to find the best option.

The best way to do this is simply to ask to for the instructor’s coaching qualifications as well as his or her Jiu Jitsu qualifications.

2. Find a Session

Once you have found a suitable club the next thing to do is work out which session(s) to go to.

Beginner Sessions

Some clubs have sessions specifically for new starters - often termed beginners or novices. These may be held weekly monthly or quarterly. University clubs often limit beginners to starting in the first few weeks of an academic term.

York Jitsu Club accepts beginners at every session (with very occasional exceptions should a special session be running in place of a regular session), and the University of York Jitsu Club accepts students in a similar style though the last week of term is probably not the best time to sign up.

Get There Early

Before heading along to a class check the club’s web site (again if you’re from York well done … you’re doing that right now) or contact a club’s organiser. Check the times and make sure you arrive at least ten minutes early. There’s always paperwork to fill out before trying out martial arts and you don’t want to miss the start of the class for the sake of filling out a few (important) pieces of paper.

Remember to Check Fees Before You go

Many clubs offer beginner bargains such as a block of sessions at a discounted price or even a free first session:

  • The University of York Jiu Jitsu Club often offers a special deal for students who sign up at the Athletic Union Mart at the start of the academic year.
  • York’s City Centre Jitsu Club offers the first session absolutely free. For both of these club’s you can either e-mail ahead to ask any questions or let people know you’ll be turning up, or you can simply turn up and ask someone where you sign up.

Watch a Class

Most clubs should allow you to watch a class if you ask (beware the ones who won’t), but in all honesty the best way to find out what a class is like is to give it a go.

Watching a Child’s Class

If you are taking a child to a class some clubs may not allow parents in the class whilst it is taking place as some children can find it distracting. If the class includes adults then consider having a go yourself.

The York city centre club has an open door policy and parents are encouraged to stay and watch at least the first class their child attends (though it is not compulsory). This simply allows the child and parent the option to have the parent leave if they do find it distracting. There are several parents that do in fact train alongside their children at the club.

3. What to Wear

Everyone associates wearing some strange sort of pyjama like suit with oriental martial arts. Well Jitsu is indeed one of those martial arts. However when you first start you probably don’t have the appropriate “rugged pyjamas” (or gi as they are known in Jiu Jitsu), so you can wear something more everyday.

What You Should Wear

When selecting what to wear keep in mind these 3 points:

  1. You should be able to move freely in your clothes to allow you to stretch.
  2. You should not wear your best clothes as during the course of training they could get stretched out of shape or torn.
  3. Avoid clothing with plastic or metal buckles these can cause accidental injury to the wearer.

Usually jogging bottoms and an old T-shirt will suffice, though in the winter months bringing along a jumper can also be handy for when you are waiting for the warm-up to begin.

Also whilst not strictly clothing related the following points should also be observed.

  • Long hair should be tied back so that it does not fall into your face.
  • Finger and toe nails should be kept short so - long nails can cause injury.

What You Should Not Wear

Some other things to keep in mind once you enter the hall where you will be training are:

  • You will typically train on mats, so remove any shoes and socks before you go on the mat. Shoes typically damage the mats, and the coating on modern mats mean that people in socks tend to get no grip and slip a lot.
  • Take off all of your jewellery and put it somewhere safe. Jewellery can get snagged or broken.
  • Jewellery that cannot be removed (e.g. some piercings) should be taped over (using medical tape or fabric plaster strips) to ensure that it does not get knocked or caught. This shoulld be done prior to the session and not at the start by raiding a club’s first aid kit.

Use the Changing Rooms

Finally try and get changed at your training venue. Most martial arts training halls should also offer a closed changing area. This will ensure that your uniform does not get dirty when you walk into the hall and it wil also mean that when your all sweaty at the end of the session you have some fresher clothes to change into.

4. Enter the Dojo

So it’s time to enter the dojo (a training hall for Japanese martial arts) and join your first class. The first thing is try not to worry. Most people get worried about their first class which is perfectly natural, but don’t worry… it’s your first session and everyone will want you to enjoy it. You won’t be expected to get everything right first tie or even tenth time. If martial arts were easy to learn everyone would be a black belt - take your time and you’ll get the hang of it.

Before starting the class in earnest someone (typically the instructor or a senior student) should explain to you about some of the rules and etiquette of training, and you should also be instructed in getting warmed up for the class ahead.

A first class particularly if there are lots of beginners will typically include some breakfalling (ukemi in Japanese) which is about learning how to fall safely when throw, and maybe some sort of throwing. It is also common to cover some joint locking techniques (usually elbow and wrist hyper-extensions/compressions), basic striking, some releases from grabs and perhaps even how to defend yourself against someone wielding a bottle … though not to worry you should start with a nice safe plastic bottle.

Some techniques may seem a little odd or even convoluted. Don’t worry if they do. Many of the techniques taught to novices are actually embedding principles which will help you learn more involved or subtle techniques later on. Just think of the painting and waxing exercises from the Karate Kid films and how much they helped the young karate student. Hopefully the techniques you are taught will be immediately more practical than the DIY Karate Kid techniques.

Your instructor and other students should be happy to answer any questions you might have so don’t be afraid to ask them or to indicate where you don’t quite understand something. Instructors often ask if people have understood or if they have any questions.

If your question is particularly involved, then it may be better to wait until the instructor comes to check on your progress individually or even until the end of the session. This maximises everyone’s training time and can even give you time to fully explore a technique and ask a more informed question.

Congratulations, you’re all set. Good luck with your first session.