Rollin Right: The Do's and Don'ts for BJJ Newbies

Rolling Right: BJJ Do’s and Dont’s for newbies

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Rollin Right: The Do's and Don'ts for BJJ Newbies

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a dynamic martial art that empowers its practitioners with self-defense skills, physical fitness and mental resilience.

BJJ is a lot of fun but if you’re an anxious girl like me going to your first ever BJJ class is daunting especially if you don’t know anybody in the class.

So, before you dive into your first ever class, here are some essential do’s and don’ts that’ll help ensure that not only will your first class go smoothly but also your whole BJJ journey will be a fun adventure filled with awesome memories.

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The Do’s

  1. Respect the tap

If you can only remember one thing from this post, let it be that you must respect the tap. The tap is sacred in BJJ. When rolling and somebody taps be it yourself or your training partner, that is the cue to LET GO ASAP!

Tapping is the fastest way to inform your training partner that something is hurting or something is wrong and it is way faster than shouting stop. Because sometimes due to the environment in the BJJ gym you might not be able to hear your partners shouts with loud music blasting out and the noise that other BJJ practitioners make whilst rolling it out in the gym.

You can either use your hands to tap or you can use your feet to slap the mat. Either tap your partner on whichever available body area or tap on the mat and if you can’t tap with your hands you can even use your feet to tap the mat. When tapping on the mat ensure that you are tapping loudly.

Also, don’t think that by tapping easily or a lot is a reflection on your BJJ skills, especially if you’re relatively new. This is all for safety purposes. Injuries during BJJ class are just not fun all around. 

I would know, I have personally witnessed a few ACL injuries during rolling. It wasn’t a pretty sight. 

A good example would be, you’ve got your training partner in a tight rear-naked choke and they feel the squeeze so they can tap on your arm. What do you do? You ease off the choke and let your training partner go, give your partner some space to take a breather and y’all can reset.

If y’all have beef with each other and you refuse to ease on the choke then I would highly suggest y’all continue this outside the gym.

  1. Stay hydrated, Stay Humble

Hydration is key! BJJ classes and rolling, like any physical activities are intense thus keeping yourself hydrated is important so you don’t overheat.

So, when you’re feeling the burn just take a quick water break to rehydrate and refocus. Nothing tastes as sweet as cool mineral water after a few good rolling sessions.

Also, being humble is integral in BJJ moreover if you’re not a BJJ prodigy. All BJJ practitioners need to know their limits as well as keep their ego in check especially when they are submitted during a roll.

Don’t go into the next roll all angry, upset or as I’d like to call it an ego roll whereby you have the need to prove something without having the BJJ skills to back up said ego roll.

This has more to do with everybody’s safety when doing BJJ and preventing any injuries. 

For example, if you go into a roll all upset and you see an opportunity for an armbar and in your emotional state you go for said armbar without doing it slowly, the risk of you hurting your training partner is very high and you can hurt them by breaking an arm or dislocating a joint.

These injuries are never worth it.

  1. Master the basics

The fundamentals are the bread and butter of BJJ. Thus, making it imperative for all BJJ newbies to master the basics before you bust out the fancy stuff that’s shown on social media. 

Once you understand the fundamentals and have trained your body to be used to doing the moves, then it is easier for you to understand and execute said fancy moves shown in social media.

As Picasso has famously said, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist”.

For instance, instead of plunging headfirst into the latest YouTube tutorial on inverted guard sweeps, it’s far better to use the time to perfect your hip escapes, bridging techniques and framing.

Believe me when you’re rolling, all that know-how on executing a fancy BJJ move such as an inverted guard sweep will be thrown out of the window as you’re struggling for dear life to hang on. 

And at the end of the day, whilst the moves may not be as flashy as you’d like, you would have to rely on the fundamentals; shrimping, bridging, correct grip,  and framing, to get yourself out from a bad position during a roll.

  1. Be a Good Training Partner

In BJJ it takes two to roll and being a good training partner ensures that everybody can learn BJJ techniques properly.

This way nobody is wasting their time and can focus solely on the techniques being taught.

You can be a good training partner by doing the following:

  • Checking your ego at door
  • Offering constructive feedback
  • Always putting safety first
  • Give at least 30-50% resistance when doing drills, don’t just flop around 

If your training partner is struggling to nail down a new technique, instead of being annoyed and rolling your eyes, you can lend them a helping hand by giving constructive feedback. 

BJJ training partner meme

You can also help your training partner by telling them if the technique is affecting the correct body part or joint. If your training partner is attempting to do an Americana or an armbar, you can tell them if you feel any pain or if you feel anything at all. 

This feedback allows your training partner to learn how to execute the technique better in the future.

Other than that, if you are familiar with the technique you can break down the movement step by step. Don’t forget to encourage your training partners that it’s normal to not understand a new technique from the get go and that they just need to keep pushing forward.                             

  1. Embrace the grind but also know when to chill

As much fun as BJJ is, it’s not always rainbows and sunshine. Whilst BJJ is a very fulfilling sport in my opinion, it cannot be denied that BJJ is very demanding. 

This is especially true for people like me who might not be the most coordinated person out there and getting submitted day in day out when you just start out in BJJ is demotivating on some days.

Some days you will feel like you’re stuck in a never-ending battle with the white belt curse and this is also where I would advise you to embrace the grind and also know when to take a breather; go do a different physical activity like Zumba or rock climbing or even hiking so you would see that BJJ is just one aspect of your life.

This is all a part of your BJJ journey. 

Personally, when I first started doing BJJ, I couldn’t even do a back or front roll. I didn’t know what to do when rolling let alone think of any submissions, I was too busy surviving and not freaking out. 

The classes were hard for me because everybody else had so much more experience and there I was at the age of 26 (I am 31 as of this post btw) absolutely struggling to even do shrimps. 

The only drill I was able to do and that is because of all the Blogilates videos I did was the windshield wiper move which I personally call the buttscoot.

Now, years after I first started BJJ albeit on and off, I can see that I have made so much progress and improvements. I can do most of the drills easily even though lateral rolls are still not attainable as of yet. 

When rolling my brain actually does some thinking where I actually think of what is the submission move I want to do. It doesn’t work most times especially with higher belts but at least there is some thinking involved and the best part about improving in rolling is the fact that you have muscle memory of what to do and how to get out of certain positions.

So, believe me when I say it does get better. You will get better in BJJ and as the famous saying goes, “every master was once a student”.

  1. Find the right training environment

This is specific for my prospective BJJ gals. You would need to try out a few gyms, if it’s an option and available for you, to seek out the perfect gym that suits you. You would want to find a gym that suits your personal training style.

Some women prefer the tough love training style and some women (like me) prefer a relatively chill joking around training style. I don’t do well under pressure when doing any physical activity, not just BJJ, it could be jogging, boxing, whatever. 

The moment somebody shouts at me or pushes me in ways I do not like to be pushed, I lose all and every interest in it whatsoever. I am here to release stress and not be under more stress. Thank you very much.

It’s also important for women that want to try BJJ to find a gym that is inclusive, welcoming and most importantly a gym that prioritizes respect and safety.

Training alongside fellow female practitioners can provide a sense of camaraderie and empowerment. Plus, it’s more comfortable to ask another woman on how to execute a certain move especially if you’re new and still shy.

  1. Invest in Proper Gear

Just putting it out there, it is completely fine to not want to spend money on buying gear such as a Gi particularly if you just started.

Once you have decided to really hone in on doing BJJ, it is highly advisable that you do invest in high quality BJJ gear mainly the Gi. 

As the Gi will be more expensive compared to buying a rashguard and the Gi is the BJJ gear that will be put under more stress as the fabric and craftsmanship of the Gi must be of good quality to handle the stress that it will undergo during rolling.

You would not want the Gi to get ripped barely a year in when doing BJJ especially if you’re still a white belt because first of all how are you rolling that your Gi is ripped every few months and second of all that Gi is low quality and is a waste of money if it rips very easily.

Also, a well fitted Gi, rashguard and for women a very good sports bra will enhance your comfort and performance on the mat. It’s hard to do your best when your thoughts are distracted by the uncomfortability of your garments.

Here’s a few BJJ gear that I personally recommend as either I personally own it or have heard good reviews from friends who do.

OVERUNDER Kimono Royal Competitor (Black)

The Alpha Kimono Aesthetic Asia

OVERUNDER Momento Mori Kimono (Halloween Edition)

Venum Power 2.0 BJJ Gi

The Don’ts

  1. Don’t Be a Spaz

We have all rolled with that one person who thinks that just because BJJ is a full-contact sport they go completely gung-ho with it.

Sir, calm down, this ain’t the Olympics. Nobody is winning no medals in a BJJ class. 

It is understandable and completely normal to spaz out when you’re just starting out in BJJ because you’re still learning how to execute the techniques and sometimes spazzing during a roll is just the body’s natural reflexes when being put in stressful situations.

But, what you need to keep in mind when rolling is to try your best to be aware of your body and your movements. 

Keep your movements controlled and deliberate which will come naturally with consistent training. Don’t do any explosive movements unless you are more experienced in BJJ. It’s called rolling for a reason. 

If you’re rolling with a newbie who’s gone all full Terminator mode on you; Do not reciprocate the energy by going full Terminator as well.

Instead, be the water to their fire, focus on maintaining your composure and try your best to control the pace of the rolling session.

And why do we do this? It is for *drum rolls please* SAFETY!

The probability of getting hurt or injured if both training partners are overly aggressive is very high and with BJJ the injury may affect your joints which could lead to permanent damage.

  1. Don’t Skip The Warm-ups

Warm-ups can be such a drag but unless you’re a purple belt, it’s far more beneficial for you in the long run to participate in the warm-ups.

Trust me, those few minutes of jogging, dynamic stretching and doing drills are worth their weight in salt when it comes to injury prevention.

Joints when you’re older aren’t as springy as they used to be. I would know, I am 31 now and you can hear my presence before you see my presence just by the cracking of my joints when I walk. 

  1. Don’t Forget To Breathe

Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong! 

When you’re in the heat of battle and adrenaline is coursing through your veins it’s easy to forget the most basic of human functions. 

So, remember to take a deep breath and do controlled breathing and relax although I do admit the relaxing part is hard to do when you’re being crushed by your training partner during a roll.

Try to implement proper breathing techniques by doing nasal breathing rather than mouth breathing. This of course applies when you are not being choked or crushed by your training partner.

The proper breathing techniques are as follows:

  • Inhale through the nose and draw from the diaphragm as opposed to taking air in through the mouth and drawing from the chest.

The benefit of doing nasal breathing is that it restricts us from breathing in excessive amounts of oxygen. This is due to when we breathe we also exhale carbon dioxide.

When we breathe in and out too quickly which is easy to do when mouth breathing, we expel too much carbon dioxide which in turn reduces our body’s capacity to absorb the oxygen needed.

Optimum oxygen absorption is imperative during rolls as oxygen needs to be absorbed into the blood for energy.

Why do you think we get light headed when we hyperventilate? It’s the lack of oxygen. So, implementing controlled breathing via nasal breathing techniques will help us in BJJ by making us not tire out faster.

Although, if you’re like me and horrifically unfit, there’s only so much proper breathing can do for you. 

Fun fact, I didn’t learn proper breathing techniques from BJJ. I learned it from my many karaoke sessions. Deep breaths into the diaphragm allows me to hit those high notes in Whitney Houston and Adele songs without feeling like I am about to pass out.

You can read more on how to breathe properly for BJJ here

  1. Don’t Neglect Your Recovery

BJJ is a physically and mentally demanding sport. If you love doing BJJ like yours truly and like most of its practitioners do, it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of self-care and recovery.

Because you want to improve and get better ASAP but you need to keep in mind that neglecting your physical and mental well-being amidst the demands of training will only be detrimental to yourself.

All good things if taken in excessive amounts will eventually be bad for you so do take time for rest and recovery. You can prevent burnout by implementing your own self-care practices to maintain balance in your BJJ journey.

The self-care practice that I implement in my life would be that on days that I am free or when I feel exhausted, be it from life or from doing BJJ, I would go and do a different activity.

It could range from going karaoke-ing with my best friends to going for spin class or even just having a relaxing spa day.

Prioritizing restorative self-care practices can reduce stress and promote overall well-being which ensures your longevity and enjoyment in your BJJ practice.

Also, don’t feel bad for taking a break. Think of this as you recuperating to come back better and stronger. BJJ is here to complement and improve your lifestyle not to be an added burden.

  1. Don’t Limit Yourself

Mitsuo Maeda is a Japanese Jiu-Jitsu practitioner and how BJJ was founded was when he traveled to Brazil in 1914 whereby he took a young Carlos Gracie as his student.

Carlos in turn started sharing his knowledge to his younger brothers but one of his brothers, Hélio, essentially had difficulty in executing the techniques being taught due to his lack of strength stemming from his small stature.

Instead of giving up, he instead made adjustments to the techniques and refined it so much so that the techniques can then be implemented and executed by anyone.

So, what I am getting at here is that BJJ is rooted in innovation and the customization of techniques. Don’t look down on yourself and limit yourself by thinking that you can’t do BJJ because you’re a woman or that you’re too big or too small.

All that matters is that you’re willing to try and be humble enough to be open to learn from others who have more experience to improve yourself.

Like all worthwhile things it won’t be easy but it will be worth it. Thank you all for coming to my TEDtalk.

  1. Don’t Downplay the Importance of Safety

Like I keep yapping throughout this post. Throw aside techniques and what have you, safety should be your number 1 priority when doing BJJ.

There is absolutely no point in you doing BJJ or anything else for that matter if safety is a fart in the wind for you.

Let me ask you, what can you do if you’re injured? Not a lot I can assure you. The best case scenario would be a bruised ego and worst case scenario would be permanent bodily injury.

So, please when doing BJJ, prioritize safety. Don’t ego roll and don’t be afraid to speak up if you’re uncomfortable. This is not just for rolling but also includes if you’re up against any form of harassment or disrespectful behavior. 

  1. Don’t Forget To Have Fun

It’s a drastic shift from the previous point, I know.

BJJ is supposed to be fun and enjoyable and not supposed to feel like a chore. So laugh, smile and enjoy this BJJ journey – bumps, chokes and all.

8. Don’t Forget Your Hygiene

You would be surprised at just how many people don’t practice proper personal hygiene especially after doing any physical activities so here I am to emphasize to everybody that YOU MUST BE HYGIENIC.

Especially if you’re engaging in full-body contact sport like BJJ because after BJJ class and rolls, the garment you wear, be it rashguard or Gi, it now has communal sweat. Let me repeat myself, COMMUNAL SWEAT!

This is no longer about maintaining smelling nice after BJJ, this is to prevent you from getting infections like staph infections or skin disease like ringworm, rashes, and many more.

Body odour is the least of your worries when it comes to personal and gym hygiene when doing BJJ.

Thus, before class if you have time please shower and after class do shower ASAP.


Just in case ya’ll don’t know it would be best to use antibacterial soap when showering after BJJ or any physical activities. I will talk about skincare and body care in another post, so keep your eyes on the lookout for said upcoming post.


And there you have it folks my (extremely long) list of the do’s and don’ts in navigating the world of BJJ for newbies. I sincerely hope this list will help keep you on the right track for you to enjoy BJJ whether you’re a hobbyist or planning to be a BJJ athlete. 

So, grab your Gi, tie your belt and remember to keep calm and roll on. Oss!


Class Schedule

Warmonger BJJ class schedule


Rusyan is our current coach for Monday – Wednesday classes.

Also, you can get 10% off with Rusyan’s promocode, JITSOMNIA, for AESTHETIC Asia gear.

Cameron and Jill is our coach for the ladies only class.

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