Getting Started / 101
Get Ready For Your First Time
Before getting into MMA, there are several things you should consider.
Do your Homework
Before committing to any one gym, research your choices to narrow it down to the top 2 or 3 places you think would be a good fit for you. Research the instructor’s teaching credentials / lineage, classes offered as well as times classes are available. Most places offer a trial period to come train and check out the facility and classes. This can range from one class to a two week period depending on the gym. Explore your options and think over you decision before signing any membership contract and agreement. You should think of such a commitment not only to the gym, but to yourself that you will dedicate yourself to the training for that period of time no matter what. When visiting a school there are a few things to make your visit more enjoyable to all involved. Here are a few suggestions:
Contact the gym rather than just showing up. Most will be happy to give you a tour and discuss their training programs or packages. They will also let you know what time a good class for you to try might be. Being considerate of their time and the school will get everyone started on the right foot.
Dress in a manner that will allow you to participate in whatever type of class you are going to. If you are not sure what that is - ask when you call to set up your visit. Also, show up as a beginner. This can/should be taken several ways. Show up with a mind ready to learn. Even if you are familiar with the information being taught in that class, be respectful. Listen to how they are teaching it.
They may have a different understanding of the way a particular technique is performed - try it the way it is being taught and make that way work. Nothing is more disrespectful to a teacher than having a visitor come in and teach his students behind his back, meaning that when it is time to practice you are showing your partner “your” way of doing it.
Dress the Part of a Beginner
Avoid strutting into a new school wearing ranks from another system. Ranks are not universal. You may have a black belt in Karate, but to wear it into a BJJ class is disrespectful and will place more roadblocks in front of you than help you. Let your skill and technique speak for itself. If asked by your instructor then share your experience, they will let you know if they want you wearing rank or not. It is their house - their rules.
Thank People for their Time
When finished with the tour, class or even practicing with a partner - thank them. They may have provided you with valuable information - even if it is not what you were looking for. Many communities in the martial arts are small and run in the same circles. The longer you stick around , the more likely it is you may run into these people again. Martial arts have always been built upon a code of respect and ethics, do your part to maintain that.
Examine your current level of physical fitness. Be realistic. Even if you are in decent shape training in MMA uses muscles in ways you are probably not used to in addition to the potential for high cardio demands. When getting started try to find a happy medium for your training intensity. Easier said than done. This may take some trial and error, but if you are not able to train in your next session due to muscle soreness / pain, you definitely need to go lighter next time. Higher level fighters develop the ability to conserve energy for when it is needed.
Conditioning in MMA is developed over time, and there are no shortcuts. Similarly, there are no shortcuts to gaining proficiency. The only way to progress is to continue training. Pushing yourself too hard and too fast will not only burn you out, but can also set the stage for injury. Martial arts training is a lifelong pursuit and is a personal one. True achievements are based upon personal improvements, more often internal than external. Look at most of the founders or masters of different disciplines and you will notice most of them continue to train up until the end of their lives. Think of training as a marathon rather than a sprint.
Etiquette is as much a part of training as the physical techniques. If this is not evident in your gym, leave. Respect your school and your teacher. The best way you can do this is to be humble in your actions and words both inside and outside of training. Lack of discretion on your part can bring a negative cloud to loom over a school’s reputation. Bear in mind your teachers have spent countless hours studying and training, traveling, and sacrificing to get to where they are.
Without these special types of people, the arts would have disappeared a long time ago. It is because of their actions that you are able to have a chance to learn them. Perhaps you may go on to do so yourself. Being respectful goes a long way not only on the mat, but off in everyday life as well. Although the protocol may vary a little from gym to gym, the underlying idea is the same. Whether it is a bow, a salutation, or a fist bump, make a point to always be thankful, respectful and courteous to those sharing their time, knowledge and body with you.
The longer you train, the more you will realize that martial arts are just as much about mental training as they are about physical techniques. You will probably come to realize that your greatest opponent will also be one that lives inside of your head, not across the mat from you. Most beginners seek validation by beating others. This is normal and as long as you progress beyond that, not a problem. Real development and progress often comes through losing.
You will only get better by “playing” with those better than you. When we lose, that is typically where the battle with the ego begins. If we handle that correctly, we move on and learn, if not, we try to “beat” our partner and this is usually when we become blinded to any learning and sacrificing proper technique. Aside from your instructor, those you spar/practice with will also become your teachers. Being humble and accepting of the situation also creates an environment where your partner will be more willing to help you correct technique and strategy to be more effective next time.
If you have not been engaged in regular physical activity or exercise you should be cleared by your physician. Initially, most schools will not throw you in the deep end. You will be introduced to the basics and most likely not be making any striking contact. Be sure that you are well hydrated going into your training session and continue to do so during and after. MMA is all about conditioning, so you will be challenged physically no matter what your current level of cardiovascular conditioning maybe. Find a middle ground where you are doing more than what you are used to, but able to come back to class tomorrow night. It will not do you any good to overtrain so much that you pay for it over the next several days.
Being mentally prepared is a key concept in MMA training, whether you are a beginner or pro fighter. Just walking into a gym or school can be intimidating. A good school will make you feel welcome and should not have an underlying “beat on the new guy” tone. Training in MMA requires training with other people, the more the better. The better those people are - the better you become. Most of these lessons come from the “losing” side of things. Don’t become frustrated if things are not as easy as they looked on TV. Before you begin class - take a few minutes to clear your head and focus on what you are going to be doing.
Try an take a small piece home from class each time. It may be part of a technique, a better understanding of the art, or even etiquette associated with training a particular discipline. This is how you can begin to accumulate a strong foundation upon which to build. There are no shortcuts in learning and no substitutes for experience. Be patient and enjoy yourself.
What you might need to know or helpful information
Early & Often
When beginning BJJ/ submission grappling there is no need to see “how much you can take”. Tapping signals your partner that they have the submission and they should release it. It is a safety mechanism for your protection. It is much better to tap and be able to train immediately afterwards, or incurring an injury which may take several months to recover from Bring a friend - just like fitness training, it may help to keep you motivated and feel more comfortable when first starting if you go with a friend, or maybe you have a friend that already trains and can bring you in to their school to check it out.
Beginner Check List
Basics of what you need for the first time out, even basics like water or sunglasses.
Keep any of your prior experience to yourself. - Have Fun!