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What Every BJJ Beginner Should Know

There’s a lot of articles and posts like this on the internet, and many of them are not just clickbait and provide good information. I don’t like to add to that clutter, but I was asked about what I thought someone should learn first when they started to train, but to be honest, I don’t think it’s important what order you learn things in, but I think it is important what you learn in your first 3 months.

What I mean by that is, there’s no 1 position or strategy that I would say is vitally important to learn before anything else. It’s beneficial to learn movements like hip escapes, rolls, pummels and so on, but these can be developed as you go, and it’s likely you’ll learn these in your warm up as fundamental movements each session rather than as the subjects of a taught class. In this list, you could start with any one of the topics and develop them as you go over your first few months.

Top Pressure

I think it’s important to understand how to create top pressure on an opponent to prevent their escape as a concept, rather than as a position. In other words, instead of thinking about top position as “Mount” or “Side control”, you should learn it as how to maintain top control using pressure in any position, and moving between them as needed towards more dominant positions. Important concepts here would be, for example-

Back Control

For me, all paths should lead to the back. If you start a roll, your goal should be to make your opponent turn their back, so that you can get a choke from there. You can do this through pressure or speed, but it’s the best, least defendable position in fighting, so you should aim to be there, and once you get there, you should be focused on how to stay there. It’s also a great leveller. If you’re smaller than your opponent, they can sometimes use additional size or strength to escape some top positions, but when you’re on their back properly, it’s hard to muscle your way out. Focus here should be on-

Closed Guard

The closed guard should form the basis of your bottom attacking and defending game. Open guards are great to learn and fun to use, but they can come later and require greater skill. Using the closed guard is important because it seals your opponent in place and allows you to set up your attacks without worrying what happens when they move too much. You should know how to get up safely from here for self defence purposes, and some of the attacks from here, including but not limited to-

I haven’t included the triangle or arm bar attacks. In my view, most of the time these attacks do not result in success at beginner level. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn them, but I think you should learn these lower risk techniques first.

Escaping From Bad Positions

I could also call this section “Safety”. Escaping strategies are important as you have to develop good habits and awareness of what could go wrong. This is one of the biggest challenges in teaching beginners, as there are so many traps in Jiu Jitsu that we can’t possibly cover them all when teaching an escape. Broadly speaking, these could be summed up as Keep Your Neck Safe, Keep Your Arms Safe, Don’t Turn Your Back. Once you’ve got those in mind, you can start with the following escapes-

And that’s actually it. From my experience, if a beginner has one well understood, instinctive technique that they always do under pressure, it works out better. You can expand on these later on, but when the pressure is on you in a bad position, your brain will have trouble selecting from a menu. It’s better to have one thing that you’re really good at, that keeps you safe, that doesn’t breed bad habits, and that you can use as a basis for progress later.


There’s no sense being a Jiu Jitsu fighter if you can’t take someone to the mat. The menu here is broad, and because the situation of facing an opponent is a much more open scenario, with almost any option on the table, it can be difficult to know what to do. In my view, Beginners should focus on takedowns from-

These are simple to understand, and can form a basis for future training and options. The Bodylock is a clinch based position that has tonnes of options for trips, reaps, back takes, drag downs, lifts and slams. The Single leg game is a system unto itself, and it doesn’t take a fighting genius to know that someone hopping on one leg is easier to take down. The Collar and Sleeve control is so common in Jiu Jitsu that developing trips and sweeps from that position will really help you in the future.

Is this list exhaustive? No, not really, I could go into some more depth but it would take a small novel. You could also substitute in a few techniques for others and still get the same results. I’d imagine the bulk of disagreement from other coaches would be around the closed guard techniques, with many favouring other positions, but I doubt most would disagree that the Closed Guard itself is a fundamental.

Whatever the techniques, however, the joy or learning and developing them into your own personal system is what you should be focusing on. I am still amazed by new methods and techniques I learn, particularly when someone shows me a new way to do something I thought I knew everything about. It’s a great art to learn and try new things in, so don’t take this list as Gospel or doctrine. But do remember to focus on the basics, and if you are reading the list above and see a gap in your own knowledge, close it!

See you on the mat!


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