Pain and Flail: Week 1 of Jiu-Jitsu

I have now made it through two training sessions of Brasilian Jiu-Jitsu without 1) being sick 2) passing out. It’s been fun and hard, just like I was promised. Because I love lists and don’t keep a proper diary, have a listicle of what I’ve learned during my first week!


Lesson 1 – What do you mean, not sweaty?

  1. The hipsterisque Reaktor Friday t-shirt I took from my partner’s shirt collection doesn’t help much against mat burn. I should get a rash guard.
  2. Practice falls can be scary at first. The ukemi (a fall backwards you break with your arms) went pretty well already, but falling deliberately on my right side felt like a dare.
  3. The instructors are really, really nice and frank. This is a good thing, for someone like me who has previously shunned organised sporting activities. I feel safe here.
  4. Shrimping can confuse the hell out of me.
  5. I do not feel self-conscious about my body, its size or my limited physical provess in front of my training partners or instructors. This nonchalance might help me later.
  6. Practicing tapping out when you are being choked from behind can make you glad to be alive. Also, if you leave the tapping too late, your throat muscles will ache for two days. Ouch.
  7. The right training partner can make physical proximity giggle-inducing.
  8. When at the end of the session the instructor says, “So, this time we didn’t get the chance to break sweat yet”, and you’ve actually swetted tons, it’s ok.
  9. Places that ached that don’t usually ache after exercise: the aforementioned throat, knuckles, fingers, tops of feet, toes.
  10. I am able to look angelic in a locker-room selfie, sweat and all.
  11. I loved this and want to do it again!!!


Before and after first lesson ever in BJJ. Anxiety=gone.

Lesson 2 – Escapes for Octopuses and I can’t Stand. Period.

  1. A more experienced grappler came to say hi when me and another BJJ newbie waited for class to start: she wanted to welcome new female recruits.Because I have no self-preservation skills, I blurted, “I’m non-binary, actually. But when I have to choose, I go with the girls.”

    She replied, “No worries, here you can be whatever you want.”

    What a nice, little act off kindness! Especially in Finland, where talking to strangers outside of medical emergencies is frowned upon.

  2. The Grilled Chicken for maintaining guard passes and Martin Aedma got a mention. I was so stoked to hear about a concept in the game I actually recognised and apologised to the instructor for being over-excited. He didn’t mind.
  3. I don’t need my glasses all the time outside sparring.
  4. I can’t do a technical stand-up yet. Like, at all. Instructor: “It just takes practice.” I like this man.
  5. The warm-ups can have yours truly dripping sweat onto the mat for minutes after they finish.
  6. Shrimping gets easier if you actually put weight on the right shoulder and foot.
  7. Escapes from mount are satisfying, because you get to flip someone over.
  8. When someone else flips you over, landing on your temple hurts.
  9. It also hurts when you roll over your own wrist. Should have put it on training partners shoulder, silly me.
  10. I am so used to being big, too big, that I sat too gently on my training partner at first. Instructor came over to remind me that the person under me can take my weight. He was right.
  11. The escape techniques were hard to get right and will probably need to be re-taught to me the next time. I felt like an infirm octopus wrestling with a limber octopus. Hopefully something stuck though.
  12. Sparring felt exhausting and exhilarating. I even remembered to breath occasionally.
  13. I like the ritual of shaking hands with everyone in class at the end.
  14. Class was harder than on Tuesday, but I was less exhausted afterwards. Hurrah!

For the first time in my life, I’m doing a sport where I actually look forward to the time when I get to do it next. I’m already slightly anxious about having an important work commitment next Tuesday that might not end before class is supposed to begin. The instructors said it’s okay to miss a class or two, BUT I WANNA GO! Let’s see what they think about latecomers.

FUN FACT: on Saturday, I went to the common-of-garden gym. Strength training helps with BJJ, apparently. Gym is often a bit of a drag. Not anymore: I’m now doing conditioning for BJJ, which makes it exciting.

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