Like a lot of people—particularly those that didn’t wrestle in high school—I had to do some self-psyching-up to get to my first jiu-jitsu class.

I wasn’t worried about the chokes, the arm bars or the leg locks. I was worried about sucking. Getting tapped left and right. Feeling embarrassed.

Turns out I did suck. Even the warm-ups were awkward.

I did get tapped left and right. By guys 10, 20, even 50 pounds smaller.

I never felt embarrassed though, and for good reason: everyone has a first day.

Maybe the best thing about jiu-jitsu sometimes feels like the worst thing about jiu-jitsu: it’s incredibly humbling. There are no short cuts. EVERYONE starts on the ground floor—and NO ONE forgets what that was like. What I remember about my first rolls, and what you’ll likely remember about yours if you haven’t had them yet, is that the person that’s putting you in tough positions is also teaching you how to get out of them. If you ask, they’ll probably show you how to stop it the next time—and you’ll probably forget. But who cares? You’re not expected to be good. You’re only expected to learn, and that never stops.

Though the kind of person that’s interested in jiu-jitsu in the first place might have made their peace with the physical nature of the sport, some people are probably asking a fairly obvious question: “Is it going to hurt?” Not going to lie, it might—but probably not in the way you think and (if you’re smart), not nearly as bad as you think. Chances of pain from a submission drop significantly if you tap early and often. Be honest when you’re caught. The last thing your training partner wants to do is cause you an injury, so it’s up to you to save yourself and your partner from that unfortunate experience.

That doesn’t account for wear-and-tear, however, which is almost inevitable. If you roll long enough, hard enough and often enough, sore ankles, knees, elbows and necks are going to happen. They’d probably happen if you were training for a marathon too, so some of those things are simply the cost of any fitness program. Listen to your body and find a middle ground between “being a wuss with bumps and bruises and overtraining an injury” (Jon Friedland).

Whether you’ve got the getting-started jitters or not, it’s always a great idea to familiarize yourself with jiu-jitsu etiquette before you show up, which can be found easily on the Internet (

Neutral Ground has its own specific set of rules, but there are a lot of commonalities that you’ll see everywhere: no shoes on the mat, respect your training partners/facilities, no shoes on the mat, practice good hygiene, NO SHOES ON THE MAT.

Don’t cheat yourself out of what could be a life-changing experience because you’re afraid to try. Neutral Ground offers a free seven-day trial membership (get yours here) so you can experience it for yourself before you make up your mind. Chances are good that, during your first class, you’ll discover jiu-jitsu is way more fun—and a lot less scary—than you might have thought.