Learning to Fish…Again

When I was 20 I got my first “grown-up” job as a bank teller. The night before my first day my dad had to show me how to tie a tie. However, the next morning when I was looking at all seven of my tied ties, I realized that all I really had to do was adjust the knot. Way easier than remember those four steps.

I was at work three years later when the initial knot finally gave way. I was mortified. Our computers weren’t connect to the Internet, I couldn’t watch a YouTube video on my smart phone (I’m old, this was before all of that). The only person I could ask was the branch president. He was a former Marine and kind of scary. When I asked him he just stared at me for a moment and then said, “you’ve only been given fish you’re entirely life. Today, you will learn to fish.” It took forever, but I learned how.

The first time I tried my gi on in the changing area, I was hit with that memory, and panicky realization that I had no idea how to tie the belt. I stood there for 5 minutes frantically wrapping and unwrapping it around myself, trying different knots and even attempting to tie it like I tie my shoes. I had one of those panicky conversations with myself in my own head:

Brain: Why didn’t you watch a YouTube video before you came to class? You idiot.

Me: Had the part of me that is in charge of ideas thought of it, I would have.

Brain: Yeah, well, you look dumb, not me.

I Need an Adult!

Red-faced, sweating and muttering to myself I was trying any kind of knot that seemed to make sense in my frazzled state. Someone walked in and scared the crap out of me.“Oh, nice, you got a gi!” “Let me show you how to tie the belt.” I was saved! As I handed him my belt he uttered one of my favorite phrases when learning something new, “let me show you the easy way.” SOLD!

I’ve officially been “taught to fish” two different times, but if you handed me a fishing rod, I’d have no idea what to do with it. Other than attempt to tie it in knots. Thankfully tying a gi is just as easy as tying a tie, I just needed to have a grown-up show me.


Gearing up: What gear do I need to start training jiu-jitsu?

Compared to other combat sports, the equipment investment for jiu-jitsu is pretty low. You still need a few things though and, with the holidays just around the corner, there’s no better way to show that special person in your life you care than a gift that says “I want you to get real good at choking people.” Bring them with you next year in case Black Friday gets out of hand. Win-win.

Gi: Sometimes referred to as a kimono, this is the uniform of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and also a key piece of equipment. Many techniques involve gripping the Gi for control, which is why they are often more expensive than Gis for other martial arts (i.e. Taekwondo) that don’t involve grappling. If you’re looking for that high-quality, high-fashion look that’s super hot on the mats these days, Neutral Ground is practically best friends with two local companies that make excellent Gis: BJJ Life (http://thebjjlifestyle.com/) and Combat Corner (http://combatcorner.com/). Tell them we sent you and they’ll be like “Niiiiiiiice.”

Belt: The belt is used to track your progression from beginner to bad ass. You’ll start with a white belt, work your way up to blue, then purple, then brown, then black. In between belt colors, you also earn stripes to show how close you are to that next level (four stripes per belt color). Your instructor will promote you to the next belt color which, be prepared, may take a while. Jiu-Jitsu has one of the most rigid belt promotion systems, so it can take more than 10 years to achieve a black belt. Unlike other martial arts, you’ll never see a child that’s a black belt in jiu-jitsu. If you do meet a child that’s a black belt in jiu-jitsu, just do what they say.

Rash guard: A rash guard, originally worn by surfers, is a tight-fitting spandex shirt that can help protect against cuts, mat burns and even skin diseases. Though not essential, it does provide some added mobility off your back—particularly when you’re sweaty. Plus, it shows off how buff you are. Whaddyabench?

Shorts: Though you’ve probably got at least one pair of shorts that will work just fine, two styles that really caught on in the grappling/MMA communities are Vale Tudos (very short, very tight) and board shorts (long and loose). Personally, I try to avoid anything with pockets. When feet weren’t getting caught in them, I’d always be pushing them back in. Save yourself my headache.

Mouth guard: This is optional and worn by about 50% of grapplers according to a survey that I just made up. A basic boil-and-bite mouth guard only costs a few bucks, but they can get pretty costly for a pro-level, custom job. If you’re not doing any striking, there’s no reason to get too crazy with the cost. I like the Tiger Claw Single Mouth Guard (sold on Amazon) which is very thick, forms much better than other mouth guards I’ve tried and only costs about $4—a very cheap investment compared to missing teeth.

Cup: Again, optional—but preferred by many for obvious reasons. Combat Corner sells a Muay Thai-style steel cup that provides awesome protection even if it’s not the most fun thing to put on. You’ll see what I mean.

Water bottle: Even if it’s below freezing outside, the inside of a packed jiu-jitsu gym will feel like Miami in July. Stay hydrated.

Neutral Ground shirt: The equivalent of a “Beware of Dog” sign for your body. Off the mat, we don’t want no mess.

No shoes: No shoes on the mat. Don’t even think about it.