How To Survive Your First Year Of Training

How To Survive Your First Year Of Training

(And every year after that….)


When I was 17 years old, you couldn’t tell me a damn thing. I was athletic, muscular, had a blood testosterone level of 99.999%, and I thought I was pretty tough. Which is why I thought MMA and Brazilian Jiu JItsu would be a walk in the park for a self absorbed conceded douche bag beast like me.

If you’re still reading his it’s because you either know someone like seventeen year old me, or even worse, you are seventeen year old me. “Learn a few submissions, few takedown defenses, I’ll be raking in millions of dollars in no time”. More like millions of dollars in medical bills and BJJ tournament fees–chalk it up to building character.

After my 6 months of training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and MMA, I still sucked. I couldn’t do a hip escape, I reached for kicks (big no-no), got stuck on my knees shooting takedowns and had a perfect V-shaped gi burn on my upper torso from being constantly choked.

WTF was I doing wrong? I was showing up everyday, isn’t that all there is to getting better? The answer is both yes and no. Its easy to get down on yourself. You show up, you do your best to drill the moves, you do research at home, and you still just do not get it. You do not feel that you are progressing, and people in the gym are still kicking your ass. Surely this cannot be normal right? wrong. The first year of training is a lot like teenage puberty. Its awkward, painful, embarrassing, downright confusing and some day you just want to crawl in a hole and die hide. But without this awkward phase of know-nothingness , one can never reach their true potential. Now that I’m a gym owner, I see it more than ever that people quit because they think that this is not a phase, but a terminal prognosis of never gonna get any better. They think that because of the slowness in their progress, maybe they just are not cut out for martial arts. This could not be farther from the truth.


Don’t get frustrated when everyone around you so gracefully demonstrates techniques as if they’ve been doing it their whole life. It is gonna be confusing. You’re mind is gonna tell your body to do certain things and it’s not gonna happen. You’re gonna do stuff backwards and its gonna take a million times before you get it right. Keep walking through the doors and eventually you will stop scraping your knees up and take off the training wheels. Martial arts are a lifelong journey, not a destination. As much as Steven Segal and Kung Fu Panda would have us belive that there is an apex of Martial Arts proficiency, the fact is you will continue learning until the day you die, trust and enjoy the process.



If you grunt when you throw a punch, you are sparring entirely too hard and need a swift kick in the ass and a hug (in no particular order). If you land a clean punch or a submission on a team-mate, even if it’s a more experienced one, this is not a cause for celebration. On the flip side, if your team-mate lands a clean shot or submission on you, this is not a cause for despair. Do not celebrate and keep score when you out do team mates, and do not throw a fit when they out do you. A rising tide lifts ALL boats, you’re all there to make each other better. Without an all for one mentality the level of cohesion will begin to deteriorate and nobody will get better because everyone will be focused on fighting each other. Bring your A-game, but remember who your family is. The right gym family, while challenging and promoting growth, should also be a judgement free zone where you can make mistakes free of repercussion or fear of judgement.



Forget about the guy who is the same age as you, the same weight, from the same neighborhood or has a membership to the same family video store as you. If you constantly compare yourself to everyone else you’ll never be able to focus on yourself. If you truly want to be a better martial artist that “poor me” non sense has to go out the window. There’s gonna be people out there who do better than you with less than what you have. You can cry about it or realize that its none of your concern. You’re never too old, late, weak, short, or unathletic to attain martial arts proficiency. Wake up everyday, look yourself in the mirror, and vow to be the best YOU that you can be.



When you’re at training, be there. Turn your phone off. Save your stories from the weekend and pictures of your cat for after. If class starts at 7pm, be ready to go at 6:55. You can socialize for free the other 22 hours of the day, save the 2 that everyone is paying for to further your skills. When its time to work, f****** work. This cannot be made any simpler. Don’t expect a gold medal result with a bronze effort. Set the tone for everyone else in the room as far as hard work and dedication, and most importantly listen to your coach. Don’t argue, don’t put your own spin on things, don’t forget who the teacher is and who the student is. When you’re in the presence of someone better than you at something, don’t squander it by not soaking up as much knowledge as possible. Stay in your lane.


Have fun while you still can.

At the end of the day, going to the gym means a few deeper things to most of us than we realize. It means you woke up this morning able-bodied. You woke up with food electricity and clean water available to you as well as enough disposable income to pursue a hobby that just so happens to be beneficial to the mind, body and spirit. So be appreciative. Jiu Jitsu players, boxers, mma fighters, chess players, Turkish oil wrestlers and japanese horseback archers all have one thing in common, and that’s where we will all ultimately end up—in the grave. So enjoy the process, do no harm to others, be the best person you can be, and don’t take any wooden nickels.

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