Why is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu so hard?

By Arete BJJ Malta,

  Category: advices for beginners

Archived blog post from old aretemalta.com website

This is my personal opinion why Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is so freakin’ hard.

Temperature has been close 35 degrees for the past week. There is no signs of clouds in the sky, sun is blasting with full heath.

It’s 5pm and I’ve just finished my day at work. I got few hours to kill, before I have to hop on to my scooter and start driving towards the gym.
I feel very tired, I still haven’t completely recovered from jet lag. I try to take a nap in my bed, but I cannot calm myself down, I feel anxious / nervous.
Finally, it is 7pm and it is time to go. I feel temptation to skip the practise and stay home watch some mindless YouTube videos. My mind keeps telling me  “I’ll go tomorrow, I’m so tired today”. I get myself up back my backs and hop on to my scooter and start driving towards the gym.

Drive to the gym is quite long, it takes about 30 minutes to get there, if the traffic isn’t too bad or police stopping and checking driving license. I’m in a foreign country, and according to the local police, my driving license is not valid to drive scooter in Thailand. I’ve always managed to get these “legal disputes” settled with 1000 thai baht (equivalent of 25€), so technically it is more like toll what I have to pay for the police.

Mind games

Finally, I arrive to the gym. The day has turned into night, it’s almost pitch black dark. My mind is really putting it’s best effort to make turn back and go home. My mind is painting these images of my training partners, they all look like serial killers, with intense look in their eyes and they are absolutely shredded. 
I recognise these thoughts, and I’m doing my best effort to shut them down. “This is what you were long waiting for!”, “This is a huge privilege, how many other people you know who has possibility to train while travelling”. 

I walk through the gym area, I can hear the sound of shins and fists hitting the mitts, Muay Thai trainers are calling combinations. Place feels very calm, jiu jitsu class is the last class of the day. I arrive to the mat area.

I step into the mats and all the people turn around looking at me. I feel that I’ve been put into spotlight. Quickly, everyone start doing their own things – stretching, chatting with each other or just simply staring into oblivion. Most of the guys sitting on the mat are nothing like my mind was telling me they would be – there are just same kind of “normal people” as I am. 
Of course, there is few guys packed with muscles and cauliflower ears, but only few. 
More people start coming in and everyone has to go through this “spotlight” moment. Some people are visibly uncomfortable, so just don’t seem to care.


Look at these “meat sherreders” , they’re quite intimidating.

The class

The class starts, we do serious of warm ups. Backward rolls, forward rolls, alligator walk and few other things, such as head stand that me + majority failed to do completely. I feel embarrassed, but at the same time I realise that there are others struggling with these movements as well. It gives me little bit more hope, I am not alone, there are other people that are struggling with same things. 
We finish the warm ups, but I feel like I can’t stop sweating. Even though it is evening, weather is still relatively warm.

After quick break, we move into the technique portion of the class. It is very simple triangle choke set up. Technique is broken down into very small details and suddenly the technique looks / feels much more complicated than it first looked like. 

I ended up partnering with a very quiet fellow. I ask him, if he would like to do the technique first, because I don’t think I fully got it. He nods and we get to work. 

After few brief minutes I can tell that my partner is quite advanced. Without any sense of hesitation, he executes technique perfectly. My partners appearance doesn’t give any indication of skill level.

Quickly, it is my turn. After seeing how perfectly my partner hits the technique, I almost feel embarrassed to do the technique. 
My partner realises that I don’t have clue how to do this technique and he starts giving my instructions what to do. He’s tone is very friendly and understanding. He give’s me compliments when I do things the right way.

Once you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy.
Dan Gable



“We’re going to do 5 x 5 minutes tonight!” – Instructor yells. I slap my hands with my partner and we start sparring. 
With in the first 20 seconds, with out putting much effort my partner has made his way into back mount. He quickly secures body triangle on me. I feel like I am stuck in quicksand – the more I try to move the deeper I sink. I try to fight my partners hands, to stop him choking me, but it doesn’t help much. Quickly he sinks in “rear naked choke” on me and I’m forced to quit. 

We reset, my partner goes on his back and invites me to his half guard. In a split second, he sweeps me and I end up in bottom, before I’ve even realised what happened he secures an arm bar. Once again I tap. 
I look at the timer, there is still 3,5 minutes left of this round…It is long night a head for me…

In the remaining 3,5 minutes I tap more than people clap their hands in stand up comedy show. Time runs out. My partner gives me few tips on how to avoid those bad situations and how to get out of them.


“Next Round! Get ready” – The instructor yells out. Sweating has gone in completely different level. I had no idea, that I could even sweat this much. I already feel tired, but still I jump in. 

After getting beat up from left and right, for 25 minutes, my body feels like 100 degrees hot, I feel pounding inside my head. Instructor quickly recaps, the technique we drilled that night, he gives few tips for beginners and he ends the class by shaking everyones hands.

I feel like a zombie, I drag myself to shower. I turn the water from the shower as cold as I can. I go underneath the water, I lean against the wall. Water doesn’t feel like cold at all. After standing under the water a span of time that feel almost an eternity, I finally got myself to cool down. 

I dress up and start heading towards my scooter. My drilling partner is sitting on top of his bike, he notices me and yells me “ Hope I’ll see you again on the mats!”. I smile and nod. 

I hop on to my scooter and start driving towards home. Adrenaline is slowly fading away, I start to feel muscles aching in my body. I’m tired, but I feel good about myself. Next class probably won’t be any easier, but I can’t wait to get back out there.


This was my first experience training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Tiger Muay Thai MMA training camp. The year was 2010 and I just started training jiu jitsu 3 months ago. Because of my work, I got an opportunity to move to Phuket. I was living in a foreign country, far away from home.

As you can tell from the story, the physical part of training jiu jitsu wasn’t the hardest part for me – it was getting over those mental barriers that I had in my head. In other words, training itself is fairly “easy”, getting my ass to gym was the hardest part. Especially, in the beginning stakes of my jiu jitsu journey, it was sometimes mentally draining to go to the practise when you know, that you’re getting beat up by almost everyone.  Only way to get over this, is simply just accept the fact, you are going to get beat up by everyone and learning jiu jitsu is a marathon not a sprint. If are willing to go through this, you will become more resilient in and outside of the gym. And believe it or not, but eventually you will get better.

Are you up for a challenge? Are you ready to get stronger both mentally and physically?
If you answered yes, sign up for a free jiu jitsu class from here.

All you need to do is show up to the gym and train your butt off, but good news is – you don’t have to do it alone, you’ll get to do it with nice group of people. 🙂