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This is an orientation guide to help beginners on their Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu journey. Structured through a series of questions and answers. Click on the question to expand and view the answer.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the Brazilian version of a Japanese martial art called jiu-jitsu. Unlike other martial arts, like karate, tae kwon do, or kung fu, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (or BJJ) doesn’t involve any striking (i.e. hitting). Instead, BJJ involves using your body to trap your opponent or their limbs in unfavourable positions. BJJ doesn’t require you to be strong, big or aggressive! (This is why it’s called jiu-jitsu, which is Japanese for ‘the gentle art’). It just requires that you use the correct techniques, to capture your opponent’s limbs in submissions (positions like chokes, locks or holds that your opponent cannot get out of and which can cause you to win a match.)
Sure! All the BJJ techniques taught are designed for someone to overcome an opponent using technique and skill, not strength or size. But more importantly, if your child is feeling a bit insecure or experiencing some low self-esteem, BJJ will help your child develop self-confidence and resilience.
BJJ is perfect for anyone – it doesn’t matter what level of fitness or coordination you’re at, you just need to be willing to give it a go. This is because you don’t need strength in order to execute any of the techniques – you just need to do the movements correctly. The good thing though is that BJJ will improve your fitness and general coordination by leaps and bounds, if you stick with it.
Check our timetable page You can come to whichever classes fit into your schedule. However, you should try to come at least once a week in order to qualify for grading (i.e. to earn your next stripe/belt). Ideally, though, you should come to more than this, to consolidate your learning.
We are happy to offer you a free trial class, to see if you or your child wants to continue and if the gym is the right fit for you. After this, we offer a casual fee -- $5 per class for kids, and $10 per class for adults. Keep in mind that you need to have paid your membership fee in order to qualify for grading. (See below for more on grading).

If you’re doing a gi class, you wear a gi. This is the light jacket and pants that you see everyone else in at the gym! The jacket is held closed with the belt.

If you’re doing a no-gi class, you can wear shorts and a t-shirt, but dedicated no-gi practitioners often prefer to wear activewear (rashguard and leggings). These stay tight to the body and stops your opponent from grabbing onto your clothing accidentally.

If your child is between 4 and 10, they can wear a cheap cotton gi (with a belt, of course). If your child is a bit older, the techniques they’ll learn probably mean they should get a thicker and more durable gi like the gis that the coaches wear. We have a limited number of these gis for purchase at the gym, so ask Feby if you’re interested in these.

Gis can also be purchased from Fight Times, on Lower Stuart Street, beside the Law Courts.

We’re happy to loan you a gi for the time being, for free. But if you can purchase a gi, do try to – it helps the kids and yourself feel more ownership over their jiu-jitsu. At the very least, purchase your own belt, so that on grading day when we award stripes, we have something to put the stripe on! Either way, you need to be wearing a gi, whether your own or borrowed, when at class. (Unless of course you’re an adult and you’re attending the no-gi classes!)

Please remember though that if you borrow a gi, do not put it back on the shelf after you’ve worn it. It should go in the laundry basket in either the bathroom or in front of the shelf of loan gis.

Wear a shirt underneath your gi jacket. Kids’ gi jackets sometimes have short ties on either side, which you can use to tie the sides of the jacket together and which help keep the jacket together. Kids’ pants usually have elastic waistbands. Adult pants will have drawstrings to draw the waist of the pants tight around you. If you want to wear activewear leggings underneath your pants, that’s fine! Use your belt to tie your jacket closed. Wear jandals everywhere inside the gym, except on the mat.
Wash a gi in a cold water wash cycle to prevent or minimise shrinkage, and hang it up to dry (do not put it in the dryer). It can help to peg it up by the sleeves or by the trouser legs, as the weight pulling on the sleeves and pant legs can help prevent shrinkage.
After every training session.
Here you go: There is more than one way to tie your belt. Look on YouTube for your favourite way and once you've found a way you like, practice a few times in front of the mirror.

Whether you are a child or an adult, everyone starts with a white belt. A white belt indicates that you are a beginner. In both the kids and adult belt system, you must earn the required number of stripes (also called degrees or tabs) on your current belt in order to earn a new belt. E.g. if you are an adult white belt, you must earn four stripes on your white belt before being promoted to blue. You earn a stripe by attending and successfully passing grading day. After the white belt level, the adult belt system and the kids’ belt system diverge. Very briefly, the kids’ belt system advances like this. The list below is organised from the most beginner to most advanced.

  1. White
  2. Grey 1 (grey with white stripe)
  3. Grey 2 (solid grey)
  4. Grey 3 (grey with black stripe)
  5. Yellow 1 (yellow with white stripe)
  6. Yellow 2 (solid yellow)
  7. Yellow 3 (yellow with black stripe)
  8. Orange 1 (orange with white stripe)
  9. Orange 2 (solid orange)
  10. Orange 3 (orange with black stripe)
  11. Green 1 (green with white stripe)
  12. Green 2 (solid green)
  13. Green 3 (green with black stripe)

Once your child turns sixteen (and has earned the required number of stripes), their next coloured belt will be blue i.e. from then on they will be counted as an adult and will be promoted according to the adult belt system. That means if your child is currently a three-stripe Yellow 3, and straight after turns 16, their next belt will be Blue (i.e. they will not continue through to orange or green belts).

The adult belt system advances like this, from the most beginner to most advanced:

  1. White
  2. Blue
  3. Purple
  4. Brown
  5. Black
  6. Red / Black
  7. Red / White
  8. Red

For more information about the belt systems
Yes, red belts exist. But they are very rare. This is because you have to have done jiu-jitsu for a very long time in order to earn one. If you earn your black belt at age 19, the earliest you can earn a red belt is age 67.
Wearing a shirt under your gi helps reduce the chafing of your gi on your skin. For the older kids and adults, it also helps prevent everyone else from smelling your… unique aroma.
Partly this is (Japanese) tradition – but for us non-Japanese people, it’s more about hygiene. It’s important that we don’t track germs/dirt etc into the gym from either outside the gym or from the bathroom. Remember, if you go into the bathroom barefoot, you then take any germs from the bathroom floor onto the mat, where people lie down and train!
You can purchase a patch for $10 from us. Ask Feby our Administrator for more information on this. It’s good if you have a patch on your gi by grading day.
The sports day is always the second-to-last Saturday of the school term, and the grading day is always the last Saturday of the school term. (Check your attendance card for precise dates for each term). On sports day, everyone competes in friendly matches with other people from their classes. Everyone is sorted into appropriate divisions, based on age and size, and everyone gets at least a couple of matches. On grading day, everyone attends their usual class times, during which you will be asked to demonstrate what you have learned over the term. If you are able to do this, and if you’ve shown good discipline and self-management over the term, you’ll be awarded a stripe on your belt. If you’ve already earned three stripes (if you’re a kid) or four stripes (if you’re an adult), you’ll be upgraded to the next belt-up. Being awarded a new stripe or belt is called being promoted.

Yes. But! Keep in mind that ‘compete’ is perhaps the wrong word for what happens on sports day. It is really an opportunity for you to apply your BJJ skills in a slightly more realistic situation. In addition, remember that on sports day, you are competing with your friends and classmates, not against a supervillain! And that the referee is there not just to award points, but also to prevent you or anyone else from getting injured. In particular, referees for the kids’ matches will stop a match well before there is any chance of injury occurring, or if the kids start to look upset.

The good thing about competing is that the more you do it, the better you get at it. In other words, competing more often allows you to build your resilience to challenges and pressure – a lifelong benefit of BJJ, and of competing.

Keep in mind that, to be promoted, you need to demonstrate what you’ve learned over the term and show good discipline and self-management, in accordance with the bushido code and our values (see below). For us, good discipline means:

  • being able to stand still on your dot on the mat;
  • following instructions when they are given;
  • listening when spoken to;
  • releasing your opponent from your hold/submission when they tap;
  • and showing general good sportsmanship (not being overly aggressive, congratulating others on their successes, being respectful, etc).

It’s also important that you wear the correct uniform, including a belt. And you need to make sure you’ve attended at least once a week during term. (We’ll give you leeway for a missed week or so, but if you’ve missed half the term, you won’t have learned enough to be able to adequately demonstrate all the techniques required to pass grading.)

In regards to adults: It’s more likely that you haven’t attended quite enough classes yet to qualify for a new stripe or belt. If you’ve attended every week and you’re a white belt, you should be able to get a stripe every term. But if you’re blue belt or above, the time between promotions increases e.g. once you’re a blue belt, and if you attend every week, you’ll only be eligible for promotion every half year. In other words, you need to have completed a minimum number of classes and/or been training for a minimum amount of time in order to qualify for your next promotion.

Tapping out is when your opponent taps several times on either the mat or on you, with their hand or their foot. They can also literally say ‘Tap’. When your opponent taps out, you must immediately release your opponent. This is a fundamental rule of BJJ and must be followed, without exception. Continuing to hold on after your opponent taps may result in injury or unconsciousness, and will be viewed extremely negatively by the coaches.

Speaking of tapping out: when someone is practicing a technique on you, you should tap early and often. Don’t wait until you feel pain or until you start to go unconscious; tap as soon as you can feel that the technique has been properly applied. Remember, it’s just practice, not a match, and you lose nothing by tapping early (but you might lose brain cells or a working arm, shoulder, or knee if you don’t).

No-gi BJJ is BJJ done without a gi (hence the name!) The techniques are basically the same but obviously do not involve gripping or using the gi as a tool to help execute the techniques. So it requires slight adjustments to the techniques you learn in gi classes.

In addition, the no-gi classes, run by Coach Hamed, are less structured than the gi classes (which run along with a specific set curriculum, with each week building on the last). Often, Coach Hamed will just pick an interesting technique and spend the class workshopping and finetuning it. As such, if you’re a beginner, you might find it useful to go to the gi classes first, to get a good solid foundation in techniques, before you start going to no-gi classes and adjusting the techniques you’ve already learned.

Bushido is the Japanese code of ethics and behavior originally followed by samurai and now followed by most practitioners of Japanese martial arts (including BJJ). It’s similar to the code of chivalry followed by European knights in the Middle Ages. There are seven aspects of bushido:
  • Honour (meiyo): Live according to your principles and carry out your responsibilities.
  • Respect (rei): Show respect and courtesy when dealing with others.
  • Integrity (gi): Commit to your decisions; do what you say you’re going to do.
  • Courage (yuuki): Be willing to take risks, especially in order to do what is right.
  • Honesty/sincerity (makoto): Be honest when dealing with others.
  • Duty/loyalty (chuugi): Be responsible for and towards the others around you.
  • Compassion/benevolence (jin): Help other people whenever you can, and show mercy.
The excellent thing about learning BJJ is that, along with the super cool techniques, it also encourages you to learn in accordance with these aspects of bushido – and therefore to grow as a person. In addition to the above bushido aspects, which inform the gym’s values, our gym is also about having fun and being gentle, inclusive, and respectful of other people.
Totally understand. The problem (and also the cool thing) about BJJ techniques is that, if you do them properly, they can be very powerful. This means you don’t have to apply any strength at all to make a technique work – just do the movements and it’ll have the desired effect. In addition, every technique you learn has the potential for injuring your training partner or opponent, so if you apply strength to an already powerful technique, you multiply the chance that you’ll hurt someone. Just relax and be careful with your training partner.
This is really to do with basic sportsmanship. The BJJ techniques we’re learning all have the potential to hurt your training partner, so it’s important to
  1. acknowledge and thank your training partners, who allow you to learn; and
  2. to show that there are no hard feelings in case of injury. Again, it’s part of bushido – showing care, responsibility, and compassion for others.

Yes. Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is much more ground-based i.e. you spend much more time on the ground. In addition, historically some of its movements were combined with capoeira, a dance/martial art form from Brazil that incorporates smooth whirling movements.

In addition, Brazilian jiu-jitsu was developed into its modern form by the Gracie family, a famous dynasty of jiu-jitsu practitioners from Brazil.

(In case you’re interested, Prof Philip was taught BJJ by Mario Yokoyama, who was taught by Ryan Gracie, one of the grandchildren of Carlos Gracie, one of the original practitioners who developed modern BJJ. The original generation of Gracies was taught by Mitsuyo Maeda, a Japanese jiu-jitsu practitioner who emigrated to Brazil back in 1917.)

Primarily we teach BJJ, not MMA itself (that includes striking and many other skills!) However, if you would still like to learn MMA with us (or add it to your BJJ training), have a chat with Prof Philip. As a former professional MMA fighter, Prof Philip has extensive experience in all things MMA, and will be able to advise you further. In addition, we do have no-gi BJJ classes, on Thursdays and Sundays, and the skills here are directly applicable to MMA.
Sure! Have a chat with our coaches Prof Philip, Coach Hamed, and Coach Matiu, as they have all also studied striking arts like Muay Thai, Wing Chun, and kickboxing. They will be able to advise you on striking and if possible will be able to include some striking in or after their classes. Again though, the martial art primarily taught at our gym is BJJ.
Yes, you can. Have a chat with the coach you’re interested in having private lessons with. They can let you know their rate, and you can organise an appropriate time to do this.

If you have questions about any administrative matters e.g. fees, timetables, buying gis or patches, etc, talk to Feby, the Administrator (or email her at admin@mybjjdunedin.co.nz).

If you have questions about jiu-jitsu matters e.g. specific techniques, how to tie a belt, how do I compete better, etc, talk to Prof Philip or any of the coaches (Coach Hamed, who coaches the no-gi classes; Coach Matiu; and Coach Alex).

You can also message us via our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/bjjdunedindojos or on Instagram

Start training today! If you keep training, your black belt will come to you with time, patience, and intelligent work.