When you first start jiu jitsu, you’ll use all of your strength to try to escape submissions.  Since you don’t know any techniques yet you’ll rely on explosiveness, and unfortunately, you’ll gas yourself out.  Here’s a quote I found on that pretty much sums up the idea: “If you don’t know what you are doing, but you are doing it as hard and as fast as you can, then you’re spazzing.”

If you ever make this face when you are training, you are spazzing.

When I first began jiu jitsu, I was definitely spazzy.  I would squirm and thrash around whenever I felt in danger, often to the dismay of my training partners.  Sure, they were going to sink in the submission regardless of whether I spazzed or not – but I bet they preferred not to end up with a bloody nose in the process.  I had no idea how to escape mount, so I would buck like crazy (without really understanding why) and throw up my arms, grasping at whatever I came into contact with first.  If somebody sunk in a choke on me, you could be damn sure I was going to crack their knuckles trying to escape.  Accidental headbutts, knees, elbows, and fingers in the eyes were familiar experiences for my training partners.

In particular, one memory sticks out in my mind.  I was training with a female purple belt at my first jiu jitsu academy back in Canada.  I was a very new student at the time – I only had 2 or 3 months of training under my belt.  During a light roll I was unknowingly spazzing, and I accidentally eye-gouged my female training partner with my thumb.  She (understandably) screamed out in pain and was unable to continue training.  Everyone else in the class stopped rolling to see what was wrong.  Almost three years later, I still feel terrible about that experience, and since then I have made every effort to avoid spazzing at all-costs.  It’s just unfortunate that it took something so dramatic to help me understand why people would initially avoid training with me.

Other than the eye-gouging experience, I sometimes can’t help but look back and laugh at myself.  Most of the time my training partners would knowingly smile after each roll, despite the minor injuries I inevitably caused them.  And amazingly, each time I’d accidentally knee one of the more experienced students in the head, I’d suddenly find myself caught in an inexplicably painful choke or armlock.  Hmm…maybe this wasn’t a coincidence after all.

"No worries about accidentally kneeing me in the groin. By the way, check out this sweet new choke I like to call the Widowmaker."

Everyone starts off like that.  Everyone spazzes, and despite their best efforts, everyone gets submitted.  It takes time to develop technique.  But in the meantime, take the advice of your training partners seriously – relax, breathe, and respect the safety of those around you.  The more experienced students at your academy will certainly understand why you are spazzing (they were there once too), but that doesn’t mean they’ll take it easy on you after you accidentally kick them in the head.


About Dave

Grad student in Ecology, Blue belt in jiu jitsu.
This entry was posted in BJJ Etiquette, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Spazzing

  1. Aaron Bair says:

    Nice post! Yep, everyone goes a little spazz when they start.I remember the blue belt saying,
    “Stop using strength!” After getting submitted several times you learn to corral the inner spazz

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