Updated: Nov 10, 2021

After you make the decision to start training BJJ, one of the first things you'll need to do is buy some equipment. There are three types of equipment you'll need to get: a gi uniform, a no-gi uniform, and safety gear:

Gi Uniform

A Jiu-Jitsu gi (sometimes called a kimono) is the most important piece of equipment you'll have during your BJJ journey. It's thicker than a Karate gi and is made up of a jacket, pants, and a belt. There are a ton of styles and brands, so your first time buying a gi can be overwhelming. Below are Five recommendations to make your first gi purchase easier:

  1. Find someone at the gym with a similar build and ask them what gi brands they like. Chances are they already know what brands fit their body type best. Start your search with these brands.

  2. When in doubt, go with a white gi. Different gyms and different competitions have varying rules on gi colors. All allow white gis.

  3. Buy a white belt when you buy your gi. Most gis don't come with a belt, so you'll need to buy one separately.

  4. Buy your first gi from Rollmore. They'll let you use a gi for 60 days and if it doesn't fit you well, you can return it.

  5. Expect your gi to arrive larger than expected. Try it on and if it's too big, wash it with hot water and/or dry it with high heat to shrink it. Shrinking also has the added benefit of strengthening the fabric.

No-Gi Uniform

The no-gi uniform consists of a rashguard and grappling board shorts. Optionally, some athletes choose to wear leggings to reduce the slipperiness of their legs when sparring.

Rashguards can be short or long sleeve, with long sleeves reducing slipperiness on the lower arms.

Grappling board shorts don't have pockets, because it's easy to get your fingers and toes caught in them, and don't have zippers or buttons, because they scratch and puncture the mat.

Here is Coach Chris Chi modeling his Fuji Shorts and #freebritney long sleeve rashguard.

Safety Gear

Mouth guard

Chipped teeth don't happen often, but when they do they're expensive to fix and you look funny until they are. Don't run the risk of chipped teeth — buy a sports mouth guard. They are under $20 on Amazon and usually come with a $10K+ dental warranty. Seriously, buy a mouth guard.

Nail Clipper

If your nails are untrimmed or sharp, you run the risk of accidentally cutting your teammates with them. If your nails get long, they can get caught on the gi and pulled up — it's as awful as it sounds. Buy an extra nail clipper and throw it in your gym bag. That way, if you notice your nails are getting longer you can trim them before you get on the mat.


One of the ways we protect ourselves from skin infections, like ring worm, is to only step on the mat with clean feet. The floor is dirty, but the mat is clean (we sanitize it after every class). Step out of your shoes and into your flip-flops — Step out of your flip-flops and onto the mat. Keep your teammates safe by not letting your feet touch the floor.


There are two reasons bleach is important:

  1. It kills any bacteria and fungi growing on your gear

  2. It gets rid of funky smells

You should wash all of your gear after each training session and use a small amount of bleach when you do. Don't reuse your gear without washing and don't let it sit in your gear bag overnight. This includes kneepads, belts, etc. Bleaching will slightly shorten the life of your gear, but I think this is a small price to pay to keep your teammates free from skin infections and to ensure you aren't the smelly kid in class that no one wants to train with.

Updated: Nov 10, 2021

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is both a martial art for self-defense and a sport. In self-defense situations, striking is a major factor, so when we train BJJ for self-defense, we include striking. In BJJ competitions, striking techniques are illegal, so when we train for BJJ as a sport, we don't include striking.

Fundamentals Classes

Groundworks Fundamentals classes include some striking because we cover both the self-defense and sport BJJ applications of the techniques and positions. My worst nightmare as an instructor is that one of my students gets hurt in a self-defense situation because they incorrectly think they have the ability to keep themselves safe due to their dominance in sport BJJ. I think it's critical for students to know how to apply their Jiu-Jitsu skills in realistic self-defense scenarios with actively resisting opponents. You will learn how, when, and why to give and receive strikes in our Fundamentals Classes.

Advanced & All Levels Classes

Groundworks Advanced and All Levels classes are strictly sport BJJ focused, so we don't do any striking. These classes follow the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) ruleset for Adult Brown and Black Belt competitors.

Updated: Nov 10, 2021

To understand how Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is different from other martial arts it's helpful to first understand how martial arts differ from one another. We can do this by defining the major martial art categories (there are four) and then grouping each martial art into one of those categories. The categories are:


Striking styles are primarily focused on using power to throw punches, kicks, knees and elbows designed to inflict damage and eventually knock opponents unconscious. Popular striking styles include Karate, Taekwondo, Boxing, Muay Thai, and Capoeira.


Grappling styles are primarily focused on using leverage to control and incapacitate opponents via throws, holds, pins, joint locks, and chokes. Popular styles include Wrestling, Judo, Sambo, Aikido, and of course Jiu-Jitsu


Weapons styles are primarily focused on using tools designed to bludgeon or pierce opponents' bodies. Many of these tools have the added benefit of allowing the practitioner to maintain a safe distance from their opponent. Popular styles include Fencing, Kali, and Pistol Shooting.


While most martial arts have some elements of striking, grappling, and weapons skills, they tend to focus most of their training on only one of those categories. By contrast, combination styles give more equal focus to each category. Popular styles include Krav Maga, MMA, and Hapkido.

The above is a quick simplification to help you understand the major differences between styles. That simplification doesn't fully capture the depth or nuances of each style. If you want to find out more about those styles, click the associated links.

Fun fact: Coach Sean Lynch holds Black Belts in both Taekwondo and Hapkido. Feel free to ask him why he prefers to train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

How is BJJ different from other grappling styles?

We now know that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a grappling focused style, but how does it differ from the other grappling styles?


Modern wrestling is focused on takedowns and pins. Most wrestling takedowns are legal in BJJ and the wrestling singlet is similar to the board shorts and rash guard worn for no-gi BJJ. Wrestling matches can be won by pinning your opponent's shoulders to the mat, so wrestlers tend to be very good at not letting their back touch the mat. By contrast, Jiu-Jitsu is focused on winning by submissions (chokes & joint locks) rather than pins. Jiu-Jitsu athletes are very comfortable having their back on the mat — doing so allows them to use their legs to attack and submit their opponent.


Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is descended from Judo and we can trace our belt lineage back to Judo's founder, Kano Jigoro. Judo is most commonly known for it's throws, but Judo competitors can also win by pins, armbars, and chokes, so they have a high level of skill in each of those areas. It's usually easy for Judo players and BJJ practitioners to train with one another since the core positions and submissions exist in both styles. While Judo focuses more on throwing an opponent to the ground, BJJ focuses more on groundwork and submissions.


Sambo is a Russian martial art that, similar to Jiu-Jitsu, was heavily influenced by Judo. In fact, one of Sambo's founders Vasili Oshchepkov trained under Kano Jigoro. Sambo practitioners wear a gi top (called a kurta), shorts, and wrestling shoes, so a lot of the upper body gripping techniques are similar in Judo, Jiu-Jitsu, and Sambo. Sambo has a stronger focus on takedowns and leg attacks than BJJ. It's also very common to see BJJ athletes "pull guard" or take the bottom position at the start of a match, but Sambo athletes generally don't concede the bottom position without a fight.


Aikido is a Japanese martial art that is primarily defensive. In a self-defense situation an Aikido practitioner's goal is to subdue an attacker without injuring them. Aikido practitioners are known for their throws and joint locks and when training they wear a uniform called an aikidōgi. Aikido is distinct from the other grappling styles mentioned in that it rarely includes live sparring against skilled opponents giving full resistance. Live sparring is a critical component of BJJ training, so BJJ rarely uses techniques from Aikidio because they lack effectiveness against moderately skilled grapplers of other styles.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

The key difference between BJJ and other grappling styles is the refinement and adaptation of techniques so that they can be performed with minimal effort by a smaller, weaker, slower, or older practitioner. Other grappling sports have incredible techniques, but they also emphasize employing those techniques via strength and conditioning. In BJJ, our goal is to be able to minimize the use of strength and conditioning in the application of our techniques. Our philosophy is that if a weaker opponent can successfully perform the move, then it works and will work even better if they have physical conditioning and strength.

If you'd like to get a better feel for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu's history and culture, check out the Jiu-Jitsu vs The World documentary on YouTube.