Beware of free trials – yes we do offer free trials, but all of them should come with a warning

It may seem contradictory to warn potential members about free trials, whilst also offering them 🙂 However, for anyone in New Braunfels looking for BJJ classes, especially those who are new to the sport, the costs of ‘free’ can outweigh the benefits. BJJ is of course a contact sport and injuries, despite best intentions, can and will occur. New Braunfels has a thriving BJJ scene which we are very proud to be a part of. We’ve seen several BJJ gyms open and close alongside the more established academies and as almost as quickly as one closes, another one opens in its place. This choice with several clubs offering free at any one time means you could probably train for maybe 6 weeks here in New Braunfels before actually paying anyone. Have I just saved you a tonne of money and potentially cost myself a new member? Probably not.

More often than not, a free trial in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu means being asked to spar with someone as your first experience of the art. This method of introduction is incredibly unsafe as the untrained person is likely to react to powerful submissions by escaping in directions that can do serious harm. I began Jiu Jitsu this way back in 2008 and was riddled with injuries in the first several months and count myself as one of the lucky few who survived this method of introduction. I watched countless others of the years be introduced to the art this way and they never continued and worse they spread bad press about BJJ because they were injured doing something they saw as pointless. When people come to me hoping to learn something, I teach that as a first introduction to the art, I don’t bloat my ego whipping them from one end of the mat to the other.

Our ideal member here at SBG New Braunfels first and foremost does NOT want to get injured. They have a decent job and need their body to feed them and / or their families. The challenge with free classes, especially for white belts who have not trained before AND where you do not pay the instructor / academy, is that there is a tendency to group all white belts together and coach the white belts in what the white belts believe they need to learn; usually the exciting submissions where the training partner is placed in a highly vulnerable position and you essentially practice tapping each other out. This feels satisfying and probably helps close the deal as you are getting what you expect; the ability to end a fight; rather than what you need. These positions are completely unrealistic for you as you won’t achieve them on anyone with a few months more experience. They can also be dangerous. There are two elements that make Jiu Jitsu potentially more dangerous for white belts

They don’t know how much force to apply on a submission or even just when wrestling, so they inadvertently injure other people.
They don’t know when they should tap and they tap too late or don’t even realise they need to tap. They then post in BJJ forums about their injuries and many other clueless individuals then pile on that this is part of the sport.

Therefore having white belts applying submissions to each other is a recipe for disaster. The number 1 question you should ask any gym during a ‘free’ trial is “how will you try to help ensure my safety so I don’t get hurt?”

Good answers may include buddying you up with a more senior student who is used to assisting newcomers, they may well be an assistant coach already. Another good option during a free trial is having a one-to-one with a coach instead instead of a free week in classes. A properly designed beginner or newcomers curriculum can also help to mitigate these issues.

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