Well, I'm now about a fortnight and seven lessons into my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu experience, training with Ben Hall at Carlson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Australia and I'm covered in bruises, have a sore throat from being choked and am generally sore all over from the workout. Because, contrary to what some people will say - it is a workout. Especially if you are like me; after all it takes a lot more effort to bridge or switch when you are built like the Michelin Man.
I've watched a lot of MMA and I've watched BJJ competitions, instructionals and seminars before, so I am reasonably familiar with the theories of BJJ. But the practice was a whole other animal. You have to retrain your body to move in ways which seem completely alien initially, but soon the inherent advantage of these motions becomes clear and you wonder how you ever rolled over in bed or scooted under a desk to check something without doing it this way. To use some slightly elaborate terminology - it's a whole new set of grammatical rules for your body language to follow. You have to understand the new cause and effect relationships for every movement that you make. And make no mistake, it's hard to unlearn some of the things that you do without thinking.
Already I've learnt some important lessons - the biggest one being an insight into controlling an opponent through your own behaviour. The lesson was focused on keeping the guard when your opponent is standing and looking to pass. For a while it was just confusing and despite the occassional (wholly accidental at the time) success, it usually ended with Ben's knee firmly planted in my solar plexus. Then it came time to swap positions and after a few failed attempts Ben asked me the question: "How did I know that you were going to try to grab that leg?"
"Because I'd been watching it."
"That's only a part of it. I knew you'd go for that leg, because I'd put my other leg out of your reach."
With that simple revelation I felt like I jumped way above my previous skill level. Sure, there had been a lot of useful advice before and since, such as: "Don't extend an arm too far or you'll get armbarred", "Don't put just one arm in, you'll get triangled", but this advice gave my experience a whole new clarity. For the rest of the lesson I was feeling much more confident, I now understood what had been meant by the statement "You have to control your opponent no matter what, and the best way to do this is to control what options they have."
It's a lesson which I put to use in a later class doing takedown drills. By playing "big dumb lug" (when in fact, I am merely a big lug), and leaving a leg too far forward or something similar, I could be confident that my opponent would take that opportunity. After all, that's the only option I had given them. Each and every time as it turned out, the person would go for what I'd given them - and most of the time because I knew what to expect, I was able to do what I'd planned. Sure, there were a few times where someone did something I'd never seen before - but damnit, they did it to the limb that I knew they would.