Why I Think Warm-Ups are Important for Every Class

By Elisabeth Clay

Every sport has warm-ups — getting the muscles warm and more pliable, thereby reducing injury. Some of these warm-ups are sport specific and are used to learn basic movements utilized in each sport.

Why Warm-Ups Are Important

I’m sure a lot of you think that warm-ups (shrimps, sit-outs, etc.) are pretty monotonous (they can be) and just a part of what we do. Well, in my opinion, they’re really extremely important. Warmups are the very movements of jiu jitsu. Therefore, if we can just master the warm-ups (the movements) we can master jiu jitsu, so long as we get the timing down as well. Warm-ups are extremely important for everyone, but especially the lower belts who are just learning those movements. It’s an important time to learn them, become fluid and, when upper belts continue to practice daily, they will eventually become second nature to the body. They will no longer require thought and the body will move fluidly while the brain focuses on other components, or the “chess” aspect of the game.

How to Perfect a Skill

The perfection of skill in any activity comes down to knowing it’s basic components. The warm-ups for jiu jitsu are just that, or they should be. I know that some schools do warm-ups more specific to other sports (such as running, sit-ups, etc.) but those are not as important as “warm-ups” that are the core movements and are critical to practice every day. We would not consider only teaching a child a language for a couple of years…we practice daily for life, and warm-ups are the basic language of jiu jitsu.

The Most Important Warm-Ups for Jiu Jitsu

  • Shrimp
  • Reverse shrimp
  • Sit-outs
  • Forward shoulder rolls
  • Back shoulder rolls
  • Granby rolls
  • Shots
  • Shot- sprawls
  • Partnered shot drills (head placement drills and take down setups)

Thinking the Right Way About Warm-Ups

It is easy to see the thought process (starting at purple belt) behind not needing to do the warm-ups; they have done them for years now. You find lots of people who come late, ditch warmups or do other non jiu jitsu specific warm-ups, but they are only hurting themselves and their progression in the sport, particularly those who compete.

My mom often teases that I started jiu jitsu so young (as opposed to adults who start) it is more like a first language rather than a second language, but I think it has more to do with rigorously training warmups and therefore taking the thought process out of the movements. Those movements have become such a part of who I am that when I roll, I just move. I see where my opponent is going and do what needs to be to counter it. To me, it is like walking and talking and then an obstacle is dropped right in your path, but since survival has become second nature you just move where you need to be to stay safe. That is how instinctual I was with the core movements of jiu jitsu to be to my body and mind. I want to be able to move at the right time and place because I see the opening and my body just does it. I don’t have to think about how to get there. I don’t have to worry about hearing my coaches voice because I have been listening all through practices. I just hear, see and move. At that point it is all fluid, there is no delay in all those transitions. When you get hung up is when there is a delay at any of those points, so once the opening is there you have a very short time to use it.

Take Warm-Ups Seriously

Whether you are a competitor or are interested in becoming a competitor, take those warm-ups very seriously. Practice them, become smooth and fluid, and let them become as comfortable or more comfortable than walking. Then practice the drills to transition between them, and become fluid. Now, if you for some reason are late to class, do not skip because you missed part of warmups or class, because something is always better than nothing. Do yourself the favor of making it a conscious effort to emphasize warm-ups and drilling. Get and reinforce those basic movements daily.

See you on the mats. Become your lion or lioness and PTAFW!

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