Training BJJ As A New Parent
Everyone starts BJJ at a different point in their life.
Whether you are a long time practitioner or just getting started in BJJ, if you are a new parent, you face the additional challenge of trying to juggle your new or newly-expanded family in conjunction with your career and BJJ training.
As a recent father myself attempting to juggle my BJJ journey with work and my role as a dad, I can say that the entire experience of BJJ has changed since becoming a father.
In this article, I discuss some of the lessons and tips for new parents for juggling your BJJ training with everything else you will have gone on in life as a new parent.
Because I am a father, I am writing this from that perspective. Due to the trauma on the body associated with childbirth, returning to training as a new mother will take longer.
Based on watching my wife’s recovery and return to training, I would estimate that returning to training roughly 4-6 months after giving birth is the minimal amount of time you should expect to need if you are returning to BJJ after actually giving birth.
I am also a recreational competitor in BJJ – I take my training seriously, but it is not my be-all, end-all focus in life and I will always prioritize my family and income streams.
Nevertheless, I have managed to maintain a decent training schedule and have even competed a few times in the past year since my baby was born.
If you are a professional athlete whose primary income revolves around training, coaching, or competing, then your personal considerations about BJJ will be different than what I discuss in this article.
With that said, let’s break down my tips for each phase of being a new dad who does BJJ.
BJJ Training during the newborn baby phase
The ‘newborn’ phase refers to the 0-2 month age group.
If you have already had a baby, then you know this time is exceptionally challenging, especially for the mother but also for the father who must support and care for mom and baby.
Based on my experience, the biggest challenges you will face as a brand-new dad that affect your BJJ training are the lack of time to train, and the lack of sleep and constant fatigue associated with having a newborn baby.
Its safe bet is to assume that for the first 2-4 weeks after your baby is born, you will not have any time or energy to train BJJ.
With that in mind, I would recommend not signing up for competitions in the month or two after your baby is born because you may or may not even get to train.
Do not worry, you will return to the mats eventually.
The newborn phase goes by quick, so enjoy it as much as possible.
During the newborn days, I attended an open mat here and there when it lined up in my schedule and there was other family around to help my wife with the baby – however for the most part, I did not do much BJJ in that period.
I should also add that the newborn phase may involve more medical appointments for your baby than you are used to – so expect your schedule to be chopped up by appointments and possible medical treatments if your new baby needs anything.
My tip for the newborn phase can be summarized as follows: assume you won’t get any training in and consider any class or open mat attendance to be “bonus training.”
Training BJJ with an infant at home
After your baby is roughly 2 months old, they are considered an ‘infant.’
Truthfully, the exact distinction is a bit arbitrary for BJJ training purposes – but I’m no pediatrician.
Essentially, after your newborn ‘becomes’ an infant, you will have started to adapt to the realities of being a dad.
Hopefully, your baby is sleeping at least long enough that you and your partner can get enough sleep to be functional. I recommend taking turns on sleep shifts – but that’s another topic.
As you begin adapting to life as a dad, you will be able to make a somewhat more realistic schedule and carve out predictable class or training times, even if it’s less than you are used to overall.
During this time, I was able to get a consistent 2-3 days of training in, but it took a lot of effort and willpower sometimes to make it to class.
I also needed to be very disciplined about taking care of my other priorities so I would realistically be able to train without it being a strain on my family.
During this phase, my wife was also returning to training.
A big shift was going from attending class together (pre-pregnancy of course) to beginning an ‘alternating’ schedule where we take turns with who gets to attend class and who stays with the baby.
If your significant other does not train, then perhaps this won’t be as much of an issue.
However, if your partner has other hobbies, you should ensure that they can still get a chance to participate in those activities while you have a shift on dad-duty.
Manage your personal BJJ expectations
Whether you are a dad or not, learning to manage your expectations is vital for integrating BJJ into your life long-term.
My personal experience upon returning to the mats was that blue belts I used to have no problem with submitting were suddenly giving me trouble passing their guards.
The cohort of purple and brown belts that were my primary competition training partners started submitting me with more frequency.
It took me a month or two before I finally got my ‘edge’ back, however there was no denying just how much improvement everyone else saw during the ~2 months of very spotty training and even worse sleep that I was getting after my baby was born.
In general, life will give you ups and downs that will affect the frequency of training. The biggest thing is not getting discouraged when people who can train more than you start catching up or surpassing you in skill level.
This is something that should make you happy – because after all, it’s a sign that BJJ is a real skill that anyone can get better at.
If there was no way that someone who was slightly worse than you could catch up to your skill level while you are on a hiatus, then it begs the question as to whether you are even learning a real skill!
Regardless, expect to get smashed harder than normal when you return to the BJJ after becoming a new dad – especially when the lower belts get the smell of fresh out-of-shape purple belt blood (or whatever rank you are now).
As a general note, becoming a dad made all of these personal philosophical battles with my own ego that much more apparent.
However, these same dynamics are at play even if you do not have a baby – it’s just that having a baby further highlights many of the humbling aspects of being a BJJ practitioner.
Take advantage of instructionals
Although I could not always get to class during the newborn days, there was a lot of time spent around helping my wife with the baby, changing diapers, and just being available for my family.
In that time, I took advantage of the instructionals on JiuJitsu.com to at the very least mentally stay in the game and look at different moves and techniques that I had not had a chance to check out during my pre-dad training.
You can hold your baby and be available for your family even as you catch a few BJJ video lessons on your phone or TV throughout this time.
If you do not yet have a JiuJitsu.com membership, I recommend checking it out for full access to all of the Gold level courses – especially if you are a recent dad looking to keep up with BJJ however you can while juggling your baby duties.
Don’t forget to enjoy time with your new baby
It was easy to feel stressed as a new dad that the world was passing me by.
Whether it was my training partners getting better at BJJ compared to me, or a lull in my career as fatigue and time demands made getting work done that much harder, the feeling that you are stalling in life might hit you.
Looking back, I say that is not the way to approach this time in your life.
Having a baby is in fact the exact opposite of stalling in life. The few months of having a newborn will be over before you know it. Don’t let the stress of putting other priorities on the back burner ruin your time with your new baby.
BJJ will be there, your career will be there, but your baby will only be a baby for a very limited time.
Please, for all of us dads out there, do not allow the pressures of the outside world to impact your time with your new family.
Before you know it, your baby will be on the mats themself, which will signal the start of an entirely new phase in your BJJ journey as well, however this is something I have yet to experience as my daughter is still a few years off from her first BJJ class.
Training BJJ as a new dad: the bottom line
My biggest takeaway from having a newborn, taking some time off from training BJJ, and then returning to training and competing a few months later is that the time flies quickly.
Your skills and routine in BJJ will return as you get used to being a dad and begin re-implementing the various aspects of your life that go on hold when you have a kid.
Having a kid is stressful enough, so just remember to enjoy the time with your baby as much as you can, and also savor getting smashed as your make your return to the mats.
Hopefully, this gives you a little sigh of relief that you can rest-assured BJJ is not going anywhere and having a child signals your entering a new phase of the martial arts journey, not the end.