So, what can you expect when you first walk through the door?
First of all, say hello! If you look slightly lost, chances are that someone will ask if they can help you. If people are already changed, look for a person wearing big black trousers, or any Brown or Black belt. Jitsu clubs are full of friendly people and we were all beginners once. We do not have terms so turn up at any session.
Before you can get on the mat, there is some paperwork we need to do. This only takes a few minutes to fill in. (Pre-empt the Sensei by downloading the form here.) If you are under 18 you will need your parents permission. You should have loose comfortable clothing, a t-shirt and jogging bottoms are ideal. You also need to remove or cover piercings, jewellery, watches, necklaces. We train barefoot.
Once the mats are down and everyone is changed, a senior grade or the Sensei will start the warm-up. This does exactly what is says on the tin; warm you up. As with all physical activity, warm muscles and mobile joints work much better in Jitsu. The motions and exercises of the warm up make sure that we are prepared for the session.
There may also be a few traditional exercises like press-ups or sit-ups. If one of the reasons you are at Jitsu is to improve your fitness, don't worry! Just do what you are capable of and let the others do their thing. We know that 10 press-ups can be an achievement in itself. It's better to do 3 good ones rather than 10 rubbish ones.
After the warm-up, we line up and rei. This is a formal greeting to begin the session properly. If it's your first time, you'll be at the end of the mat nearest the door. Just follow what the others do as you kneel down. The grade at the head of the line will command "Sensei, ni-rei!" and you bow to the Sensei. Sensei bows back.
At this point there is usually some falling practice and instruction. Jitsu involves lots of being thrown on the floor, so it's important that we know how to land safely. Although the essence is simple, this needs quite a bit of practice to become really proficient. For your first session, either the Sensei or one of the senior grades will take you to one side, along with any other novices, to teach you the basics.
For the rest of the session, the format is generally that the Sensei will demonstrate a technique and then people practice in pairs. It will often be broken down into steps; where to move, how to position, how to apply.
You may be asked show the rest of the class what you have just been doing during the session. Enjoy this and show off!
At the end of the session there is a warm-down, to stretch the muscles we have been using and reduce any stiffness in the morning. (After your first session, a warm bath at home is probably a good idea.) After this we line up again and rei to formally close the session. Then put the mats away, get changed and go to the Pub.