Jiu-jitsu is a highly rewarding experience with a steep learning curve. It takes patience and commitment to start seeing results. One of the most underrated parts of the journey is finding a gym that is right for you.
The wrong training environment can be the difference between consistent training and giving up. So, we recommend looking out for these five things when looking for a Brazilian jiu-jitsu gym:
Try to Find Gyms with Short-Term Contracts
Most gyms you find will have monthly plans that don’t require a long-term commitment. We find this to be ideal. It means the school will need to consistently offer a high quality of instruction and work extra hard to maintain an accepting and fun culture to keep you coming back.
Nonetheless, there are still gyms that will push a contract down your throat as soon as you finish your first trial class. That doesn’t necessarily mean that school has poor instruction. It rather brings into question where that school’s priorities lie.
Yes, at the end of the day a BJJ school is a business with gym owners very often using it to support themselves. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t care about maintaining a high standard of instruction and work on creating a fun culture.
Beware of gyms whose entire business model is seemingly signing up people for long-term contracts and replacing them as people leave the gym.
Consider Having Trustworthy Instructors
This doesn’t mean only choose schools with 5th-degree black belts. Some of the best instructors I’ve had are purple and brown belts. Your instructor doesn’t need to be a world champion either.
Rather, if your potential instructor is saying they are a world champion, it’s worth getting to the truth of that claim.
Strictly speaking, a true world champion will have won the IBJJF Worlds for their weight class or have won some other high profile tournament like ADCC. So, it may be possible that your instructor is blowing their achievements out of proportion. It doesn’t mean they are a bad coach, but maybe watch out to see what else they may be exaggerating.
Check Their Martial Arts Services
Some schools strictly focus on jiu-jitsu while others offer other martial arts. One is not necessarily better than the other. It is important, however, to be honest with yourself on what you want out of martial arts.
Schools that focus exclusively on BJJ will likely be more on the traditional side. They will likely emphasize the Gi over No-Gi and be more formal with belt ranks and hierarchy. This won’t be the case for every school, but a good amount of them.
If you want to pursue jiu-jitsu exclusively and like training with the Gi, then a school that offers BJJ only can be good for you. But if you want to pursue MMA or just want to learn another martial art, you will need to narrow your search down.
Decide on What Method to Take: Sports Jiu-jitsu, Self-Defense, or MMA
Some jiu-jitsu schools offer BJJ as a form of self-defense while others focus on it from a sporting perspective. The former will put more focus on real-life defensive situations where jiu-jitsu may be applicable. Those schools may also incorporate movements from other martial arts such as strikes and blocks.
Sport jiu-jitsu schools focus on the competitive aspect of the sport. This method emphasizes more on getting into scoring positions and hunting for submissions. It also covers working on techniques that may not always be applicable for self-defense situations.
There is also jiu-jitsu for MMA, which is its own style. Gyms that have an MMA background will likely teach jiu-jitsu as it is applied in MMA fights and tend to focus on certain positions.
Scrutinize the Gym Culture
This one is admittedly the hardest to gauge, especially in a short amount of time. Trial periods are good ways to help take a few classes and use the time to assess the gym culture.
I would recommend finding schools that offer some sort of trial period. The most common trial periods will be one free class, though some offer a free first week and some even offer a free first month.
In those trial periods, it will be important to hone on a few things to help you get a better understanding of the school. One thing to watch out for is whether they treat every rolling or sparring like an ADCC final. A school that fosters a culture that says it’s okay to go hard every time you roll may have some underlying cultural problems.
For women, there is an unfortunate extra burden of finding a gym that is respectful and decent. Plenty of schools offer women-only classes and have women instructors which may help gauge how women-friendly certain schools are.
Generally, a jiu-jitsu school that has a women-friendly environment means the head instructor has instilled a good culture and is effective at stamping out any unseemly behavior.