How To Find the Perfect BJJ School

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So, you’re thinking of starting your martial arts journey into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu? Congratulations on taking the first step in what will likely be a life changing decision; your future self thanks you.

The Time Is Now..

Whether you’ve studied other martial arts before, or have never set foot in a gym, there is never a perfect time to start training BJJ. Some students are huge MMA fans and want to become fighters themselves, others are just looking for a way to stay in shape. Either way you are about to learn one of most dynamic and constantly evolving styles of combat in the world. Keep reading to get the rundown on picking the perfect BJJ school. 

This is what happens when blacksmithing meets photography.

Strike While the Iron Is Hot

Now that you have made your decision, don’t let procrastination, fear, or distractions put you off of your goal. Oftentimes people want to start training, but are anxious about starting something new, or life just gets in the way. Once you have decided you want to learn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, you have to follow through.

Take that first step!

a point of view shot of a man looking over his belly at the bathroom scales

I’ll Just Get In Shape First, Then..

I’ve had lots of friends and co-workers interested in starting BJJ training, but tell me that they want to get in shape first before they start.

NO! NO! NO!

This is the attitude that postponed one of my closest friend’s start to his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training for over a year!

A whole year…

This is one of the common excuses that people tell themselves when they decide they want to learn Jiu Jitsu, but are still a little nervous about it. Nothing will get you in shape for doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu like actually doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu!

These next steps will guide you in picking the right BJJ School for your needs. 

Define Your Terms

As you start sorting through your school options, you may see things like “Small Circle Jiu Jitsu”, “Aki-Jitsu” “Judo” and any number of other martial arts styles that are similar but maybe not quite the same as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. If you are set on learning actual Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, cast those others aside..

How Far Do You Want to Take It?

You don’t have to have a five year plan, but you may want to decide how serious you are going to take your training. Are you planning on competing? Fighting? Just learning Self Defense? This may play a part in what type of gym you decide on.

Do Your Research 

Do a quick browser search for “BJJ Schools Near Me” or search Martial Arts schools in your local directory. Depending on the size of your city, you could have several hits, some more relevant than others. Most schools nowadays will have a website, as well as a Facebook or other social media page. Do a little snooping to get an idea of what the school is like, and which BJJ school is right for you.

Read the Reviews

When looking at different schools, you’ll want to see who the Owner/Head Instructor is of course, but also check any listed reviews on Yelp, Facebook, and other forms of Social Media. Some schools are Mixed Martial Arts schools with BJJ as part of their curriculum, and some schools are primarily traditional BJJ.

Take the Free Class

Nearly all BJJ schools offer a free first class to prospective students, and most will let you just watch the class from the sidelines once. Once you’ve narrowed your choices down to three or so schools, take a free class. Taking the free class can give you a chance to feel out the atmosphere of the gym, and you’ll get a chance to meet the instructor and the students. 

How Far Away Is the School?

In any size city the commute time to your gym is a factor. Set yourself up for success and try to find a gym that is a reasonable distance away from your home or on your way to or from work. To make real progress you’ll want to be in the gym two days a week at a minimum. Take travel time into consideration when picking out a spot. 

How’s the Vibe??

You can get a sense of how you will fit in with the vibe of the gym, if people are welcoming, and if you like the instructor. Since you don’t know BJJ yet, you will mainly be relying on your intuition to let you know if it feels right.

For women picking out a gym to begin training at, this may be more important. While all gyms are respectful towards women, you may feel more comfortable at some than others.

Scope Out The Gym Facilities 

An often overlooked part of many gyms is cleanliness. Cleanliness is especially important in a combat sports gym, given the close contact and mat work involved. Make a note of how clean the restrooms and/or locker rooms are, as well as the mats. Especially the mats. You’ll likely be spending a lot of time here, and no one likes rolling on dirty mats. 

How’s The Price?

Prices vary from gym to gym, depending on: the notoriety of the gym, the amount of classes offered, the quality of the facility, and so on. While you should hope to get your money’s worth, don’t expect it to be cheap to learn to choke and break the limbs of your opponents. Most gyms start at $100 a month, minimum. Check out a few ways to budget for BJJ from JiuJitsu Times.

What are They Offering???

  • Do they have a weight room?
  • Punching Bags? 
  • Do they have showers?
  • Do they offer Muay Thai or Boxing Classes also ? 
  • Yoga Classes?
  • A multiple time ADCC instructor?
  • UFC Champion level training? 
  • 8 classes a day, 7 days a week? 

These are all questions to factor into your decision on a school, especially relevant to the price. 

Do You Feel Comfortable?

Take a mental inventory during the free class or while observing. Do you feel comfortable with the students and instructors? You will be entrusting your health to these people, especially early on in training, so make sure you feel like you are in good hands.

Most Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Gyms I have been to have been overwhelmingly positive and filled with nice people, but the culture can vary from gym to gym. If you are unsure, discuss with the Owner or Head Instructor of the gym. 

You should feel perfectly comfortable wearing bjj headgear and finger tape without getting mean comments from fake alpha bros. You’re there to train, not show off. And to train long term, it’s super smart to think about your safety.

Is Someone In Charge?

This may seem silly, but you’ll want to make sure that the gym is under the eye of someone that all students know and respect. When doing your research or attending the free class, you’ll want to see that there is someone that bears the standard of the gym, and is responsible for keeping order in the dojo.

A good instructor will nip any bad behavior in the bud, and will discipline or expel students who violate the ethics of the gym or repeatedly or train with malicious intent. 

What To Look For

I move across the country quite a bit, and this is my perfect world scenario that I look for when checking out a new gym:

The Good Stuff
  • The gym is clean and well organized.
  • The instructor or administrative person is welcoming to guests and new students, the locker rooms or restrooms are clean and maintained.
  • There is a camaraderie amongst the students, they greet each other like friends. 
  • The class warmups are relevant workouts that loosen up the muscles, along with some cardio to get the blood flowing.
  • Beginner students are paired with more experienced students for drilling and training. 
  • Sparring, or rolling, is conducted safely and at a competitive pace.
Red Flags

These are some things that would make me pass on a gym:

  • The Mats are dirty, the gyms smells bad. 
  • Students don’t really talk to each other. Everyone looks like they are angry and on steroids. 
  • Jumping jacks are the only warmups.
  • White belt students are getting smashed by higher belts. People are getting injured and choked out. 
  • Beginner students are given no guidance. Instructor is not present. 

These are serious red flags, but understand that they are few and far between. 

As a whole, the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu community holds a high standard, and most people who train are humble, welcoming, and friendly.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Holds a High Standard

Considering the amount of time someone has to dedicate to the art of BJJ to become a Brown or to get to any other Brazilian Jiu Jitsu belt, there are very few instances where someone would not respect their craft and have a shoddy gym. 

When searching for the perfect BJJ school, keep in mind that you are searching for the best BJJ school for you. Everyone’s goals are different, and sometimes they will evolve as your skills evolve. Many people who start out training just to get in shape go on to become World Champions. 

Ultimately deciding on the best BJJ school will be your decision alone. Take into account everything listed above, but intuition should guide you. Also, you can always switch gyms if you feel like your needs would be better met at another school, but it’s better to pick the right one the first time…

Look for our next article on Preparing for Your First BJJ Class.

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