There are quite a few important things to consider while choosing a BJJ gym. If you pick the right one, you can move up to a new rank while enjoying the process, however, if you choose a jiu-jitsu gym which just sucks, you may end up paying fees without even going to that academy.
I know that there are quite a few things to consider and I listed 8 points which you need to be careful. If you follow these, I am sure that you will go to a good BJJ gym and also can’t wait for rolling on mats!
1. Pick a Gym for Your Need
If you plan on learning grappling for a specific need then you need to go to a BJJ school for your specific need.
For example, do you want to learn self-defense? Or do you just want to learn the basics? Or do you want to become black belt someday?
These are all quite different goals and if you join an academy for your need, you will reach your goals faster. There is an ongoing argument that if you roll on the mats for a long time, you will learn all of these eventually. Well, I agree with that, however, it is not ideal since you will definitely lose time. So before you make any commitment, learn what a BJJ gym specializes in!
2. How is the Instructor?
The instructor should properly teach a variety of submissions, escapes… and you can tell that he/she is a legit black belt. So you will know that you are learning from someone who is quite experienced and making sure of that will give you a huge confidence.
This will also help you continue your jiu-jitsu journey smoothly.
You can also ask more detailed questions about the lineage of your instructors and if you don’t have sufficient information about the subject, you can search it on Google. However, I really don’t think that the lineage is a huge deal however if the lineage is well known, it is definitely a plus.
Another interesting point is that many instructors don’t do the teaching and they sometimes let other people (lower ranks) train beginners. So definitely check whether an instructor is active in the gym or not. In addition to that, the instructors should care about everyone. For example, if an instructor only cares about people, who win competitions, this is not a good sign at all.
There is another important point about this topic.
Does this gym have BJJ training DVD’s? Even though instructors are generally sufficient for teaching essential BJJ moves, it is always a good idea to have a look at how the greatest practitioners teach. I know that many small jiu-jitsu gyms try saving money and don’t have an impressive video collection but considering my experiences if they care about it, it will be more likely to be a good BJJ gym.
My Observation about Kids Classes: I observed many kids jiu-jitsu lessons and let me tell you many of them just want your money and basically don’t teach even the basic BJJ techniques like headlocks to children. So you should definitely observe a class as a parent and see whether they just play games or teach the submissions properly.
3. How is the approach of other Trainees?
How are the classes? Is the instructor patient enough to teach the triangle over and over again?
If you are just a beginner it just has a critical importance since when you start learning movements at first, it will be difficult. And if your instructor is not patient at all, you will be less likely to show up in the dojo.
Another important topic is other trainees. While sparring, are people trying to teach or just trying to submit each other?
Do they respect each other?
Once you roll with people in a dojo, you will immediately realize whether you want to roll on the mats with them for years or not.
If you decide to go to a gym, you know that you will probably spar and learn with these people for a really long time. So before you make a commitment for a dojo make sure that you can spend really long time on mats with those people. So you should definitely ask whether you can attend one of the classes or not. They will probably let you so you can observe everything about that BJJ gym (instructors, facility, cleanliness etc.) and don’t worry it will be most likely free ; )
4. BJJ Gym needs to provide all training types
There are many BJJ gyms which focus mostly on gi training and do not have enough classes for no-gi. You may go to a dojo which prepares trainees for gi competitions like UAEJJF Grand Slams, Pan American and obviously, these gyms may not have a lot of no-gi classes, lessons and this is understandable.
At first, you may think that you want to learn submission techniques, sweeps while wearing a BJJ Gi. However, there are many people who change their minds and start attending only no gi classes.
Trust me on this you will never know where your jiu-jitsu journey will take you so your gym should not limit your options.
5. Is it a complete BJJ Gym?
Are there enough instructors?
Does it have enough area (mats) for sparring?
How about grappling dummies?
If a BJJ school has different grappling dummy types, you can master turtle position with a dummy and you can master leg locks with another one…
Shortly, well equipped BJJ academy helps you get your next belt faster.
Another point is that there should have “enough” people from every belt. So you can learn faster and this is actually beneficial for everyone since after you have more experience on mats, you will have something to offer for white belts and still continue having better skills since you will have a chance to practice with more advanced practitioners.
6. Is the gym hygienic enough?
Because of sweat mats can be sticky and these will also have blood over time.
In my opinion, if the mats are dirty, it is best to stay away from that gym. Because cleaning of BJJ mats is not difficult at all and it can be done in a short period of time. I know it because I did it time to time for a martial arts gym which I worked for. If the mats are not even clean, you should look for another one.
According to me, it should be definitely a criterion.
Also, grappling dummies are always needed to be dressed in BJJ Gis since kimono wicks the sweat quite well. In that way, not only your skin will be protected from infections but also both grappling dummy and your kimono last way more.
I know that you want to roll on the mats as soon as possible but you need to be careful about the gym’s hygiene.
7. Pay Attention to the Dojo’s Regulations
Look at the class hours and make sure that it is suitable for your schedule. Since many gyms are quite strict about it and they do not let you attend other classes. The reason can be that they want to follow the rules or maybe they just have too many trainees. So always pick the best schedule for you and ask that if you miss a class, can you join another one.
You may need extra jiu-jitsu lessons and the prices of private lessons can add up. Sometimes commercial BJJ / martial arts gyms offer classes which cost extra money. So before you make a commitment (sign a long-term contract) to a jiu-jitsu academy, make sure that you can afford it.
I highly suggest read the contract carefully since if something happens like moving to another place etc. you should be able to get your money back. For example, as you may know from my former writings, I travel a lot and this happened to me. I had not even read a single paragraph in the contract so I basically flushed the money down the toilet.
8. Do you want to go to that gym?
Last but certainly not least, you should be comfortable with everyone. Doing grappling, sparring, learning escapes etc. in a new environment can be quite intimidating. So you should be comfortable with your instructors and trainees.
It is really important that you genuinely want to go to your jiu-jitsu gym.
This will help you get out of your bed in the early morning or after work you may just want to lay down on your couch. But if you can’t wait to spend time in a BJJ gym, even when you feel extremely tired, sleepy, trust me on this you will go to your jiu-jitsu gym.
As a martial artist, I really think that this is one of the most important criteria.
The tips above will help you choose the right BJJ gym for you and I am sure that you also have many other preferences. For example, I can spend 45 minutes to go to a gym however you may find this period long or you can even drive 90 minutes to train in a better BJJ gym. You can evaluate these and choose the best option for you.
With that, before you decide to join a jiu-jitsu gym, make sure that you can roll on the mats of that BJJ gym for years!
After that, make a commitment and if you are sure about the gym, check out these good BJJ gym bags. I am sure that trainees and trainers would appreciate seeing a wrinkle-free gi ; )
One thing is to note that just don’t make this process longer than it should be. Choose one and start getting the incredible mental and physical benefits of this amazing martial art as soon as possible!