How to choose a BJJ gym
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gyms are sprouting up all over the place. You want to learn, but how do you choose the best gym for you?
How you choose a gym will result in whether you get good at jiu-jitsu, or whether you end up quitting due to injury or frustration.
The most important thing to look for when choosing a gym
What are the other members of the gym like? You learn jiu-jitsu with the help of your training partners, you can’t do it by yourself. Are they helpful to new people, or are they just using you as a punching bag for their own training?
On your first day, pay attention to other members. How do they treat you? You’re potentially a new member of the group. Do they remember your name? Do you feel welcomed?
How do they treat each other? Does everyone get along, or is there tension between members? After training, does everyone leave quickly or do people hang around to continue training and socialise?
The way everyone is treating each other, is the way that they’ll be treating you if you join.
If you don’t get the right vibe about the members of the gym, choose somewhere else.
It takes a long time to get really good at jiu-jitsu. Save time by choosing the best instructor you can find.
You’re a beginner, so how can you judge whether you’re getting high quality instruction? An impressive competition record or pictures on the wall don’t make a good instructor.
Talk to the more experienced members in the gym. Have they trained at other gyms? If they’ve trained at a bunch of different gyms, ask them how they chose this gym. Experienced members know what quality training is. Take advantage of their experience. It’s a warning sign if none of the experienced members have ever trained elsewhere.
When you attend your first class, attend the class that you plan to be training in regularly. That awesome one-on-one session may be completely different to the group classes you join up for.
The ultimate way to know if an instructor is good or not, is whether you’re able to perform what you learnt in class when it comes time to roll (live sparring). It doesn’t matter if the instructor can do the move, or if your training partner can do the move. What matters is if you can do the move.
Be pragmatic. If you are having success, you’ve got a good instructor. If you’re feeling frustrated or that the problem is with you, find a better instructor.
Each gym has its own culture and way of doing things. Are you able to assimilate into that culture, or is it too different from what you’re used to?
Do you like the rigid military hierarchy of lining up, bowing, wearing the same uniform and performing the same moves? Or perhaps you prefer a more casual atmosphere where you’re free to experiment with what moves best suit your body type and personality?
Do the members mix when training, or do beginners and experienced members avoid each other? If you’re a beginner training with other beginners, how can you expect to improve?
Things to look out for
Hidden costs. Do you have to pay for gradings? How much does training gear cost? Can you buy your gear elsewhere or do you have to buy gear from the gym?
Cultish behaviour. Does your gym prevent you from training at other gyms? Do people from non-affiliated gyms come visit your gym? Are there strange rituals that everyone does but no-one knows why? Do you have to use funny titles when you talk to certain members?
Personal time with the instructor. Jiu-jitsu is a personal journey of discovering how best to use your body to out grapple your opponent. Everyone has a different body type and a group class can’t cater to everyone. Do you have opportunity to work one-on-one with the instructor on your own unique game?
Growth. BJJ is a relatively new martial art. It is in a period of intense growth, evolution and adaptation. What is your instructor doing to ensure you stay at the leading edge?
How far are members willing to travel? People will travel for quality. How far do members travel to come to this gym? Are members traveling long distances to train, or does everyone live locally?
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is an incredibly rewarding martial art. It builds you into a stronger, more resilient person. The saddest thing is when people try BJJ at a mediocre gym and then quit because they decide it’s not for them.
If you’re serious about learning BJJ, choose the best gym you can find.