Before you start training, one super important thing is to figure out how to pick the right BJJ gym. Trust me, the gym you choose will have a big influence on how fast you progress in BJJ.
I’ve been around many BJJ gyms. I trained at 11 different gyms in six countries all over the world. Through my travels, I had some awesome and bad experiences. That’s why I want to share what I learned. This way, you can skip my mistakes and choose the best gym.
In the following sections, I’ll share my process whenever I want to join a new Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu school.
Why You Need to Know How to Choose a Good Jiu Jitsu Gym
You can’t just walk into any gym and expect to become a BJJ master. Picking the right BJJ gym is key. Here’s why:
- Stay Consistent: A good gym means you’ll want to return. The more you like it, the more you train. The more you train, the better you get.
- Avoid Injury: You don’t want to get hurt because your gym doesn’t know what they’re doing. A good instructor and a safe gym mean fewer injuries.
- Make Life Better: BJJ should make your life better, not harder. In the right gym, you learn valuable self-defense skills and get in great shape while having fun.
- Learn Faster: A good gym will have good training partners and solid instructors. This means you’ll get better at BJJ much faster.
So I cannot stress this enough. I have been to some bad Gyms, and I don’t want you to do the same. So read along to see what you need to focus on when choosing your Gym.
13 Things To Consider To Choose The Right BJJ Gym
When it comes to MMA Gyms, especially BJJ Gyms, it’s important to make an informed choice. Here is everything you need to know before signing up:
1. Proximity from Home
The first thing to consider is how close the gym is to your home. Go to a gym near you. This one is obvious and matters a lot. The closer the gym, the easier you can get there and train. No one wants to spend an hour in traffic just to work out. If the gym is near your house, you’ll go more often. Simple as that.
But be careful. Many end up signing up in the gym closest to them without considering other factors. Please don’t just jump into the nearest gym you find. Being close is good, but it’s not everything. There are other things to consider, too.
Start by making a list of close gyms. Then, go check each one out before you make up your mind. That’s how I do it. I check out every gym in the are before making a choice.
2. Safe Neighborhood
You might not think about it, but the area around the gym matters. A lot of BJJ classes happen in the evening. So you could be walking out when it’s dark.
I remember going to a BJJ gym in Uganda. The gym was amazing. The people were welcoming, and I had a great experience while being there.
But one time, I walked out late, it was pitch dark. No one was around, and I had to look for a ride home. I noticed that two guys started following me. Luckily, nothing bad happened, but it was a wake-up call.
So, don’t just look at the gym. Look at the area around it, too. Make sure it’s a place where you feel safe, especially when it’s dark out.
3. Qualified Instructor
Let’s talk about the person who’s going to teach BJJ. You want someone who knows their stuff. Look for instructors with at least a purple belt, brown belt, or black belt. A blue belt might teach you sometimes, but that shouldn’t be the norm.
But it’s not only about the belt color. Find out who taught your instructor. Research their lineage. You can look it up and see if those people are legit. If they are, there is a high chance your instructor is. Also, check out how your instructor does in competitions. How do they stack up against others in their belt rank?
You can find most of the gyms registered here. So you can research your Gym here and look for their achievements.
The last thing you want is to learn the wrong techniques. Bad habits are hard to break. So make sure your instructor is qualified and knows what they’re doing.
4. Traditional School or Less Traditional?
The next thing you need to think about is what kind of atmosphere you want in a BJJ gym. Some BJJ schools are super formal. You might have to call the instructor “Sensei” or “Professor,” and everyone wears the same uniform. These places are very structured, and there might be rules like bowing and clapping.
On the flip side, there are more laid-back BJJ gyms. Here, you can call everyone by their first name, and there’s not much fuss about what you wear. No bowing, no formalities. I lean towards these gyms, especially since I focus on no-gi BJJ training.
Some BJJ gyms are in the middle. They mix a bit of formality with a casual vibe. At the end of the day, what matters is what you feel comfortable with. If you want to train no-gi like me and prefer a more relaxed setting, look for gyms that fit that.
5. Atmosphere of the Gym
Here’s something else you gotta think about: What do you want to get out of BJJ? Some gyms focus more on self-defense techniques, while others are more about BJJ sport-focused techniques.
Why does that matter? Well, not every BJJ move works in a self-defense or MMA setting. Some moves only work when you spar with other BJJ practitioners. They wouldn’t work on the streets.
So before you start training, know what you’re after. Do you want to compete in MMA? Are you looking for self-defense skills? Or do you want to become a top BJJ player against other BJJ athletes? Knowing your goal helps you choose the right gym that aligns with what you want to learn.
This is a big part of finding the right BJJ gym for you. So, think about your goals as you check out different gyms. And you can even ask the instructors! Ask them what they focus on with their teachings.
6. Beginner Classes That Fit Your Schedule
Make sure the gym has beginner classes. You need to learn the basics, especially if you’re a white belt just starting your BJJ journey. No basic class? Then that gym isn’t for you.
But that’s not all! Those classes have to fit into your day. You need a BJJ class schedule that works for you. Maybe you like to train in the morning or maybe evenings are better. Find a gym that lines up with when you want to train.
Doing this makes it easy for you to keep going to class. So find a gym that helps you be consistent by having class times you can make.
7. Class Size and Weight Classes
Let’s talk about class size. When you go for a trial class, you’ll see how packed the place is. Does the gym feel like a sardine can? That’s not good. I have been in Gyms where I had to roll in a tight space, bumping into others all the time. Not good.
You need room to move. Plus, the instructor doesn’t have as much time for you if there are too many students. So look for a gym that’s not too crowded.
Now, what about your training partners? You gotta check if the people you train with are close to your weight and skill level. Constantly training with people too big or too small can be tricky. This helps you learn BJJ better and faster.
8. The Students – A Mirror of the Instructor
The other students in the BJJ gym reflect what the gym is like. Are they nice to you? Do they say “hi” and make you feel welcome? Or do they act like you’re not even there? I’ve been to gyms where folks don’t care about beginners. They wouldn’t greet me or would go rough with me when rolling.
A good gym has students who treat you well. Nice students usually mean nice instructors. If people are friendly, it’s a sign that the gym you choose is also healthy.
So keep an eye on how the students act. If they’re good to you, it’s a good sign you’ll be happy learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu there.
The cleanliness of the BJJ academies is super important. When you go for your free trial class, look around. Are the mats clean? What about the locker rooms? Do the students look clean? Listen to the instructor; do they talk about keeping things clean?
In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, you get really close with your training partners. You could get skin infections or ringworm if the gym isn’t clean. So, it’s key that the gym you choose takes cleaning seriously.
Instructors who care about cleanliness are likely good at teaching BJJ too. If the mats are clean and people care for themselves, that’s a good sign. You don’t want to start your BJJ journey in a dirty place. So, make sure to choose a gym where hygiene is a top priority.
And I have had a staph infection before – trust me, it’s not fun. Avoid it at all costs.
10. Cross Training
Do you want to train at multiple gyms when learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu? Then you gotta ask about cross-training. I haven’t come across a Gym that doesn’t allow it, but I heard that some BJJ gyms are very strict. They don’t want you training at other gyms.
But maybe you like variety. Maybe you want to learn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu from more than one place. If that sounds like you, then ask your instructor about it. Be open and honest. Say, “Hey, I’m thinking about training at different gyms. Is that cool?”
If the instructor or the gym doesn’t allow it, maybe it’s not the right fit for you. It’s your BJJ journey, after all. You should train where you want and learn from different places. So when choosing the right BJJ gym, think about if you want to train at other places too.
11. Reviews and Social Media
Want to learn BJJ? It’s not just about the gym you can see, but also the gym you can find online. Look for Google or Yelp reviews. See if the BJJ gym has good reviews. You wanna find a gym with positive reviews, especially if you’re new to BJJ.
Now, what about social media? Does the gym post pics and updates? Are they showing off their students, belt promotions, or BJJ training sessions? That’s a good sign! It means the gym cares about their BJJ community. A strong online presence is usually a good sign for a BJJ gym.
Also, I like to reach out via their Instagram or Facebook site before I join whenever possible. I find it more personal than via e-mail. Also, on their Instagram, you can get a good insight into schedule, friendliness, focus, and your future teammates.
A BJJ gym that’s active online is probably active in helping their students in real life too! So keep an eye on those reviews and social media posts. They can tell you much about the gym you’re considering joining!
12. Good Contract Options
Some BJJ gyms want you to sign a long-term contract right away. Red flag! They’re locking you in, even if you find out it’s not the right BJJ school for you.
Free trials are your friend. Any gym confident about their BJJ training will let you try it out for free. It shows they think you’ll want to stay once you experience their class. So, if a gym charges for a trial session, think twice!
Short-term contracts are good too. Look for BJJ gyms that offer monthly or even weekly options. No automatic renewals, please! Fair pricing for short-term contracts usually means the gym focuses more on teaching good BJJ than just taking your money.
So, when you’re choosing a BJJ gym, don’t just jump into a long-term deal. Take your time, try the free trial, and consider what’s best for you. It takes me a minimum of a week of training to get a feel for whether I want to stay in that Gym or not.
13. Your Budget
Don’t just pick a gym ’cause it’s cheap. Good BJJ training is worth spending a bit more on. Maybe skip that pricey coffee or eating out so you can put it towards your BJJ classes.
Not all gyms charge the same. Some are pricier, but they usually offer more. Maybe they have black belt instructors or a wide variety of training partners. It might be worth the extra money.
I have been in a Gyms that cost around 20 USD a month up to 220 USD a month. It depends on the location and Gym. Usually, BJJ Gyms in the US are more expensive than in Europe.
That said, you gotta be smart with your budget. You don’t wanna be broke while trying to become a BJJ pro. Look at what each gym offers and see if it matches what you’re willing to spend. But remember, the cost shouldn’t be the only thing you think about when choosing the right BJJ gym.
What Are The Signs of a Bad Jiu Jitsu Gym?
So, you’re ready to dive into your BJJ journey and look for a healthy gym. There are some red flags you need to know about. These are signs that a gym might not be your best choice.
- No Cross Training Allowed: If the BJJ gym tells you that you can’t train at other schools, that’s a big red flag.
- No Visitors: Some gyms don’t like blue belts from other Gyms or higher coming in to train. Maybe they’re worried their own students will get exposed. This could indicate that the gym is insecure about their BJJ skill level.
- Instructors Don’t Roll: If your instructor never rolls with students, you gotta wonder why. Sure, some are older or hurt, but if that’s not the case, maybe they’re hiding something. You wanna learn BJJ from someone who’s not afraid to get on the mat with you.
- Expensive Belt Promotions: You should earn your belt, not buy it. Think twice if a gym charges more than $50 for a belt test. Better yet, go for a gym that doesn’t do belt tests. They should watch how you do and decide if you’re ready for the next level.
- Must Buy Their Gear: Some gyms make you buy their stuff. They say it’s about team spirit but also a way to make extra money.
- All About Winning, Not Safety: You’re there to learn, get better, and not get hurt. Some gyms go all out, even in practice. If the focus isn’t on safety, it’s not the right place for you.
- Long-Term Contracts: Be careful if the gym only offers long-term deals. What if you wanna leave? Or what if you find out it’s not the right BJJ school for you? Long-term contracts are a red flag.
Remember these red flags, so you pick a gym that’s a good fit for you. Most of the BJJ Gyms are amazing, but there are always some bad ones out there. Be aware.
Finding the right BJJ gym is important. You’re gonna spend years there, so don’t rush it. Here’s what you gotta do:
- Check out Different Gyms: Go to more than one place. Try short-term contracts so you can get a feel for different gyms. A good gym will even encourage you to seek out different gyms to see what’s best for you!
- Look for Red Flags: Remember those signs we talked about? Keep an eye out for them. They save you from picking a bad gym.
- Take Your Time: Don’t rush into it. Make a list of pros and cons for each gym. Then you can make a smart choice.
That’s how I do it. Bad BJJ gyms can be a real problem. You want to avoid ending up in a place not right for you. So, take your time and make a choice that sets you up for a great BJJ journey.
And if you are unsure about the gym you are training, feel free to message me. I’m happy to help!