With more and more BJJ gyms popping up it is becoming harder to find a good Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) gym. So I put together a system to help you find the best gym to ensure the beginning of your BJJ journey is safe, fun and long lasting
How to find a good Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) gym? The best way to find a good Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) gym is to search on Google and come up with a list of potential gyms based on price, location, training schedule and coaching/student quality. What should you look for in a Jiu Jitsu school? You should look for a gym which is within your budget, located close by and holds training at times that suit your schedule. Once you have found gyms that meet this criteria then assess them based on coaching/student quality, facilities and atmosphere. To know if a school is legit or not please read below.
Price is the most important factor when finding a BJJ gym because no matter how good a gym is, if you can’t afford it you can’t train there. BJJ gyms range in price from $120 – $200 a month depending on location, number of classes per week, facilities and the coach’s reputation (a coach with an impressive competition pedigree is going to charge more). You can usually get a discount (5-15%) if you are willing to pay cash up front for 6 or 12 months.
Most gyms also offer private lessons ranging from $50-$200 per hour depending on the level of the instructor. Some famous instructors charge up to $1000 per hour. Gyms don’t usually advertise their prices online to avoid being undercut by competitors so it’s best to call to find out what they charge.
If the prices are too expensive don’t worry many coaches will be willing to work out a deal with you for example it is common for young students to pay a discounted fee if they are willing to help the gym out usually by cleaning mats or performing admin tasks. Also once you reach a high level your coach may offer you a discount or waive your fees, many black belts train for free. Once you have found gyms which fit within your budget you then can start looking at other factors.
Location is a critical factor. I know many people who think they have found the perfect gym only to realise that after a few months it is too difficult to consistently travel to. I recommend you find a gym which is within a 15-30 minute commute from your home or workplace. You should also factor in your preferred mode of transport when finding the ideal location, if you travel by train a gym located near a station is going to be best. The easier a gym is to get to, the more likely you are to go.
Just like location the training schedule is important. If you can only train in the morning but your gym only offers evening classes it is not ideal. You should find a gym which offers multiple classes a day everyday to give you ultimate flexibility on when you can train. You may typically train on Monday and Friday mornings but one day might feel like training on Saturday night, a gym with classes running all the time gives you the option to train whenever you want. Also to improve rapidly you want to be training as much as possible so a gym with more classes gives you the opportunity to train more and improve faster.
If there aren’t any gyms which offer classes all day everyday find one which offers classes on days and at times which best suit you. Most gyms usually cater to the 9-5 crowd offering classes before and after work. I know many people espouse the benefits of training before work so a gym with this option may be worth looking into.
You want to find a gym which makes it easy to train so before you choose one make sure you check their website to see if their schedule aligns with yours.
Training under a high quality coach will make your training safer, more enjoyable and allow you to improve at a rapid pace. There are two main ways to assess a coach’s quality. Firstly, research your potential coach’s competition accolades. In BJJ the majority of the best coaches were/are also high level competitors. If your coach has medaled in major competitions (IBJJF, ADCC) it is a good sign. Secondly, you should judge your potential coach based on their student’s ability. If they have managed to take a number of beginners and turned them into beasts this is an excellent sign that your potential coach knows what they are doing.
BJJ gyms vary in their size and the facilities they offer. Some gyms have full weightlifting gyms, saunas, cafes, showers and huge mat spaces whereas others are cramped and are lucky to have a bathroom. Make sure your gym has all the facilities you require to get the most out of your training. It is recommended that you shower immediately after training to reduce likelihood of contracting ringworm and staph so I recommend finding a gym which has showers.
Also to train safely and most effectively I recommend finding a gym with a large mat space. To train takedowns properly you need a lot of space as you may move a large distance when finishing or avoiding a takedown. Many gyms have limited mat space and collisions between training pairs is common which can be potentially dangerous. The type of mats your gym uses can affect your training. Poor mats increase the damage your body receives when falling and can lack the grip you need to perform movements correctly. I recommend you find a gym which uses high quality mats which are designed specifically for BJJ, wrestling or Judo, many top gyms use Fuji and Zebra mats.
Due to the close contact nature of BJJ hygiene is very important as many bugs and diseases can be quickly spread in an unclean gym. To make sure your gym promotes hygiene ask if they clean the mats daily, what their policies are on people who train while sick and see if they make people cut their nails and remove jewellery. A clean gym won’t let sick people train, will force people to keep their nails short and will wash the mats religiously.
Starting BJJ for the first time can be intimidating. To make sure you enjoy your training, find a gym that has a positive and welcoming atmosphere. I have seen gyms with poor unfriendly atmospheres where coaches don’t even bother introducing themselves to new students and experienced students mock beginners. A good sign that your gym has a good atmosphere is if you see a variety of people in the class.
A class which has women and men of differing ages and backgrounds indicates that many people feel safe and comfortable training at the gym. Also if the coach and students go out of their way to introduce themselves to you, give you some extra tips and some words of encouragement you have likely found yourself a gym with a great atmosphere.
Class size comes down to personal preference, both big and small have their positives and negatives. A big class size gives you many different people to train with but you often won’t receive much attention from your head coach. Whereas a small class size will limit your training partner options but you are more likely to receive 1 on 1 attention from your head coach. Whatever you choose is up to you, but high quality schools are often popular resulting in larger class sizes.
Quality of Training Partners
BJJ requires a partner to practice. The quality of your partner will directly influence your ability to practice BJJ effectively. There are a few ways to determine if your gym has quality training partners. The number of training partners, the more training partners the better as you get to practice with different styles and body types which will make your BJJ more well rounded.
The skill level of your partners, ideally you want a gym with a variety of skill levels so you can practice your offense on lower skilled practitioners and your defense against higher skilled players. The competition success of your training partners, if your partners are regularly successful in competition it is likely they are skillful and are of high quality. Finally their attitude, a high quality training partner is not only skillful but is friendly and willing to help you improve your BJJ. If I just described your training partners it is likely your Jiu Jitsu gym is legit.
I recommend you follow the system I laid out above and come up with a list of suitable gyms which meet the criteria. Once you have this list contact the gyms and organise a free trial class (most gyms offer this). After you have taken your free class at all the gyms on your list then decide which is best for you. I hope you find a perfect gym and wish you all the best in your BJJ journey.