If you are just beginning your BJJ journey and have started searching for schools you would have stumbled across Gracie Barra gyms. They are everywhere with some calling them the McDonalds of BJJ based on how prevalent their franchises are. What are these Gracie Barra gyms like and are they worth signing up to?
Is Gracie Barra Good?
Gracie Barra gyms are a mix some good some bad. They are typically more expensive than your average gym, have strict uniform policies, and force students to sign 6 months and 1-year contracts. They also teach to a strict curriculum and often give little individual attention to new students.
There is high variability between Gracie Barra locations. Some academies produce world-class talents and have dedicated and passionate coaches who are willing to dedicate time to helping all students progress and learn Jiu Jitsu.
While other schools are a pure money-making scheme where underqualified coaches are just going through the motions, paying little attention to their students as they look for new ways to squeeze money out of them.
It is not uncommon at poorly run Gracie Barra academies to be told to just drill the same move over and over for the entire class while the coach sits on his phone or walks to the back room. This is a terrible environment to learn BJJ and beginners have little chance of progressing while receiving this poor level of coaching.
There are too many poorly run Gracie Barra franchises. Gracie Barra does not do enough quality control over their schools. They are more than happy to let someone open a school as long as they cough up the hefty franchise fees and pay for the inflated uniforms. Gracie Barra should stop being so greedy and do a better job ensuring their franchise owners are helping their students progress.
Even at good Gracie Barra gyms, there are a number of policies that make the academies feel like a cash grab.
Gracie Barra forces all students to sign long-term contracts, 6 months or 1 year. I and many other BJJ students would never train at a gym that did contracts. I only want to pay month to month. I don’t want to be tied to some gym and be forced to follow some terrible contract.
Gracie Barra uses high-pressure sales tactics to force new students to sign these long-term contracts on the spot after only trying one training session.
Gracie Barra only uses these contracts as a way to trap students and make extra money off them. They know that BJJ has a high drop-off rate so they want to lock in students so they can’t drop off without paying big fees. If you break the contract they will sell it to a debt collection agency.
All Gracie Barras also make their students wear specific team uniforms which they have to purchase from the gym. The uniforms are poorly made and are expensive. This is yet another cash grab as they charge a huge markup on the gear that often breaks. To make matters worse some gyms will even force you to buy the latest uniform releases and claim your current gear is outdated.
Gracie Barra gyms will also pressure students into paying for seminars. At these seminars, they will bring in Gracie Barra black belts that will teach a special training session for a number of hours. They will often charge $50 to $100 for these seminars and again use high-pressure sales tactics to convince new students they need to attend.
Another shady Gracie Barra trick is making students pay for belt tests and grading. At most BJJ gyms your coach will simply promote you when they feel you are ready, there are no extra fees involved. Some Gracie Barra schools have identified another way to earn money from their students, by making them pay extra if they want to be graded and have the chance of earning their next belt.
These policies just show that Gracie Barra only cares about making money and is willing to engage in deceptive and gross business tactics to squeeze money from their students. These scummy strategies have many people referring to Gracie Barra as the Brazilian mafia. The Brazilians have no shame in fleecing the Gringo from his cash. They view it as the price of learning their national martial art. I would never support a gym that behaved in that fashion.
Even if you do find a well-run Gracie Barra school that has a good coach and is consistently producing good BJJ athletes, the business policies would turn me off from signing up. Before you decide to sign up at a Gracie Barra school make sure you quiz them about all their policies as they do vary a little between locations.
If you find a good school that only has the uniform and contract policy maybe you could consider joining. However, for me personally, even the uniform and contract policy are enough to prevent me from ever joining a Gracie Barra academy.