Back in the early days of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) when the art was still relatively unknown, an individual would be lucky if they had a qualified BJJ gym within a twenty-mile radius. Since the explosion in popularity of MMA and BJJ and a great increase in the number of academies, it is highly likely that one has a plethora of schools close to them to choose from. While the majority of BJJ academies are perfectly sufficient, it is important to conduct research into those nearby to see which one would be a good fit for you. Here is our list of some of the most important factors you should consider when looking for a BJJ gym.
1) The Instructors
Finding the right instructor is perhaps the most crucial factor in finding the right BJJ gym for multiple reasons. Not only does the instructor have to possess extensive knowledge of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but they also have to have the correct mentality, personality, and professionalism to help you develop as a martial artist.
It goes without saying that the instructor you choose to study under should possess a high level of BJJ skill and knowledge. It is crucially important, especially early on in your BJJ career that you are being taught proper technique so that you do not develop bad habits. If there is a limit to what your instructor can teach you due to his/her limited knowledge, it is highly unlikely that you are going to surpass mediocracy and enter the higher levels of skill. If you can find instructors that have competed and won at the highest levels, that would be perfect.
Along with gauging his/her current level of BJJ skill, you should make sure that the instructor you are going to be learning from has the correct mentality to be instructing. A good coach recognizes that his/her job is to make his/her students better, not to just make money while beating up his/her lower-skilled students and training partners. Look for an instructor who is genuinely passionate about getting better at BJJ, not just winning every round of training. Even if he/she is the best grappler in the room, if he/she is simply using his/her excessive speed and strength to power through every training partner without ever deviating from his/her go-to techniques, it is likely that he/she isn’t interested in trying to improve as a martial artist. You need an instructor who views BJJ as a mechanism for continuous development and helps you continue to grow throughout your career.
Along with being a proficient grappler and having the correct mentality to coach, a good instructor should also conduct himself/herself in a professional manner. At the end of the day, you are paying for the service of learning BJJ. It doesn’t matter how skilled a coach is if they are showing up late or taking part in any other unprofessional action then you should be looking to take your BJJ training elsewhere.
2) Training Partners
While the instructor of a BJJ gym is responsible for teaching the technique and setting the attitude of the team if the gym doesn’t have suitable training partners this will all be in waste. It is important to make sure you find a BJJ gym where the environment created by the other students is one of hospitality and friendliness as you all work towards your goal of becoming better BJJ players.
Every benefit of having an awesome instructor that we discussed in the previous section can be in vain if the gym you choose does not have good training partners for you to train with. While the instructor will show you the techniques he/she wants you working on, if all the other students are too lazy and apathetic to drill these techniques you will have a very difficult time making the most out of your instruction. Similarly to how we discussed with the instructor, if your training partners are only focused on crushing everyone in every single training round then it will be incredibly difficult for anyone, including themselves to develop their skill.
Overall, the people you train with should be friendly, respectful, and courteous to you and every other teammate regardless of experience and skill. At the end of the day, BJJ is supposed to be enjoyable, so make sure you find a gym with plenty of helpful and friendly training partners that make your training a pleasant experience you can look forward to.
The last item on our list may seem less important than the others, but in actuality, the location of the gym you choose to train at will have quite an impact on your BJJ career. While it is important to find a gym with quality instruction and a friendly training environment, it is just as important to find one that is within a reasonable commute from your place of residence or occupation. BJJ is supposed to be a fun activity that makes you happy while teaching you valuable lessons about how to overcome struggles in your life. It will only be fun and enjoyable if you look forward to it, and nothing will make you despise the art as much as having to partake in an unreasonably long and draining commute just to get to class. If you have just worked a long, hard day, and now you have to start your over hour-long trip to BJJ class, you are going to be incredibly drained and start to hate going to train. Instead, find an organization that is closer by so that you can get there in a reasonable time with plenty of energy so you can focus on your BJJ development. Or, find a BJJ gym that has several locations to choose from so this won’t be an issue.
Now that you know the most important aspects to look for in your BJJ gym it is time to start doing your research. Fortunately, most gyms offer complimentary trial classes, so give it a go today and start your BJJ journey.
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