With the increase in popularity of Brazilian Jiu-Jtsu (BJJ), more and more people are trying it for the first time. Choosing a grappling academy is no small feat. For those of us who become addicted and allow ourselves to be transformed by what BJJ requires of us, we will spend our free hours there; leave our blood, sweat, and tears there; make friends and memories there; decide exactly what kind of person we want to be there.
So the choice is no trivial matter. It’s not exactly like choosing a spouse, but it is kind of like choosing the place you will live in with your spouse, complete with welcoming/nosey/annoying neighbors, access to local amenities, and pride of place. Can you picture moving your things in and staying for a while?
Here are some things to consider in a BJJ academy before you take the plunge:
Who is the lead instructor? What belt rank is he/she? Who did they get their current belt from? Not every instructor or academy has to be a Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu but you want to be sure that your non-black belt coach is under the direct and watchful eye of a legit BJJ black belt. This is tremendously important!
Is the academy more geared toward self-defense or BJJ sport competition? If you wanted to become a high level competitive grappler you would loathe your time at a self-defense based academy. Also if you were focused on MMA or self-defense, high level Gi gripping techniques may bore you. Perhaps you have a love for both as well though!
What is the schedule like? Are there enough classes per week that you can fit into your schedule to make sure that you are improving? Be sure to look up your prospective academy’s website to see if their schedule works for you. You can save yourself valuable time by simply doing this. BJJ academies are not necessarily like a fitness gym that may be open at 6AM daily.
Does the academy appear to be organized or is it dirty and ragtag? There is something to be said for fighters who train in the dingiest and dirtiest of gyms with the worst rusted equipment (It has been shown in various studies that training under harsh conditions can lead to champion qualities…like Rocky in Rocky 4). Others of us enjoy cleanliness and as much of a sterile environment as possible.
Are there beginner level and advanced level classes? You will want to be sure that there are some classes available for the beginner if you are starting out. If you have experience you will want to make sure that you find an academy that can provide you with other grapplers that can challenge and enlighten you.
How are classes structured in terms of warm-up, technique, sparring/rolling? Do you roll for 10 minutes? 30 Minutes? or more per class? Some people do not enjoy extended warm up time. Some love it. Some people are a bit afraid to roll or spar while others thrive off of it. Be sure to ask about class structure to make sure that you aren’t raw meat being thrown to a pack of wolves. However if you like that grind-it-out style, there are academies who can accommodate.
Is the gym family friendly or professional fighter based? Are you looking to train with mean, scary fighters? Do you want to bring your grandmother in to try a class? There are different kind of gyms for different kinds of people. Have a look inside your prospective gym and check out their social media pages. Do the people in the gym look like people that you feel comfortable with? Keep in mind though that there are different styles of gyms that are attempting to reach varying goals.
Is there a contract? What are the terms? Most gyms make you sign a contract. Make sure you know what you are getting into. Are you sure you can afford it. If you think you may not be able to afford it are you willing to be sued to come up with the remaining balance of your contract. A BJJ and MMA gym is a serious commitment and should be treated as such. Make sure you read the fine print and ask questions
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