How to Find a Local BJJ Gym

How to Find a Local BJJ Gym

With the growing popularity of BJJ, the number of local BJJ gyms has also increased significantly, making it difficult for students to choose the best local gym for their skill level. To help you with your search, Elite Sports has created this comprehensive guide with athletes' needs, objectives, location, facilities offered by the gym, reviews, and important Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) of BJJ aspirants in mind.

How to Find a Local BJJ Gym
Photo Credit: @bahiabjj

1. Why is a BJJ Gym Important?

To excel in your BJJ journey and compete in different national and international tournaments, a certain skill level is required. BJJ gyms have skilled instructors and a diverse student community that assists you in learning new techniques and practicing them. While practicing at home is also possible through online videos; however, solo drills will not refine your skills to the same extent as practicing with a partner. 

2. Types of BJJ Gyms

There are several types of BJJ gym with different facilities catering to the goals and aspirations of students:

2.1. McDojo BJJ Gyms

The name McDojo Gym is inspired by McDonalds restaurant. Such schools lack the necessary facilities and instructors required to transform unskilled students into BJJ experts. The techniques taught by instructors are ineffective in competitive environments and real-life self-defense situations. This is because  they themselves have learned techniques through youtube videos or a similar McDojo Gym.  The main focus of these gyms is money-making. Hence, they  make unrealistic claims and teach techniques that look impressive but are not practical. Such moves are often satirical and referred to as “bullshido” in the BJJ community. McDojo BJJ gyms usually award black belts to the undeserving students that open new McDojo gyms, teaching useless techniques for the sole purpose of financial gains. Hence, avoid McDojo BJJ gyms at all costs.

2.2. Competition

The focus of a competitive school merely lies in competing techniques and not on self-defense. They keep their attention on rulesets provided by IBJJF or ADCC competitions.

If you are serious about competitions and pursuing BJJ as a professional career, then these competition-oriented BJJ gyms are highly recommended for you. These schools have years of experience in producing award-winning famous fighters.

2.3. MMA Academies

Mixed-Martial Arts has been the focus of many BJJ academies. Since BJJ is a gentle art, it is based on ground fighting techniques. On the other hand, MMA involves striking, ground fighting, takedowns, submissions. MMA schools teach a range of skills, allowing you to participate in MMA competitions or try out wrestling and BJJ tournaments. These schools offer different classes, allowing you to choose a combat sport that best piques your interest. MMA schools offering BJJ classes are recommended for fighters who want to become BJJ black belts and eventually participate in MMA competitions.

2.4. Large Academies

BJJ academies with more than 25 BJJ students have experienced BJJ black belts. At these academies, you can enroll in private one-on-one sessions or join a class. Private classes allow you to get the instructor's undivided attention, while group classes allow you to learn from other students who might be at a higher belt level than yourself.

2.5. No-Gi BJJ schools

BJJ academies such as the 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu specialize in No-Gi BJJ training. These academies offer access to local competitions, and once you get enough exposure, you can go to No-Gi academies with better facilities and highly-skilled instructors.

2.6. Recreational BJJ Academies

These BJJ gyms focus on fitness, fun, and recreation. If you do not enjoy traditional exercise routines and want to try out BJJ for fitness, these academies are the best option for you. However, recreational BJJ academies will not prepare you for competitions. So, if you plan to become a professional BJJ athlete, then this type of gym is not for you.

3. Checking your Aims and Preferences

Based on your goals and preferences, you can research and shortlist BJJ gyms. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • For persons having defined health goals, recreational BJJ gyms are recommended since they are designed to promote fitness.
  • BJJ aspirants who want to participate in national and international competitions should opt for competition gyms, NoGi schools, or MMA academies.
  • If your main focus is active community participation, then large well-reputed BJJ gyms should be your choice.

4. Evaluating BJJ Gyms Near You

The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu institutes in your area can be explored in the following ways:

  • Use Google Maps to search the closest BJJ gyms in your area. Google maps also provide reviews and ratings of different local gyms that will help you decide whether the gym is suitable for your needs.
  • Check different social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, for BJJ gym recommendations. You can also join online BJJ forums for reviews and recommendations.
  • Visit different local BJJ gyms and ask the enrolled students about instructor experience, belt ranks, class schedule, competition exposure, and other facilities, such as mat space and gym equipment.
  • If anyone from your friend circle or family is practicing BJJ, you can start by joining their BJJ gym. 
  • Use apps or websites, such as the BJJ Gym Finder to find well-reputed gyms in your area.

5. How to Choose a Local BJJ Gym

When selecting a BJJ gym, keep the following factors in mind:

5.1. Assess the Instructors and their Credentials

An instructor’s BJJ belt rank and experience should be the first thing to consider when selecting a local BJJ gym. Instructors must have at least three to five years of experience in training BJJ students. Ideally,m, your instructor should be a black belt, but you can also train with a brown belt who has competed in some local competitions. Ask for a trial session after checking online reviews of an instructor before joining a BJJ gym.

5.2. Checking the Amenities Provided

Check whether a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu center offers gym equipment. A small local gym will not be well-equipped; however, it should have basic BJJ equipment, such as Gis, clean mats, skipping ropes, punching or heavy bags (if it is an MMA gym), dumbbells, and adult practice dummies.

  • Hygiene should be another top priority after the instructor’s credentials. Check whether mats, changing areas, and washrooms are adequately clean.
  • Make sure that the gym has adequate mat space to accommodate all students. Otherwise, you will not be able to practice properly and make progress. 

5.3. Class Schedule

Flexible schedule is another important factor to consider, especially if you have to work to support your BJJ training. Some Jiu-Jitsu institutes offer morning, evening, and weekend sessions, so students can continue their training at their own pace.

5.4. Membership Benefits

Some BJJ gyms offer yearly memberships at a discounted price. In addition, the monthly fee is also reduced by 10-20%. Do give such BJJ gyms a chance; however, don’t fall for unrealistic marketing claims. Some BJJ gyms attract students by offering generous discounts, but they do not have skilled instructors.

6. Questions to Ask Before Joining a BJJ Gym

6.1. Is the head coach a black belt or a good competitor?

If the BJJ coach is a brown or black belt, he clearly has knowledge and skill that you can benefit from. However, it is equally important that the instructor didn’t get his belts from a McDojo gym. You can also ask for the instructor's participation in different competitions. If he has notable achievements, then you should join his gym.

6.2. Do they offer coaching to beginners?

Some BJJ gyms only allow white belt holders to watch rolling or sparring. However, training should be allowed at all levels. So opt for a gym where white belts are allowed to train after observations.

6.3. How many females are currently enrolled?

Always look for a BJJ gym with both genders to ensure it is safe.

6.4. Is there any additional cost alongside regular membership?

Always ask about “hidden charges” when choosing a BJJ gym. These hidden charges can be in the form of belt fees, belt exam fee, and seminar or workshop fee. If the management is not forthcoming with information, ask students about it.

6.5. Are programs other than BJJ offered?

BJJ gyms do offer supplementary programs like karate programs, Muay Thai boxing, and multiple other martial arts programs to increase your exposure and improve your grappling skills. Hence, look for gyms that offer a range of martial art training.

6.6. Do they follow the IBJJF rule set and apply modern teaching methods?

The most important thing to look for in a BJJ gym is to check whether they follow the IBJJF ruleset and teach modern techniques along with BJJ fundamentals.

7. Conclusion

While selecting a local BJJ gym, your focus should be on your potential trainer, hygiene, your personal BJJ goals, and the type of training you are seeking. Additionally, keep in mind that different BJJ gyms offer different facilities and schedules, and teach different grappling techniques. Therefore, be clear about your aspirations, then conduct thorough research before enrolling in a BJJ gym.

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