How to Choose the Right BJJ School: Step 5

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By Sumit Pradhan

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, commonly known as “BJJ”, is a martial arts discipline that has gained immense popularity over the past few decades.

It is practiced in specialized training centers called dojos, where practitioners work towards achieving different belt levels, such as brown belts and black belts.

How to Choose the Right BJJ School: Step 5

This grappling-focused martial art, also known as jiu jitsu, emphasizes ground fighting techniques that leverage body positioning, leverage, and submission holds to subdue opponents. Whether you are just starting your jiu jitsu journey or looking for a new bjj school to continue your training, mastering the art of jiu jitsu requires dedication and practice.

With so many potential BJJ schools to choose from, it can be an overwhelming task to find the right fit based on your specific training goals and needs.

This comprehensive guide covers the key factors of How to Choose the Right BJJ School for your jiu jitsu training goals so that you can set yourself up for long-term success at the dojo with experienced instructors.

Step 1: Clarify Your Primary Motivations, Expectations, and Goals

The very first step is to identify what you aim to accomplish through Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training at a bjj school, including bjj classes at various bjj gyms, to become a part of the thriving bjj community, both in the short and long term.

Outlining clear objectives and motivations will help students determine which academy and instructors best fit their needs. Common reasons for starting BJJ include:

Self-Defense: One of the main appeals of jiu jitsu is learning realistic methods for defending yourself and loved ones in real-world altercations. At Absolute MMA, our jiu jitsu school offers top-notch training to help you become a black belt in this effective martial art.

The proven jiu jitsu ground fighting techniques enable smaller and weaker individuals to subdue larger aggressive attackers at a bjj school or bjj gym through proper body positioning and submission holds, ultimately leading to earning a black belt.

Women in particular find jiu jitsu classes at academies extremely effective for neutralizing threats and advancing through the belt system. If self-defense is your priority, examine jiu jitsu academies that emphasize these street application techniques.

Physical Fitness: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at a BJJ gym provides an intensely rigorous full-body workout that burns calories, and builds functional strength and cardiovascular capacity. With a black belt instructor guiding you, you can achieve your fitness goals.

Just a few minutes of jiu jitsu grappling or bjj sparring sessions at the gym will have even the most experienced practitioners gasping for air, as they push themselves to advance through the ranks and earn their belts.

Practicing jiu jitsu at a gym or academy under the guidance of a skilled instructor can improve flexibility, reaction times, core power, and kinesthetic awareness.

Both gi and no-gi training at a jiu jitsu gym provide awesome fitness benefits. Whether you’re practicing bjj in a gi or without one, having a skilled instructor can greatly enhance your training experience. So for those focused primarily on exercise, fitness-oriented gyms with classes led by a jiu jitsu instructor could be ideal.

Sports Competition: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, also known as BJJ, has an extensive tournament scene at various levels, from local to state, national, and world championships. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced practitioner, our gym offers BJJ classes taught by experienced instructors.

BJJ enthusiasts who train at the gym under the guidance of a skilled instructor can satisfy their competitive drive by participating in one-on-one contests during classes. These challenges provide an opportunity to test their skills against fellow practitioners. Points are awarded in BJJ classes for takedowns, dominant positions, and submission attempts under the guidance of a qualified instructor at the gym.

Winning by ‘submission’ through locks and chokes is the ultimate goal in BJJ. At the gym, the instructor guides students on how to achieve this goal and progress through each belt level. If you have ambitions to compete professionally in BJJ, seek gyms that actively develop high-level sport Jiu-Jitsu athletes. Attend classes and work towards earning your belt.

Personal Growth: BJJ students often cite the gym’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’s incredible impact on instilling greater confidence, humility, discipline, camaraderie, mental toughness, and belt progression.

Training in a bjj gym presents intense challenges that enhance focus and determination both on and off the mat, making it an invaluable experience for those seeking to improve their skills and progress through the belt system.

Learning to persevere through struggles at the gym also breeds resilience and calmness during times of chaos or adversity in BJJ. Wearing a belt in BJJ is symbolic of progress and dedication. So for some, joining the gym and wearing a belt in BJJ is as much about self-improvement as physical gains.

Thus, use introspection about your underlying hopes and expectations from BJJ at the gym while wearing your belt.

Are you focused purely on no-nonsense self-defense? Or interested solely in recreational training for fun at the gym without BJJ competition and earning a belt?

Your objectives in bjj influence priorities regarding teaching methods, sparring intensity, gym culture dynamics, and more. Belt progression is an important aspect of bjj training.

Those newer to the gym and practicing BJJ should also set expectations regarding patience, timing, and small milestones of progress with their belt. Learning intricate techniques at the gym demands significant repetition for ingraining muscle memory. It is important to wear a belt for proper form and support during exercises.

Don’t get discouraged at the gym by initial difficulties – enjoy mini-wins like escaping specific positions with the help of a belt more frequently or attempting new submissions.

Step 2: Vet the Instructors and Coaches Thoroughly

After outlining motivations and goals for the gym, the next critical step is evaluating the instructor’s competency and coaching abilities with a belt. Why?

Because in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, progress at the gym depends almost entirely on the technical guidance received from your professors and coaches. Don’t forget to bring your belt!

Even the most exceptional gym with state-of-the-art facilities and a top-notch belt will prove useless with subpar instruction. So screen the team carefully using these metrics:

Rank and Competition Experience

Examine the rank and competition record of head instructors and assistant coaches at the gym. Don’t forget to check if they wear a belt.

  • What specific belts or titles do they hold? Black belt is the highest rank denoting mastery and ability to teach.
  • How successful have they been in sports jiu-jitsu tournaments? Wins demonstrate real-world skill testing.
  • Who did they receive their belts from? Lineage indicates the depth of the knowledge base.
  • How long have they actively competed and taught Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu? Experience matters tremendously.

For instance, Professor Jefferson Moura at Gracie Barra Flatirons Broomfield holds over 30 years of experience across Muay Thai, Judo, Wrestling, and BJJ.

His championship record includes Pan American and Brazilian National titles and a 3rd-degree Black belt certification under Master Marcio Feitosa. Such pedigree offers students incredible foundations.

Teaching Credentials and Methods

Analyze the school’s underlying curriculum further using these metrics:

  • Are classes structured logically for beginners? Is there a defined path for advancing through the belt system?
  • How much attention is paid to teaching proper fundamentals before advancing?
  • Do the instructors actively correct mistakes by providing technical details and explanations?
  • What student-to-instructor ratio exists for personalized guidance?
  • To what extent do professors demonstrate techniques alongside explanations?
  • Are there options for specialized courses like takedowns, self-defense etc. based on needs?

Schools focused on clear technical instruction through a defined, fundamentals-focused belt curriculum enable steady long-term growth versus haphazard progress.

Developing a strong foundation and mastering the basics is crucial for success in sparring, especially when facing opponents with a higher belt rank.

Student Progress and Success Rates

Finally, evaluate the competency of instructors based on their existing students’ outcomes, with a particular focus on their ability to effectively teach the belt curriculum.

  • How many top-tier black belts, browns, and purples have the school produced over the past decade?
  • What competition successes and tournament podium finishes have students achieved under their training?
  • Are athletes transitioning successfully into MMA, law enforcement applications, and reality-based self-defense with their skill sets?

Such demonstrated evidence of student progress validates the instructors’ capabilities better than any claim, certificate, or belt. After all, the proof lies in the proverbial pudding.

Step 3: Evaluate Training Facilities and Environment

With the status of coaching and curriculum cleared, shift focus onto the training environment and facilities. The atmosphere of a gym impacts enjoyment just as much as the technical instructions.

Use this checklist when visiting academies under consideration:

Cleanliness and School Size

  • How clean and well-maintained are the mats, bathrooms, and storage areas? Signs of mildew or dirt indicate lower hygiene standards. Proper sanitization protocols ensure reduced disease transmission.
  • Does the facility layout offer adequate spacing for training sessions? Crowded environments hinder learning.
  • What student-to-mat ratio exists? More room to roll enables greater practice.

Equipment and Amenities

  • Are amenities like lockers, shower rooms, and changing areas available? Conveniences improve quality of life.
  • Is there sufficient Gi storage space? Pro shops for uniform purchases? These factors enhance convenience.
  • Does the school provide other gear like resistance bands for warm-ups? Preventative equipment like ice baths for recovery? First aid kits? Such resources demonstrate a commitment to excellence.


  • Is the training space well-lit, ventilated, and cooled adequately? Positive environments improve performance.
  • Does the school play motivating music? Or is the atmosphere relatively quiet during intense rolls? Understand preferences for sensory stimulation.
  • Are teammates supportive of each other? Does a good mix of ages and athletic backgrounds exist? The energy of training partners permeates the culture.

Observation along these lines provides greater clarity on day-to-day experience and school values. After all, you’ll likely spend more time at the academy than anticipated. So ensure the vibe resonates.

Step 4: Analyze Class Structure, Styles, and Schedule Dynamics

In addition to the training environment itself, evaluating class structure and logistics ensures fit from a scheduling perspective. Use this framework when discussing options with school administrators:

Variety of Class Styles

  • Does the school offer both Gi and No-Gi training formats? The Grips and leverage of the Gi jacket enable certain styles of guard play and submissions. But No-Gi improves adaptability for MMA and builds athleticism. The blend is ideal.
  • Are dedicated takedown and standup classes available? Developing takedowns is vital to well-rounded grappling skills.
  • What forms of Sparring take place? Modalities like submission-only Rolling or King of the Hill match push-specific capabilities.

Class Structure and Size

  • How many students usually attend classes? What student-to-instructor ratio exists? Manageable class sizes ensure greater individual guidance.
  • Does the instructor follow a structured curriculum? Or is the approach relatively unstructured without clear progressions? Organization is key.
  • How long are classes at each level? 60-90 mins enables sufficient technique and live drilling.

Schedule and Timings

  • How often are classes held? Good schools offer morning, afternoon, evening and weekend slots to accommodate different schedules.
  • Can you attend classes at convenient timings without missing work or family commitments? Consistency drives progress, so align schedules.

Gracie Barra Flatiron’s schedule facilitates highly convenient training multiple times daily. Their adult program runs up to 10x weekly covering fundamentals, advanced techniques, Sparring plus dedicated women’s courses. Whether early morning or evening, ample flexibility exists for regular practice.

Step 5: Gauge the Full Affordability and Cost Considerations

As with any long-term pursuit, evaluating the total costs and value proposition is prudent before enrolling. Realize upfront that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu requires significant investment of not just money – but effort, sweat and time as well. Use this framework to assess budgetary fit:

Membership Plans and Contracts

  • What ongoing monthly fees or annual contracts are required for membership? These regular costs are the most substantial expenses.
  • How much flexibility exists for pausing or cancelling memberships if necessary? Can you continue month-to-month or are long 12-month signups enforced? Shorter commitments provide latitude.

Uniforms and Gear

  • Does the gym offer student discounts on uniforms and gear? High end Gis often cost ~$150 or more. Budget for a few over time.
  • What initial gear purchases are necessitated outside of the membership fee? Mouth guards, athletic tape, rash guards add up.

External Competition Expenses

  • Does the gym charge for promoted tournaments hosted locally?
  • If relevant, what ancillary costs are involved for significant travel tournaments? Airfare, hotels, food costs accumulate for higher level events.

Sales, Discounts or Trial Offers

  • Does the academy currently offer any sales, promotions or discounts for new members? Gracie Barra locations often extend free trials.
  • Can you negotiate payment plans if needed? Leverage upfront payments for lower rates? Open communication with finance teams is wise.

Of course, the greatest ‘value’ from training comes via personal growth, camaraderie and skill gains. But factoring in all monetary dimensions provides clarity on the overall commitment.

Final Takeaways for Choosing the Optimal BJJ Gym

Finding the perfect Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu school for your needs involves careful evaluation across multiple fronts – from core motivations to coaching expertise, gym facilities and affordability.

Rushing the decision without understanding these key aspects leads to frustrations long term. Avoid those pitfalls by:

  • Clearly defining your goals and expectations from training at the onset
  • Thoroughly vetting credentials, teaching methods and track record of instructors
  • Analyzing facilities, amenities, ambiance and convenience factors
  • Evaluating class structures, sizes, styles and schedules for fit
  • Accurately determining value after factoring all expenses

While an enthusiastic beginner’s mindset is excellent for enjoying the early phase, make the school selection process with diligence and patience.

Visit multiple academies, discuss dynamics with current students, and don’t hesitate to ask questions before committing.

With a thoughtful matching of BJJ gym to personal needs and preferences, your jujitsu journey will prove infinitely more rewarding.

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