Left Town? Looking For A New BJJ Gym? Here’s What You Need To Look For

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Reader Question: Hello Jiu Jitsu Times,

I had previously written my question here and you guys were awesome with the answer so I have another one.
I have relocated to a different state recently and have been looking around for a good jiu jitsu dojo/gym. Most of them have 4-5 stars when it comes to reviews however when I look into their staff, the highest belt teaching is Brown. Would this type of gym be considered legit and worth of checking out if I am planning on training for tournaments in future?

Jiu-Jitsu Times: We enjoy hearing from our readers and your question is both a common and important one.

In choosing a BJJ school there are a number of important factors. I’m not sure I would place much weight in the reliability of online reviews. I would say the three most important factors would be:

1) Convenience

Especially if you live in a larger, urban area the traffic and commute time is a significant factor. How much time are you willing to spend getting to and from class in a week? If just getting to class is an ordeal, you are more likely to miss training sessions.

Living close to the school is ideal.

2) The best quality instruction

I have visited many different BJJ schools of widely varying levels of instruction. Sure, you can learn from a blue or purple belt instructor, especially when you are first starting out. But if you have been fortunate to train under really high level instructors you will see a difference in the level of technique.

A lower level instructor may be a great guy with a friendly attitude, but he can’t teach what he doesn’t know. I believe in seeking out the highest quality instruction that you can find.

That may not be the biggest name in the competition scene, however. A more accurate measure of the instructor’s level is how many solid guys the academy produces? Is the instructor able to raise the level of those around him?

A less reliable indicator is affiliation or lineage. There are some great coaches out there who do not have big names.

Look for the highest quality of instruction that you can find.

3) The school culture

The first two points don’t matter if you have a bad feeling about the instructor or other students.

This is not possible to know by online reviews or hearsay. You need to drop in and observe or try an introductory class and get a feeling of the school. Most BJJ schools are pretty welcoming places. I once visited a judo club to watch a class. I sat on a bench by the mats for an hour and not a single member of the club met my eyes or said hello to me. Needless to say, this isn’t the type of environment that I was interested in spending four to five days per week hanging out in.

You mentioned that you are interested in competition. It is critical that the academy have a strong focus on sports jiu-jitsu (as opposed to self-defense) and a nucleus of like-minded training partners to push you. My own academy is made up mostly of professionals who are over 30 and train for interest and fitness. They do not have much interest in the next tournament. This would obviously not be the school for you.

Good luck in finding a solid school where you can make new friends and train jiu-jitsu.

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