Every now and then, a question likes this crops up on jiu-jitsu forums:
“I want to start jiu-jitsu and there are several academies in my city. Which one to train at?”
The most common and correct is, “Try a free class at all of them and make a decision based on that.”
But what should you base your decision on?
Here are three of my suggestions.
The Highest Quality Of Instruction
Your instructor does not have to be a Worlds or ADCC champion to instruct you well. But as in most other endeavours, you should look for an instructor with an identifiable lineage, years of experience, and a solid class schedule and curriculum.
There is a significant difference between training with some tough guys who know a little grappling and training with a legitimate black belt who teaches under a program. People can not teach what they don’t know, and an instructor who has spent time training at a high level academy will bring the highest level of technical knowledge.
Pay attention to the level of detail and quality of instruction.
Can the instructor break down the complex and make it simple to understand?
If she can, this is a good reason to stay.
The gym might have a huge mat and awesome students, but if it takes over 45 minutes to drive there, you are going to have difficulty being consistent in your training.
Although it is not practical for many people, I have actually moved to live closer to the academy. I reasoned that if I was going to be there many days each week, I should lessen the time and difficulty to get to training.
You are just more likely to train regularly when it is easy to get to the gym.
The Chemistry and Gym Culture
This is the toughest one to define. The ideal training environment for a young competitor may be different than for a 40-year-old recreational player.
Some gyms have hardcore physical conditioning in the warm-ups. The rolls are intense and they focus heavily on competition.
Other gyms will place heavier emphasis on self defense and have more of a traditional approach to the martial arts.
Do you get a feel that you would mesh well with the gym culture? Do you prefer training with MMA meatheads or tea-sipping yoga types?
These are some of the questions you should ask yourself before deciding to put your name on the dotted line.
You have to find a place where you actually want to spend time around the people if you are going to stick with jiu-jitsu for the longer term.
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