Picking a Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) gym can be a long commitment. Therefore, you want to make the decision based on some research.
One of the main things that should be considered, is how far from your home, or workplace the BJJ gym is located. The accessibility of the gym is a significant factor if you wish to continue training BJJ for years to come.
For some people, the decision can be somewhat easy. If there is only one BJJ gym near your home, that is possibly a no-brainer decision to make. Unless you for some reason do not want to train there, you may have to go a bit further from your home.
This post will go through 5 things to look out for when choosing and picking the BJJ gym. Let’s get started!
1. It is close to your home
So, as mentioned above, the first and probably the most important factor when choosing a BJJ gym is the location of the gym.
How close to your home, or workplace the gym is, is a really significant factor. Driving an hour in one direction several times a week can be a lot of extra effort towards your hobby.
It can also impact on how long you are willing to continue training BJJ. If the trip to the gym is always over half of the overall time spent, it might affect your motivation to train negatively.
In the case where your home does not have a BJJ gym close by, it is also an option to train just once a week, if your calendar can not spare any more time. More about if training BJJ once a week is enough in this post.
In the cases where there is only one gym nearby where you live, the decision on what gym to join can be very easy. Of course, the other factor does matter as well, but I think the most significant factor is the location of the gym.
2. Is it Gi or No-Gi BJJ gym
Another very important aspect is, whether the gym is Gi or No-Gi gym. For those who are unfamiliar with what this means, Gi is the “uniform” that is used to train traditional BJJ. A picture of a Gi is below.
Then there is the No-Gi version, which means training without the gi. No-Gi is often trained with grappling shorts and a rash guard.
Overall, both ways of training BJJ are very similar. However, the Gi version has a bit more moves and techniques, that include collar chokes, for example. As well as other techniques that include using your or your opponent’s gi for your advance.
More about the difference between gi and no-gi BJJ, and which one you should pick in this post.
This is another very big factor when you are deciding what BJJ gym you should join.
3. Legitimacy of the instructors
Nowadays, when BJJ has gotten more popular, there are a lot more black belt instructors available.
Even though a black belt is not a certificate of a good instructor, it is a sign of commitment and expertise in BJJ.
Some areas have lesser BJJ practitioners overall, and the instructors might be brown or purple belts as well. They can really be a great instructor as well, and if there is no black belt instructor alternative, why not give them a shot?
A good way to find out how good or bad the instructors are is a good old Google search about them. Look for reviews on Google, or the gym’s Facebook or Instagram pages.
Another way is to go for a first lesson, which usually is free without any commitments, and see for yourself. Also, ask other practitioners what they think about the instructors. You can get really valuable information that way.
4. How traditional the gym is
The next factor to keep in mind when deciding on a BJJ gym for you is how traditional the gym is. Are you supposed to call the instructor master or sensei, or something similar, or can you simply call them by their first name?
Another thing that more traditional BJJ gyms have is that everybody must wear the same color gi and dress the same. Usually, it is a white gi. More about gi colors and how to pick the right one in this post.
In more informal BJJ gyms, you can call the instructor by their first name and wear different colors of gis.
I can not tell which one is a better option for you, it depends on your personal preferences. I would say that the more traditional BJJ gyms could be considered more “hardcore”, but the training should be about the same, no matter the atmosphere of the gym.
The gym can also be anything in between. They can be somewhat traditional in some areas, such as gi colors, but then in another way very informal.
You are usually told how things are when you first enter the gym. And if not, simply ask the instructor or someone who knows the gym principles.
5. How competitive the other practitioners are
Next up we have the environment of the gym. How competitive are the other practitioners?
If you want to just casually learn some self-defense, or get something to do in the evenings after work, a casual BJJ gym could be a good option.
On the other hand, if you wish to become the next world champion in BJJ or MMA, choosing a more competitive BJJ gym can greatly benefit you.
Surround yourself with like-minded people. If you want to take the training more casually, go for a more casual gym. If you want to go all-in hardcore BJJ mode, choose a more competitive gym.
You can tell by visiting the gym and seeing, how things are done. Also ask other practitioners, what their goals with BJJ are, and you can get a pretty good image of the nature of the gym.
What to look for in a BJJ gym
When looking for a BJJ gym, if you have options, this is what you could do in order to pick the best from them:
Look up the gyms that are near you, that you could potentially be attending for the next year or even longer. A Quick Googling session will give you an image of each one of them. See if they have Instagram or Facebook pages also.
After reviewing the gyms, you probably have a few potential options. Go visit the gyms, and talk to the people. Ask questions, and see how things are done. Alternatively, you could give the instructor a call and ask some basic questions, like what are the gi requirements and how traditional the gym is.
Going through that should help you decide, what gym is the best for you.
Some people do not have a lot of options on what gym they train in. There might not be more than one gym nearby, and even that might be a little too far away.
However, in case you happen to have a lot of potential gyms nearby, I hope this post helps you to pick the best one of them for you. Or at least give you some kind of image, of what to look for in a BJJ gym.
Hopefully you find the gym that fits your needs the best, have a wonderful day!
There has also been some debate about whether BJJ gyms are called dojos or not. I have a full post where we go through what you should call your BJJ gym.
Other BJJ-related posts can be found here.