Tips for Choosing a BJJ Academy
With the global spread of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, gone are the days in which you have to take what you get when it comes to the academy you train at.
Today, nearly every major city has at least a few options to choose from. Which is great, unless you’re the kind of person who really doesn’t like choices. Then feel free walk into any random gym you see. For the rest of us, choices provide us the opportunity to find that jiu-jitsu academy – and that community – in which we really feel a part of.
So what should you be looking for? Everyone is different, and every academy is different. But here are a few tips to help in choosing the right BJJ academy for you:
Distance is a Factor
The location of your future academy shouldn’t be the most important factor in choosing a jiu-jitsu academy. I’ve known people who commute an hour or more to train with their team. But these individuals either don’t have anything closer, or have decided that this is the one and only academy for them.
For most people, distance will affect how often you’re able to train. If your academy is just around the corner from your home or place of work, it becomes much easier to fit into your schedule and be consistent. How far is too far away? Everyone has a different tolerance for commute time, and the exact route and time of day you train might make one academy a better option over another.
Stalk Their Socials
A great way to get a “feel” for the vibe at a jiu-jitsu academy before you walk through their doors is to stalk their social media.
These days, a social media account is vital for jiu-jitsu academies, not only in advertising themselves, but also in communicating with their own members. Their posts will give you an idea about the academy’s typical class size, whether its members are active in the competitions, if it has a large kid’s program, and the frequency and type of events and seminars they offer. You can even get a sneak peek into its members, and who might be your future training partners.
Take Advantage of the Free Trial
Whether you’re a brand new white belt or seasoned color belt, I can’t stress enough how important it is to try out all your possible options. This is where the free trial comes in handy.
Most academies will have a day, if not an entire week, free trial. Take advantage of it. Especially if you have several options to choose from, taking a class or two will allow you to get a feel for the instruction, the community, and the pace of the classes. One academy may be chock full of black belts, but you might find the style of teaching at another academy suits your learning style better. One academy might be too competition driven, or too laid back, or too focused on tradition and formalities. Of course you won’t get a full picture after a single day, but you will get enough to help you decide.
Check out the Local Open Mats
Besides free trials, another way to get an in-person feel for the academy and its members are open mats.
Open mats – especially weekend open mats – draw students from all of the academy’s class times. An open mat will give you an opportunity to meet members from the morning classes, lunch classes, and the evening classes. Additionally, you’ll also meet members from other academies in the area. And because it’s not a regular, structured class, there tends to be a more relaxed atmosphere. This allows you to have actual conversations with the other BJJ practitioners, and pick their brains about the type of community an academy fosters.
Don’t Be Afraid to Change Your Mind
The most important thing to keep in mind when choosing a BJJ academy is that you can always change your mind. Just because you signed up, doesn’t mean that you promised your undying loyalty to that academy and its head instructor.
It may take a week or two – or even a few months – to get a feel for whether that academy fits your schedule and meets all your needs. And even if it does appear to check most of your boxes, you might find that you simply don’t jive with the instructors or other members. That’s okay. That’s the beauty of jiu-jitsu; there’s room for anyone and everyone. An academy that “fits” one person, may not fit another. As long as everyone finds their place and keeps training.
Whether you’re a brand new white belt, or just moved to a new town, hopefully these tips will help you choose the right BJJ academy for you.