If you’re interested in starting BJJ, you’ve come to the right place. This guide will arm you with the knowledge you need to pick the right BJJ school for you.
When evaluating BJJ schools, these are the key factors to consider:
- Location - What schools are closest to you and how far are you willing to travel?
- Schedule - Do they run classes at times that are convenient for you?
- Classes - Do they offer what you want to learn: gi, no-gi, MMA, judo, wrestling, etc.?
- Instructor - Are the coaches qualified and do they have good reputations?
- Culture - Are the instructors and students friendly and helpful?
- Facility - Is the school clean and does it have any amenities?
- Cost - Can you work tuition fees into your budget?
Location and schedule have a huge impact on whether or not you train.
Location and class schedule may seem like mundane details but they can have the biggest influence on whether or not you stick to training. A new student is likely to quit if they’re always showing up late because they couldn’t get out of work in time and got stuck in traffic. If it becomes more appealing to say “Screw it; I’ll just go another day,” you’re slipping towards quitting. Everything else being equal, you’ll train more at a school you can more easily get to on time.
That said, a great instructor is worth the longer drive if you are disciplined enough to make the trip.
Does an instructor need to be a BJJ black belt?
Not necessarily, but it’s usually better if they are. A purple or brown belt with a great personality and a professional attitude can run a better school than a grumpy old black belt who doesn’t show up except to hang out with buddies and look at Facebook on his phone. But a veteran black belt, even a grumpy old one with broken English, who focuses on his or her students’ development gets my vote.
Why can’t you find prices anywhere?
You’ve likely been frustrated trying to find prices on any school’s websites, or have even contacted a gym to ask, only to be told “come in and try it out first.” School owners do this because there’s a common business practice of hiding prices until after they get prospective new students in the door.
The logic is that if they put their prices out there, people get to comparison shop, but they probably don’t know anything about martial arts, so they’ll likely just find a karate or taekwondo McDojo that’s cheaper. By getting that prospective student into the school, they can provide an exciting hands-on experience, making the face-to-face sale easier.
Whether or not you agree with that, that’s why prices are hard to find.
How much should I expect to pay?
Cost is important to you, but don’t let it rule your decision. Cheapest is rarely best. A black belt world champion with a 5,000 sq. ft. facility will charge more than a blue belt with puzzle mats in his garage. Weigh all the factors before deciding based on pricing.
BJJ tends to cost more than other martial arts. I would say around $150 per month is average, but $250 or higher is possible in places like New York City or California.
What should you expect for your first class?
You’ll get the best experience by contacting the gym first. They should have a free trial sign up form on their website or at least a Facebook page. They may tell you to come to any class or schedule you for an intro.
An intro class usually consists of learning some techniques one-on-one with an instructor, though not necessarily the head instructor or even a black belt. Afterwards, they may go straight to talking about signing up, or send you into the group class to keep training.
If you are dropped into a group class, just try to follow along. No one expects you to have any idea what’s going on, so just be willing to look to the instructor or nearby students for guidance if you don’t know what you’re supposed to be doing. There may be formalities like lining up in a certain order and bowing at the start of class.
A normal class usually follows this format:
- Warm ups - Jogging, push ups, jumping jacks, solo BJJ movement drills, etc.
- Technique - The instructor will teach techniques, then students pair up to drill.
- Live training - Games where you try your techniques against resisting partners.
- Sparring - One-on-one matches where you can try whatever you know.
They may not have you spar on your first day as a matter of safety, but many places have no problem with new students sparring. You can ask to sit out if you don’t feel ready yet.
What should you be looking for during this first class?
This is your chance to check out the instructor, the facility, and the culture. After class, answer these questions for yourself:
- Was the instructor attentive?
- Did the instructor clearly explain techniques?
- Did the instructor give you any direct attention?
- Did classes start and end on time?
- Were the mats clean?
- Was the bathroom clean?
- Were students friendly and willing to help you?
What gear do you need to get started?
Here’s what you need to train:
- A good BJJ gi
- A couple of rashguards
- No-gi shorts
- Athletic underwear
Not required, but recommended:
- Athletic tape
- Water bottle
- Gym bag
All of those necessities (except the underwear) are available in the Inverted Gear store. In particular, I recommend new students get the gold weave Panda Gi, one or two long or short sleeve ranked rashguards, and the RDojo shorts. That will get you through years of gi and no-gi training. You’ll just want to get more gear later to make laundry rotation easier.
White or blue are your safest colors for gis since some schools have policies about that. Check if black is fine with your school first. It’s OK to get the black rashguard as a white belt--no one will confuse you for a black belt.
Use coupon code NEWBIE to get 10% off your entire purchase as my thanks for reading all the way down to here.
I hope this guide helps you find a great school that launches you into your journey towards BJJ black belt!