Some Differences Between Training at a Big Name Academy vs.a Local Academy

Some Differences Between Training at a Big Name Academy vs.a Local Academy

Picking a jiu-jitsu academy is difficult. Almost every city offers a whole range of schools. Do you want to train under a legend and roll with a fleet of world champions? Or do you prefer a more intimate school where you can eat at Chipotle with your head instructor? 

Recently, my wife and I moved from Atlanta, GA - where I received my blue and purple belts from Sam Joseph at Buckhead Jiu-Jitsu– to Orange County, CA where I started training at the Art of Jiu-Jitsu (AOJ).  After settling into the new school, I began noticing some differences beyond the obvious price, location, and style of instruction. 

Here are a few of those differences.

I joined Buckhead Jiu-Jitsu a couple of years after it opened. Before leaving, I had a solid relationship with almost everyone there. I’d known them since we were clueless white or struggling blue belts.  The Ruth that wins double gold at Pans is the same Ruth who struggled to win a single match at white belt. The Marc who I text weekly is the same Marc I was nervous to talk to when we awkwardly shared an AirBNB at Pans. The relationships I made at Buckhead Jiu-Jitsu are still some of the strongest bonds I’ve built. 

At AOJ there are people I may never meet as they attend different classes than me. There are instructors who may never know my name. Yet with time, you start to establish your favorite partners, you gravitate to certain instructors, and people start to learn your name (and Instagram handle). I may not have inside jokes with almost everyone at AOJ, but with time and effort I’ve started to fit in.

With a diverse set of students at AOJ, there’s no telling what you will experience in any given class. If you want to work double guard pull, there’s a fresh brown belt ready to gently toe hold you from crab ride. If you want to get beat up by a 15-year old phenom, there’s a few right over there. If you want to work on passing spider-guard, there’s someone that plays it. The variety of partners is almost endless, constantly test your knowledge.

When you train with the same people every day, you get to know their habits. I know Joe will start with a knee cut attempt. He knows I want a nearside sleeve grip. I avoid Kennith’s half guard like the plague. He avoids my DLR hook. These little nuances make us grow, providing priceless feedback because we know each other’s games so intimately.

I remember competing at a major competition. My opponent asked where I trained.  I said, “Buckhead Jiu-Jitsu.”  Being from a big school, he said, “Never heard of it.”  That was all the motivation I needed to win that match. I thoroughly enjoyed winning competitions while helping spread the reputation of Buckhead Jiu-Jitsu.

When I competed under AOJ for the first time, the opposing coach yelled, “Don’t let him invert.” Instead I looked for that nearside sleeve control to come up for my favorite sweep (and subsequently win). Competing for AOJ has its own built-in reputation, a little mental edge for competitions.

There are a plethora of other differences between AOJ and Buckhead Jiu-Jitsu. For me, I see Buckhead Jiu-Jitsu as my hometown. It will always have a special place because of the way it crafted me into the person I’ve become. AOJ, though, is like moving to the big city and trying to prove you belong. Either way, I don’t think anyone can go wrong if the academy provides what you want.

Tom is currently a purple belt at Buckhead Jiu-Jitsu in Atlanta, GA under Sam Joseph. In his free time he enjoys travels with his wife, Jiu-Jitsu, and better incorporating the two.

You can find out more about his adventures in Jiu-Jitsu on Instagram.