Students learning Jiu Jitsu in a class

How to Choose the Right Jiu Jitsu Gym

If you Google “Jiu Jitsu gyms near me” and several options come up, you may be wondering what are the differences between different Jiu Jitsu schools and how to choose the right Jiu Jitsu academy.

Granted, many Jiu Jitsu students don’t have many options when it comes to choosing a place to train. Many have started their Jiu Jitsu journey in a garage or basement learning from the Internet or have to commute long distances to and from the only gym in their area. For many years, I myself wanted to learn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu but didn’t feel that any of the gyms in my city were a good fit for me as a beginner.

For those who are lucky enough to live close enough to several BJJ schools or who are visiting another city and looking for a place to train, the following factors are all important considerations when choosing a Jiu Jitsu gym.

Practical Considerations

Class Schedule

Perhaps most obvious, you’ll need to choose a Jiu Jitsu gym with a class schedule that aligns with your personal and professional commitments. Look for academies that offer flexible timings, including morning, evening, and weekend classes. Make sure you’re aware of the length of the classes. The more options available, the easier it is for you to incorporate BJJ into your daily routine.

Distance to Commute

A shorter commute saves time, reduces the chances of you skipping sessions, and allows you to maintain a consistent training schedule. If you’re visiting a new city, be sure to consider the distance to gyms you may want to train at when booking a place to stay.

If you choose a gym with a long commute for your regular training, you may want to consider cross training at a second school closer to where you live. Look for schools nearby that allow drop in visitors to attend their Open Mats to get extra rolling time between your regular classes.

Membership Cost

Training BJJ can vary in cost depending on location, instructor pedigree, and facilities. Compare membership fees across gyms, and determine which offers the best value for money. Remember, the most expensive isn’t always the best and vice versa.



In a contact sport like BJJ, cleanliness is paramount. At minimum, a gym should disinfect their mats on a daily basis, have clean bathrooms and changing areas, and be free of unpleasant odors. Additionally, a gym that takes pride in maintaining a neat and organized training facility is likely to provide quality in other areas.


Some Jiu Jitsu schools require their students to train in a heavy gi without air conditioning, either by choice or by necessity. If this is the case at a school you’re considering, you’ll want to know in advance what you’re in for.


All of the aspects of a gym’s environment contribute to its students’ overall experience. Some BJJ students may value the camaraderie they find sweating it out in a garage gym with others who are equally passionate. Others for whom Jiu Jitsu is a hobby to be balanced with work and family life may prefer a BJJ gym that provides accommodations similar to what one would expect from a yoga studio or fitness club.

While how “posh” you want your gym to be really comes down to preference, a gym’s physical environment can often be a strong indicator if its culture.


Workout intensity

Jiu Jitsu classes can vary widely in the amount of a workout they offer. Some gyms begin each class with just a light warm-up or no warm-up (expecting students to warm up on their own before class), while others begin with intense conditioning.

Some gyms include rolling or sparring at each class, while others focus primarily on drilling technique and only allow rolling at Open Mats or other classes designated for this purpose. Choose a class that’s a good fit for you based on your lifestyle and fitness goals.

Instruction format

The quality and content of instruction at a gym can have a huge impact on your ability to progress in the sport. Not everyone learns in the same way, and not everyone who is good at Jiu Jitsu is good at teaching it. Here are some things to consider when evaluating the instruction offered at a particular gym:

  • Do beginners have the opportunity to learn all of the fundamental techniques in an orderly and a systemic way, or are they expected to figure things out on their own and ask upper level belts when they need help?
  • Is there a curriculum that’s followed or a set of techniques to be mastered at each belt level?
  • Do upper level belts in mentorship or leadership roles feel challenged and have adequate opportunities to continue progressing their own game?
  • Do the lessons focus on specific sequences of techniques, or do they convey principles that can be applied to various situations?
  • Is information presented in manageable chunks, or do you feel overwhelmed and struggle to remember the steps while drilling?
Students learning Jiu Jitsu in a class

Belt System

One might think that there is some sort of standard that applies to all Jiu Jitsu schools when it comes to the belt ranking system, but this is not the case. Generally, it’s up to each instructor to determine the requirements for promotion.

Some instructors surprise their students with a new belt when the are deemed ready, while others require a formal test or demonstration of skills. Some schools factor time and attendance into their promotion criteria, while others may promote a student after an important win at a competition. Finally, some Jiu Jitsu schools award stripes between belts, while others only award belts.

Jiu Jitsu schools that are affiliated with a particular “brand name” or which are branches of a school that started in another city will typically follow the same system as others with the same affiliation.

Jiu Jitsu Style

Jiu Jitsu has evolved into several distinct styles.

Classes where students train in a gi tend to be more traditional and include techniques for using the gi to control and submit your opponent, whereas no-gi classes incorporate more wrestling-based techniques. Even schools which offer both classes in both styles usually lean more heavily toward one style or the other.

Additionally, the instructor’s lineage and personal fighting style plays a big part in which techniques which are taught. Some techniques require more speed and flexibility, while others rely on using one’s body weight. Try multiple styles and see which one you like best!

No Gi Jiu Jitsu


Some gyms strongly encourage their students to compete, and at these schools much emphasis is given to strategy and techniques that will win a match. Other schools focus primarily on teaching techniques that are practical for real-life self-defense, and while these techniques could save your life, they may not be as effective for scoring points against someone who is also trained in Jiu Jitsu and knows your game.

In addition to the difference in the techniques being taught, the training intensity is often a lot higher at competitive gyms, since conditioning is an important part of preparing for competition. A gym where most people train as a hobby may also mean that the warmups are less intense, the time commitment is less demanding, or that there’s less risk of injury…but not necessarily!

Gym Culture

While values may differ widely from one gym to another, an environment that promotes respect, inclusiveness, and camaraderie will facilitate better learning and personal growth. Here are some things to look for as indicators of a Jiu Jitsu gym’s culture:


First impressions matter. Trust your instincts. If you feel welcomed, relaxed, and excited upon your first visit, it’s a good sign. Here are some other things to look for:

  • Students and instructors greet you and introduce themselves to you.
  • Training partners treat each other with respect and are not overly egotistical.
  • Students seem to be enjoying the class, even when working hard.
  • There is a sense of camaraderie before and after class, but not cliquishness.
  • Instructors treat students with respect.
  • No one is shamed, excluded, or pressured to do something they’re uncomfortable with.

Type & Variety of Students

An ideal gym will make people of all backgrounds and ethnicities feel equally welcome. Do you notice students of all ages? Does the ethnicity of the students reflect the diversity of the area? Are there women training, including upper belt levels?

Additionally, an established gym should have a mix of beginners, intermediates, and advanced students. This variety enhances the learning experience, as you can learn from and be inspired by advanced students while mentoring beginners.

Women fighting in guard


A BJJ gym with a good culture prioritizes student safety. For example:

  • Students should be encouraged to tap early instead of viewing tapping as a sign of weakness.
  • Care and respect for one’s training partners should be emphasized.
  • While drilling, learning should be prioritized above winning.
  • Students shouldn’t be shamed for physical limitations or pressured to train while sick or injured.

Rules & Traditions

Some Jiu Jitsu gyms are more formal while others are very casual, and while neither style is necessarily right nor wrong, it’s important that the level of formality aligns with what you’re looking for.

As important as the formal rules such as bowing when stepping onto the mat are unspoken rules and traditions that can determine the culture of a gym. A gym that treats you like an outsider or makes you feel bad for not conforming to rules you didn’t know about might have a culture problem. Additionally, if a gym has rules or traditions that you’re uncomfortable with, you might want to find a different place to train.

Red Flags to Watch Out For

Steer clear of gyms where instructors belittle students, there’s evident favoritism, or where injuries are frequent. Any signs of a toxic culture, such as bullying or discouragement, should be taken seriously.

How to Know You’ve Found a Good Jiu Jitsu School

A good BJJ gym will make you feel at home. The instructor will be knowledgeable, the students supportive, and the environment conducive to learning. You’ll feel a sense of belonging, and your passion for BJJ will grow with each class. When you look forward to each session, you know you’ve found the right place.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *