Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) is a pretty intimate sport. If you’re going to be sticking your face into a stranger’s armpit, you need to make sure you’re in the right place. That means finding a gym that’s welcoming, comfortable, safe, and professional.
Sadly not all gyms tick those boxes. Some might have the right credentials but the wrong feel. Others might not have the classes or facilities you’re looking for. And some just smell funky.
Read on for our guide to finding the perfect martial arts match – a gym that supports you in your training and helps you nail your goals.
Finding the right gym (& the right Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class)
Most of us are pretty lazy when it comes to exercise. Even exercise that we love.
Studies show that distance is a huge factor in creating a regular gym habit. Human nature being what it is, we look for reasons not to get our butts off the couch – don’t let location be that reason.
Find a gym that’s close enough to keep your motivation going. And one that suits your schedule. If you’re going to be working out 2-3 times a week, your gym needs to be within easy reach.
Before you commit to a gym, visit. This gives you a chance to check out the feel of the place and find out what their focus is – whether that’s competition, learning, or taking a more traditional approach.
A visit also allows you to meet the coaches, observe some classes, and talk to other students. In short, it’s a really useful information-gathering exercise that’ll help you find what you’re looking for.
At Innisfil Brazilian Jiu Jitsu we offer a free introductory visit to all curious would-be students. Our coaches are always happy to show newcomers around the gym and have a discussion about their objectives.
We’ll talk about what you want out of your classes and help you set realistic goals, we’ll also discuss any previous experience you may have with BJJ and any injuries you might be worried about. This comprehensive approach is designed to keep you safe and build trust as we get to know you better.
Not all BJJ classes are alike. Every gym has their own approach to training with some favoring a more traditional approach based on Japanese philosophy, some laser-focused on competing, and some prioritizing self-defence.
Our gym isn’t interested in belts or bragging rights. We’re here to give you the tools to navigate challenges, improve your health, and defend yourself from attacks.
Our training looks at the ‘why’ of a technique, rather than just teaching it by rote. We encourage students to use their brain as much as their body, problem-solving encounters on the mat to bring the BJJ fundamentals to life in new ways.
And we find that our students really respond to this approach. It makes the sport fun, intriguing, and always challenging.
Experience, expertise, and qualifications are obviously important in selecting a coach. But equally important is the need to find an instructor who genuinely cares about your journey.
There’s a delicate power balance between coach and student in BJJ. You’re developing a long term relationship that’ll be tested by the inevitable ups and downs in your training. You need a coach that’s there for all of it and personally invested in your progress.
Don’t sign up for a class until you’ve met your coach and got some idea of who they are, and whether they’ll fulfill this criteria. You may also want to check Google reviews and talk to some of their students. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Any good coach will be more than happy to share their stories and training philosophy.
Red flags to watch out for
- A coach who doesn’t roll with their students – your coach should be getting on the mat with you to demonstrate techniques
- ‘Bro’ culture – if you walk into a BJJ class and it’s all men, walk out again
- Stinky gyms – same applies if the gym smells like a locker room. This is a high-contact sport and no-one wants to go home with a communicable disease
What to expect from your first BJJ class
First impressions matter, but don’t be disheartened if your first Jiu Jitsu class isn’t what you expected. It’s not fun to be a beginner, but you’re only a beginner in your first class. It does get easier and you’ll see fast progress if you stick with it.
Expect your first class to be intense. Prepare yourself to feel uncomfortable and out of your depth – that’s where the magic happens. We have a saying in martial arts, ‘a black belt is a white belt who never quit’.
With the right gym, the right class, and the right coach, you won’t want to quit. Give yourself the best chance of success and get to know a gym before committing to a class.
If you’re interested in training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, try our gym on for size. We encourage all students to start with a free introductory class so they can make sure we’re the right fit for their needs. Contact Coach PK to schedule your session today!