You’ve done the impossible — or rather — you’ve picked a martial arts branch to really train and get into. Choosing a branch fit for you was already tough enough—imagine having to make another decision towards your martial arts career. Well, if you are looking to train seriously and get an edge over the competition, it might be well worth it to invest in a school.
When you’re learning something on your own, through Youtube videos or tutorials, the journey can get pretty challenging— and lonely. Sometimes, even though you weren’t planning on spending the extra money investing in a school, you’ll benefit from the school more than you’ll ever miss that money.
After you’ve finally decided to go through with a school, you should try and pick the right one for you. I know, going into the gym, especially for a beginner, has its intimidation factor. Entering in a school and having to learn the ins and outs of a particular sport or technique that you have no prior experience with, can be really intimidating.
Also, fighting and sparring within your gym can also be a difficult and challenging experience, especially for your first time. Therefore, knowing that heading into your gym won’t be your death walk can also play a part in choosing your gym. However, don’t let yourself be afraid of jumping in— you might miss out on a life-changing experience.
I’m here to not only get you pumped to be able to take the initial steps of getting into a gym, you should also learn how to choose the right Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gym for you. Which is where I come in to help.
Now, how do you pick the right BJJ school?
There are several factors that go into picking the right BJJ school. For those who think it’s simply looking up on their phone for the nearest one, you can easily do that, of course. However, you should also recognize that there are various other factors that you need to look into when trying to pick the perfect gym for you.
This is a very important decision to make because you’ll be at the gym not only for your training but as your stress-relieving sanctuary. You will start your martial arts journey here but also create new lifelong friends and possibly family.
Here is a guide to help you pick the right BJJ school.
First, pick up that phone or turn on that computer to procure a search that locates all the BJJ gyms near you or in your area. Don’t limit the gyms to all the best in the area or even the ones with the lowest price. Research thoroughly. Look at reviews left by other customers or students that have been there, balance all the aspects that are important to you and go from there.
2. Make Contact
After you’ve identified all the gyms in your area, reach out to them and compare. Call the gyms and ask any questions that you may have regarding the class, material you need, how many people will be in the class, etc. You should also inquire about pricing. Most classes offer the first class free to try it out, so, if on your first contact they don’t give this offer, you should try the others.
3. Make a Trip
Once you’ve narrowed it down, head down to the gym yourself and check out the place. Meet people who are on the staff, like trainers and head trainers, and even talk to some of the students. If you like what you see, this is where you should set up your first class. Doing this will give you a great first impression of the gym. You should be valued as a new student and customer so not only should the staff treat you with respect, so should the other students. This can be a great predictor of how you will be treated if you decide to attend there.
4. Go to Your First Class
This might be the scariest of them all: heading into your first class of BJJ. When you attend it, you should be measuring out two different aspects that are most important in your decision. For one, you should judge out your experience overall. Were the students friendly? Did you feel too separated from the group? How did the coach approach you? Another thought should question the workout. Was it what you expected? Or better?
Having this little taste of the classes to come will help give you a prediction of what you’re going to experience if you sign up with this gym. Although you, personally, might not have done well, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should put that into a judgment of a particular gym.
5. Make Your Decision
After factoring in absolutely everything, you can now begin to make a decision. Take in everything you just experienced and compare it with other gyms you also went to. A comparison is great to do to be able to see which gym is best rather than picking one at random.
Once you’ve factored in everything and made your decision based on whatever is most important to you but mainly on a feeling, then you’re ready to go. However, if you are having a hard time deciding which gym or school to choose, it might be because of a few factors. I’m also going to let you in on a few things you should try and avoid when picking out a gym. These things will make the decision even more difficult or worse, it’ll have you regretting your decision. Maybe you won’t regret it immediately but perhaps sometime down the line.
Here is my list of things you should avoid when making a decision of a martial arts BJJ school or gym.
1. Factor in Everything
Instead of making your decision solely based on your price range— although we know it’s definitely a determining factor when you’re deciding where to best invest your money, it shouldn’t be everything. If you find a gym or school that’s near you with an affordable price, that’s wonderful, however, if you find another one that’s a little bit pricey but is so much better, you might want to think about saving money elsewhere. Sometimes it’s better to factor in better instructors rather than getting closed in on a contract that you don’t even enjoy.
At the end of the day it’s about you having fun and getting some fitness in or getting top-notch training and instruction. If you are just looking for somewhere to hit at a punching bag — again, remember what is most important for you.
2. Ask Anything
Especially when you’re there for there for the first time or if you’ve got them on the phone, make a list of questions that you may have. If you have a friend that’s already in BJJ or at a fighting school, you should ask them for advice on the best and most necessary questions to ask the gym or school before you join. They are there to serve you, so they have to be patient with all your questions, so, get them all in!
3. Watch Your Back
Although you want to believe that most people are trustworthy and good — that is not the case, unfortunately. Sometimes, you might have an instructor that is just trying to take advantage of people coming in and trying to make money off of them by putting them in contracts that are not beneficial to the client whatsoever. Do your research beforehand and make sure that the instructor has good reviews. Once you find out their name, even do a search on them to see how good they were to other students.
You might be a little hesitant to join, no matter what the reason may be. However, it’s best to know a few extra tips I have for you before you head into making a decision and choosing a school or gym. Here are a few tips to keep in mind either right before you make a decision or right before you head in for your first session:
Check in for the future.
Although you are just starting now, make sure that you are set up for the near future when you are ready and willing. For example, if you want to get into competition, make sure that your new gym also has competitors that have high goals or are already competing so you know it’s possible. If your new school or gym also has access to competitions and can help you get to them, that is also something to look into.
Don‘t Rush Perfection
Of course, I’m kidding here—perfection is hardly a goal to set for yourself (it’s not even a S.M.A.R.T. goal). However, especially when you first start off, you should know that it will take time for you and your body to get used to the training and learning techniques and skills, respectively. Learning BJJ is basically like learning an entirely new language, except for your mind AND your body! You will begin as a beginner and should begin the experience humbly.
Eyes on Technique
Rather than getting the next belt. Although of course, it’s always good to have a goal in mind and be working towards something, don’t focus too much on the belts. Learn as much technique as you can and the belts will come, eventually. If you are focusing too much on whipping through the courses, you won’t enjoy the journey.
Okay, finally, you get to your first class. Normally, the first class will be teaching you the first few basic techniques. These key sections will be in your first encounter with BJJ, regardless of where you’ll be learning, so it’s something to keep in mind and expect.
Just like with any other sport out there, you’re going to have to get warm before you head into the bulk of training. In warm-up, you’ll experience push-ups, running, jumping-rope, the list goes on and on. Therefore when you first walk into the gym or school, get yourself mentally prepared to move.
They like to set you straight, right from the beginning, so that you are less likely to develop poor habits that will be detrimental to your learning onwards. In the first class, you’ll be met with certain beginner techniques that will lay the foundation for moves later on.
If you’re up for it, the instructor might just throw you in against a willing opponent. This is when you are able to use whatever techniques you were just taught and be able to resist fully against an active opponent. One of these techniques is rolling and it will have you start on your knees or any one of those positions you just learned and have you matched up against your training opponent, just to get a little taste.
Now, finally, if you have your vision set high and eventually want to end up in one of the best facilities in the world, I’ve accumulated a list of the top 10 facilities for you to aim high to.
These BJJ schools are the best at what they do, from the amazing facilities to the beautiful locations and availability of high-class trainers and sparring partners, these are ten of the most beautiful and amazing BJJ academies from across the globe.
With every gym or school, I’m giving you the direct link to access their page so you can, of course, find out more.
Without further ado, here is the list:
10. Art of Jiu-Jitsu Academy
In Costa Mesa, California, USA, the Art of Jiu-Jitsu Academy is one of the best jiu jitsu schools in California. Its appearance is unmatched, looking more like a museum rather than an academy. It has world-class instruction from Guilherme and Rafael Mendes, Brazilian jiu jitsu fighters and BJJ instructors that know exactly what they’re talking about.
The facility comes with two quality mats that are supplied and granted with an ample amount of space for all their students, whether beginners or advance to train and learn BJJ. The entire academy is stark white in color, which makes it a great atmosphere and can help you begin anew each day. The facility includes separate showers, spots, lockers, a dry cleaning service for your Gi, and a lounge area. The best part about it? It’s right near the beach— perfect for a warm-up run or a post-chill session.
9. Copacabana BJJ Academy
Located in Warsaw, Poland, Copacabana BJJ Academy holds one of the biggest BJJ mat spaces in all of Europe. After taking a virtual walk at their locations on their site, (located above) you can see the space, the extremely large mat, and the extra workout equipment around it offered to its students. The Academy offers BJJ, Muay Thai, Judo and many other combat sports to their students.
8. Alliance Jiu-Jitsu Rio
Located in the heart of Rio itself, Alliance Jiu-Jitsu Rio offers Alliance Jiu Jitsu by its founder, Alexandre ‘Gigi’ Paiva, one of the best Jiu Jitsu instructors in the world. This is an upgraded gym, much bigger than the originals and have the history to back it up. This school is responsible for having top BJJ teams, and students who have gone on to be World Champion eleven separate times in the men’s division and nine times in the women’s division. They also offer an experimental class for beginners from five years old onwards.
7. Axis Jiu-jitsu Academy
One of the best BJJ schools on our list to spread around the world is the Axis Jiu-Jitsu Academy, located in Tokyo, Japan. Over twenty years of history, Takamasa Watanabe first created the original school, called Gracie Japan, as the first official Jiu-Jitsu school under instruction by the Gracie teachings in the country of Japan. Once Watanabe moved on to a larger facility, he changed the name. It was host to famous jiu jitsu fighters like Rickson Gracie and Watanabe himself, who is the only black belt from Rickson.
The facility includes mats with two layers for maximum protection and an anti-bacteria canvas, and a place to relax before and after training with beverages and organic fruit juices.
6. Evolve MMA Far East Branch
Spreading out to China, Evolve MMA Far East Branch is one of four different branches and locations in Singapore. This branch, however, is one of the best, so, if you’re looking to get away in a Brazilian jiu jitsu vacation, this might be for you. It is at the top of facilities all across Asia.
It is home to the best jiu jitsu practitioners, World Champion instructors, a large list of martial arts classes, modern facilities and one of the largest class schedules for all their martial arts branches.
5. ADCC (Abu Dhabi Combat Club)
Located in Abu Dhabi, UAE, the ADCC is a club and hosts of a competition. It was founded by Sheik Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the son of then U.A.E. leader Sheik Zayed. The facility has a ton of top instructors in various martial arts: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Wrestling, Sambo, Muay Thai, etc.
It is a world-class facility, inviting its students to train Gracie Jiu Jitsu vs BJJ and anything and everything in between. Responsible for and home to professional fighters, the ADCC is the top and most high-regarded training center for BJJ and MMA in the area.
4. Renzo Gracie Academy NYC
From the best jiu jitsu schools in los angeles, best bjj schools in florida, brazilian jiu jitsu houston tx, and all across the U.S., I bring you the best jiu jitsu NYC: The Renzo Gracie Academy NYC, located in New York.
This spacious, 15,000 square feet academy is really one of the best NYC jiu jitsu schools, located in the heart and rising up from the ground, covering loads of space to host hundreds of students. Easy to get to simply from its location one block from the Penn Station, the academy has three different floors solely dedicated to space for BJJ training. The mats covering their floors are Zebra mats and is climate controlled to provide the best environment for training its students. The facility also has numerous changing rooms, day lockers, and showers to wash up after or even before training.
Under the Gracie name, you can’t go wrong in BJJ.
3. Kron Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy
Kron Gracie is the son of Rickson Gracie. He is a grappling world champion and also, the head instructor at the Kron Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy, located in Culver City, California. This inspiring and world-class facility has a large mat area which is spread out over hundreds of tires and spring-loaded to prevent injuries, all the gear and equipment you could ever imagine to learn with, and locker rooms and showers to fit hundreds of students coming in every day.
Keon Gracie himself teaches classes and Rickson, his father, comes in to teach a few classes a week, as well.
2. Alliance Jiu-Jitsu Sao Paulo
One of the bigger Alliance gyms is located in the heart of São Paulo. Across all the separate facilities they have in the country, this academy hosts the team head office of the country. It is home to World Champions Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles, Gabi Garcia, Bernardo Faria, Marcelo Garcia, Lucas Lepri, Sergio Moraes, Michael Langhi, Tarsis Humphreys and many others who have walked through the gym and learned from the best. I placed it as number two on the list of the best BJJ schools in the world. If you are looking to train with the best where some of the best have been trained, this facility is for you.
1. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy
Number one on my list, located in Torrance, California, and has a broad, very long and cherished history behind its conception. When Rorion Gracie brought Gracie Jiu-Jitsu to the U.S. back in 1978, this academy was the first one he established, back in 1989. Today, it is one of the most enriching and best BJJ academies today, serving as the headquarters for a global organization with hundreds of affiliated schools and over 60,000 home-study students learning online in 196 countries. The academy is also home to a museum, top facilities to train out for several hundreds of thousands of students, and a huge mat space to top it all off.
I hope that this guide, not only showing you the best BJJ schools in the world today for you to set your standards right but also showing you how to pick the best school for you has helped you begin your martial arts journey.
I thought it was important to not only help you begin the choosing decision by starting off and showing you what is important in a fighting school or gym but also showing you what the best of the best look like. Therefore, you can now have an idea of what you should expect, from the best schools around you locally to the best schools in the world.