How to Choose the Right BJJ Gym For You
Updated: May 24
Put your money and time in the right place by picking the right BJJ gym the first time.
Deciding to try jiu-jitsu can feel like a great step for anyone. It’s a long fulfilling journey filled with ups and downs to a path that leads you to a black belt and beyond (depending on what you would like to do). But before you think about what your BJJ journey will bring to you, you got to choose the right place to practice a.k.a. the right BJJ gym.
When it came to choosing a gym when I first started training jiu-jitsu, I chose my first gym Railside because my friend Mike suggested it and he knew the people there. When I got to Shanghai, I chose the first gym by Googling bjj gyms. This ended up being a not-so-great culture fit/monetary fit for me in the beginning but through trying gyms, taking friends’ suggestions, thinking about what I wanted to accomplish, and going with what felt right, I got the right gym.
You can totally look up “jiu-jitsu gyms near me” on Google or look at some Instagram ad that tells you that the gym is “the best gym in the area”. Yea, that’s a great start of course but I’m sure you want to find somewhere that gives you everything you want and more in training. There are a lot of factors that go into choosing the right place so here are some BGWG tips in choosing the right gym for you.
You might have decided to choose jiu-jitsu for a few reasons: you want to learn self-defense, you want to train mixed martial arts, you want to get fit in a non-conventional way, etc. etc. You should be somewhat clear of what you want, of course knowing the fact you can always change your mind later.
I mention this because you might want your gym to have different facilities outside of jiu-jitsu, like weights to help with strength training, other martial arts like Muay Thai, boxing, wrestling, etc. Maybe you only want to do jiu-jitsu and you want a gym that has recognized champions teaching there or you want to do competitions. These are all things that you should consider in picking your gym.
My goal was originally to be a mixed martial artist and fight in fight shows and kick ass and I was told that I should start with jiu-jitsu, as that it was the hardest to learn. But as I got older and got more into BJJ, my goals changed a bit. It all depends on your journey. Things always change and that’s fine.
I don’t know about you but sometimes proximity to things makes it easier for you to keep on track and keep up those goals you’re trying to achieve. So, when it comes to picking a good gym, a location that is near to you or that is along the routes that you take in your daily routine is key. Maybe you want to choose somewhere that is right next to your job so you bring your training gear and soon as you get off, you can slide on over to the gym. Maybe you want to train somewhere that’s right around the corner from your house so the days you tell yourself you just want to stay in and watch Netflix, you can convince yourself that you can train first and then go home after and chill.
More and more jiu-jitsu gyms are popping up so you can always check Google with “jiu-jitsu gyms near me” to find out what’s around you.
I’ve mentioned in previous articles that comfort is important for everyone around no matter who you are, your fitness level, your knowledge of martial arts, etc. You should always choose a gym that makes you feel comfortable and safe. It might take some time to get to a point of comfort with your training partners, coaches, and the gym itself but I think there are some factors that will let you know if you can be comfortable there.
Some of these comfort items might include women only classes for women who feel most comfortable being in close contact with other women, beginner classes that really go in dept of how to do jiu-jitsu, or a gym that is more inclusionary despite your level or your background and doesn’t feel like there is a “in-crowd”.
The act of training is important but what about the gym itself? Sometimes the facilities a gym has is important for making you feel at home. I am definitely the kind of person who likes to take their time getting ready, especially if I have a date. I also like to bring out my best facial and shower stuff to look nice. So, gyms that have all the fancy steam rooms, saunas, showers, great mirror lighting, blow dryers, and other things are great for me.
If you’re also like me, the facilities are something that you should consider in choosing your gym. There are some BJJ gyms that are truly grassroots that don’t even have showers. It might just be a small location and they have one room to change where everyone needs to take turns. This reminds me of one my old gyms called Warzone where there was many a time where I accidentally walked in on some dude in his underwear because they forgot to lock the door. A small location lacking in fancy facilities might be okay for you if you consider the other factors like location, goals, and also price.
Price of course is a big one, considering the fact that you need to pay for your training. Some of the gyms you might consider have all the fancy equipment, great coaches, a check-in desk, world-class athletes, great facilities, but will cost you your life savings. If you’re going to the small, grassroots gym then maybe it won’t cost you as much.
When it comes to pricing, you should really think about what you’re trying to get out of BJJ and if you’re willing and dedicated to training to reach your goals. Sometimes it might seem like the more money you pay, the faster you’ll learn and rank up because you’re putting the money towards it. Maybe that can be true, but it all depends on your mindset. Assess your own finances, schedule, and lifestyle because you might end up spending an arm and a leg when you can only train once or twice a week. In addition, something cheaper might not necessarily mean it’s bad or not a quality gym. You can find some good training deals depending on where you live or some policies the gym has.
Wherever you pick to train, you have to make sure that you stay consistent not only because of what you put into your training but by the people you train with and learn from. You want to make sure that you choose somewhere that makes you feel welcome and makes you feel excited to go train every time. If there is some kind of in-crowd that you feel you can’t penetrate because your jiu-jitsu isn’t good enough or because you don’t look a certain way or have a certain “esthetic”, you’re going to feel weird and left out. You want to feel like you can approach anyone for help, that you can ask anyone to train, and outside of the gym you have friends to hang out with.
Community in and out of the gym is so important to me. When you’re in Shanghai or any place you’re new, an expat, or alone without friends and family, you need people that you can talk to, lean on, and just make you feel that you’re at home. So, for me, when I was in Shanghai, I needed a place that gave me the opportunity to have my friends be my training partners. I’ve gone through a few BJJ gyms in both China and the US and the gyms I’ve chosen have mostly been influenced by my friends.
Maybe you don’t do jiu-jitsu to socialize (I find this impossible because you need people in order to do jiu-jitsu) and you just want to go in, get your class, get your rolls, and then leave. Then the community aspect might not be important for you.
I’ve talked about everything you should consider but here’s how to put it together when you need to finally choose.
Things to Note in Making Your Final Choice:
Do a Weighted Scale
List everything listed in this article and measure out everything on a scale of one to five or one to ten. See which items are the most important to you and keep that in mind when you go out to look for your first gyms. I did mention that my friends were a major part in me choosing the gyms I chose but just keep in mind that your goals and what you like might differ than what your friends like.
Try multiple gyms
If you’re new to jiu-jitsu or new to an area, don’t be afraid to try multiple gyms. Don’t just walk into the first gym you see on Google and decide that’s your gym. Take your checklist or keep it in mind and try a bunch of gyms. Some gyms have trial periods, and you can take advantage of that to see if you’ll like training there full-time. You can enjoy the classes and the facilities, see if you like the training and teaching style, and decide what to do after.
Don’t let anyone intimidate you
When you go to train at a new gym, people will obviously try to convince you to train with them. I can’t say they don’t care about your training, but most gym owners need to make their money through membership. In my opinion, the best gyms let the training and the class experience speak for itself. But there will be owners or coaches who will tell you why you should train there and how their gym is the best in the area. Don’t let anyone intimidate you to join if you’re not 100% sure if you want to go to that gym. If you’re one of those people who are easily convinced or feels weird when people keep hounding you about paying for something, just tell the person that you need to think about it. If they’re hassling you, you don’t want to go to a gym who’s just out to get your money and that’s it. Be strong and keep your goals in mind.
Deciding to train jiu-jitsu is a big decision but the first step in choosing a gym can be a bigger one. You want to make sure overall that your comfort, your goals, and needs in jiu-jitsu are being met.
What are the factors that made you choose your BJJ gym and which factors do you think are the most important in your jiu-jitsu gym?