Man. There’s getting to be a ton of options for jiu-jitsu training. It seems like a new school opens at least quarterly.
So, as the prospective student, how do you know which one to choose? I’ll give you some ideas on what I think it’s important to look for when choosing a place to train.
- Is the place clean?
This is a big one. Not a whole lot else is going to matter on this list if the place is dirty. I’m not just talking about the mats, but the entire building. Is the front entrance clean? Bathroom(s)? Keeping the school clean really isn’t all that difficult. If they can’t be bothered to spend a few minutes a day cleaning up, you can bet that’s not the only place the owner is slacking.
- How’s the vibe?
What type of atmosphere are you looking for, and does the vibe of the room match that? Go watch a class and see how people interact. Are they joking around and smiling, or does it resemble a “gearing up” montage from an 80s action movie? Neither are necessarily wrong, but you need to make sure the vibe of the room is something that’s going to match your own personality. In my own schools, we keep things a little more relaxed. If you’re looking for a militant, “pain don’t hurt”, in-your-face style of coaching…I ain’t it. I won’t take it personally one bit if that’s what you want, and neither should any other Coach. Just make sure that you go to that place, instead of being frustrated when what’s already happening isn’t what you think should be happening.
- Whats the average age of the group? Or WHO is in the room?
This is another big one. If you’re in your 50s and looking for a new hobby, and you walk into a room full of competitive 20 year olds…you’re probably not going to have a good time. And vice versa. Be honest with yourself and your prospective Coach about who you are and what you’re looking to gain from the school. Be careful of the sales pitch here. There are school owners out there who are out to see if they can cover this month’s light bill by getting you signed up and sold a gi, and they’ll worry about next month later. If you’re a female and there are zero other females already on the floor (particularly colored belts), that may be worthy of your consideration.
- What are the associated fees?
I’m gonna make some people mad with this one. If you’re met by a list of things that you MUST buy from the school, or “administration fees”, sign-up fees, etc…you’re probably being taken for a ride. This should be seen as a sign of the person’s character that you’re working with. You haven’t even signed the waiver and they’re trying to figure out how many ways YOU can benefit THEM. I was taught that it’s the other way around.
- Are there competition requirements?
Rickson Gracie said (paraphrase) “85% of the jiu-jitsu community never competes. Why do we cater to the 15%?” Good question. You may want to compete, and you may have zero interest. There’s a place in jiu-jitsu for both. Some schools have competition requirements for rank advancement (though they may not market themselves that way), and some don’t. Some coaches prod their students into competing, and some never bring it up. You need to decide what you’re looking for, and pick the school that matches that.
- Does the focus of the curriculum match your interests?
Another question you need to answer is what you’re looking to get out of the training. Self Defense? Competition? Fitness? There are jiu-jitsu schools that never touch on Self Defense considerations. At least not directly. If you’re not interested in that, that’s perfectly fine, just don’t be sold on a membership at a school that doesn’t go over things that you want to learn. If you want to make a competition run, make sure the Coach can help you with that, and has a history of getting people to some degree of success in that area.
- Is the Coach/Instructor legit?
If you can’t come up with a school owner or instructor’s background after a few minutes of an internet search…be wary. They should at least have a website with some form of background or resume, and that should include who they learned from. Look for pictures of them being promoted. Is it by the same person? It’s not necessarily a huge deal if not, but it definitely warrants a conversation, and they shouldn’t have a problem at all explaining themselves. Did they attend classes regularly as a student? Do not let people devalue this information. It absolutely matters. If everything they know came from a video, then there’s absolutely no need to pay them, just buy the video yourself. There are things that go on in classes that cannot be gleaned from a phone or computer screen. Sure, video can be used to SUPPLEMENT what you learned in class, but it should never replace time spent in front of a quality coach.
These are a few things to take into consideration, but is certainly not an exhaustive list. Hopefully this list will help you decide where to find the optimum fit for your Jiu-Jitsu journey! Start a conversation with your prospective school owner. They’re asking you to make a significant investment of both your time and money. Take yourself seriously and do a little homework. It’ll pay off big.