Running a BJJ academy is not an easy task. The owner really needs to be passionate about their job in order for the academy to be a success. Here are my top 10 features for a BJJ academy to be deemed a success. They are in no particular order and are all of equal importance.
1- Friendly atmosphere
In order for the academy to flourish, there has to be a friendly and positive atmosphere. People that have had a hard day at work or at home, should feel happy when they come training. It’s a place where they can train hard, release stress and have fun with their friends. Many schools are either too serious or too relaxed. It’s hard to find the right balance. The academy owner needs to be sure to remove all negative elements (members) so as not to polute the group. This means that they have to deal swiftly with any issue such as arguments, fights, complaints etc..
2- Great location
The academy’s location should be convenient for the students. To improve in Jiu-Jitsu, you need to train on a regular basis. If someone has constantly to drive hours in traffic t make it to train, they may end up quitting. Make sure that the academy is located in an easy to reach, central location.
3 – Daily training session or even better, several training sessions a day
Obviously as a business owner you want to attract as many people as you want. The best way to do so is to have classes at different time throughout the day as well as different types of classes. This way you can attract all kinds of people and give them the option to choose what best suits them. A few examples would be classes focused on competition, kids classes, self defense and beginners classes. Having classes at different times will also help you target the people who are free only during specific times of the day.
4 – Reliable, and qualified instructors
In a time when BJJ is getting more popular worldwide, you will often have a lot of choice when choosing an instructor. The first criteria should be level of experience and track record. The problem is that many BJJ players start their teaching prematurely. They should not start teaching if they still do not have the required experience which is needed in order to effectively transmit the knowledge acquired through years of hard training. Let’s take two instructors, one is a blue belt (yes it happens in areas where BJJ is not so popular) who has been training for 2 years and the other is a black belt with 10+ years. The difference in the teaching level when it comes to explaining details/ concepts will be huge. A blue belt barely understands Jiu-Jitsu. Some people are grappling geniuses (Gracie Barra’s Ze Radiola started teaching as a blue belt and was able to form champions like Braulio Estima or Otavio Sousa) and can understand from an early stage but it’s rare to find someone like that. Nothing beats experience.
Having good instructors is an extremely important point since it can make or break your business. The instructor must be extremely reliable and professional with a very good ability to communicate properly with his students and explain the techniques in a simple but still effective way. This counts mainly if he is dealing with children, since a different approach might be required in this case.
5- Class syllabus
Does the instructor follow a syllabus? Students will learn better when they follow a plan.
I focus on 1 position for the whole week. For example: the mount. Students will see all the options when defending and attacking the mount. All specific exercise and rolls will start from the mount. By the end of the week, their mount has vastly improved and we can go the next position.
6 – A well designed and informative website
Most likely before even dropping by to check your academy out someone will try to gather information about you on the internet. This is when a well designed and informative website comes into play. You must be able to put all your relevant information in there in a very organized and visually clean manner. Bringing traffic to the page is very important, since that’s how you will attract new customers, so don’t give the impression your club is unorganized by having an unorganized website. Basically don’t just drop all your information in one page and make sure that it’s easy for someone to browse through the website and find what they are looking for.
7- Free Trial Offer
The free trial is pretty self explanatory. It can be a class, a week, a month or whatever. If the competitors in your area offer a free class, maybe you can try offering a free week and see how that does.
Many gyms owners offer a free month. Some offer a free month with no strings attached. Some have you buy a “beginners package” with a gi, t-shirt, mouth piece, etc. to get the free month. There’s a lot of different ways to go about it, but offering some sort of free trial is a great way to get people to contact you and give you the chance to turn them into a potential student.
8 – Friendly and motivated staff
The first impressions are the most lasting, so it is really important for someone to be well greeted and professionally taken care of during the first time visiting your academy. Obviously the person responsible for it must be well motivated and understand well about the facilities and BJJ in general, so it can be explained to your soon to be customers why BJJ and your academy are the best option for them.
9 – Local advertising
Many people get so deeply involved with advertising their facilities on social media that they forget that they actually should be targetting the people on their own area. While social media can work great for these purposes, there is no guarantee it will actually reach the people who are the closest to you. In this case the old fashioned way of putting flyers around still works wonders.
10 – Clean facilities
One of the most important points of them all, because at the end of the day no one wants to train at a dirty place. Especially when we talk about sports that involved physical contact such as BJJ and skin infections can be an issue. For sure you don’t want people to be talking about your academy as “the dirty one”. It even goes back to advertising since the word of mouth is still one of the most effective ways to increase or ruin your reputation.
Written Guillaume (Gile) Huni, BJJ black belt and head instructor of Kimura Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Belgrade, Serbia.