Photo by Zoran Milic
Picking the right BJJ school is like finding your significant other (yes, seriously). You
have to try it, love it and then remain faithful. Your BJJ school can either make or break your
experience in the martial arts, so it’s vital to look out for the right one when saying the big “I
do.” The key is to take your time and not rush into commitment until you have explored all of
Step 1: Pay a Visit
The first step to finding a good school is to list all the academies in your area. Visit as many as
you can. Watch some classes, and get to know the instructors. Don’t feel pressured to jump into a
class during your first visit. Sit back and pay close attention to interactions between the students
and their coach. Is the teacher leaving at regular intervals to use the phone? Is there a respectful,
non-judgmental vibe about the students? Are there cliques? Is the environment clean? Another
tip: Don’t tell anyone you plan to watch a practice session. Just show up, so that the coach
doesn’t make sure everyone is on their best behavior for your visit. Also, if the academy doesn’t
allow you to attend a free class, immediately cross it off your list.
Step 2: Who’s the Coach?
Make sure to research the owner/instructors thoroughly. Sometimes the owner will not teach the
class, so it’s important to check that you are going somewhere with reputable teachers. The
schools usually have a social media page, so it’s wise to check online reviews. After that first
class, you want to ask some tough questions: Do you feel welcome by the instructor? Did he or
she take the time to help you learn the moves? Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Remember that
you are there for your journey. A friendly instructor attracts friendly students. Trust your gut!
You will likely get an instant reaction the second you step on the tatami.
Step 3: Core
You will need to find out what area of BJJ you want to specialize in. Some schools focus strictly
on competition, while others welcome hobbyists, and some encourage a mix of the two. My
school is a blend of everything, which gives me a wide array of daily targets. Ask yourself:
“What do I really want out of this experience?” Since each school has different attitudes and
advantages, picking the wrong setting can be soul-crushing.
Step 4: Location/Schedule:
Location is very important. Will you be willing to commit to the 40 mile drive, three times a
week for practice? Knowing what will work for your schedule and what is realistic is key to
staying consistent. If you hesitantly pick a school that’s far away, you will find all sorts of
excuses to not make the trek. It’s also vital to check if the school offers a flexible practice
schedule for the area you’re trying to target. If there are only a few beginners’ classes offered in
a week, at times that are inconvenient for you, it may not be worth the effort. If that’s the case,
just move on to another school.
Written by Hannah Milic
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