I am a research nerd. Before I picked my gym I researched a lot of aspects about Jiu-Jitsu gym culture and ultimately came to a few criteria that really helped me decide which gym I would train at.
Gym Location, Training Schedule, and Budget
I needed a gym that fit my schedule and within a reasonable driving distance. Lucky for me, there were a ton of gyms around me with flexible schedules, which gave me further options to be picky.
BJJ is expensive but the range can be pretty vast and I think it is important that you can afford your membership.
I wanted a gym that had a Gracie lineage because I definitely wanted a self-defense emphasis; and I did not know if I wanted to compete yet. I watched some of the Gracie combatives and I’m not saying that other schools don’t teach self-defense or sports Jiu-Jitsu is ineffective in a self-defense scenario. However, with my limited knowledge, and the information that I was exposed to, said that it is important to pick a school that fit your training goals and that Gracie schools usually started with self-defense.
If the mats at a gym were only cleaned once a month or less, I would not train there. I don’t want staph, ringworm, or any other nasty disease because a gym is too lazy to clean their mats. My gym had this down when I walked in the doors. I bought multiple Gi’s as a beginner because I wanted to be sanitary myself and not smell like a sweaty troll. I also expect my training partners and gym to reciprocate a level of cleanliness and vice-versa.
Gi, NoGi, and Striking
Though self-defense was my emphasis, I still wanted to try both Gi and NoGi. Not all gyms have both styles, but both would be awesome. Striking wasn’t huge on the list but if they also had a program then I definitely wasn’t complaining.
I definitely wanted a gym that had both competitors and hobbyists. This was because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to compete, but I definitely wanted to have the option and support if I decided to. Further, I wanted the place to feel safe and friendly because I have worked in toxic environments before, which made even fun work shitty. It’s nice when a choke comes with a smile or anything else for that matter.
Belt Distribution and Body Types
I wanted a gym that had a few black belts and a reasonable distribution of belts. This is because I wanted to be able to train with different levels of skills if possible. Granted, the only thing I noticed is that I get wrecked regardless of belt color at this time so I’m not sure if I really care at this point about the distribution.
However, body types are still important to me. I want to be able to defend against bears, rabbits, eagles, giraffes, monkeys and tigers. Also, big people, little people, strong people, weak people, Frankenstein, Lebron James, Tyrion Lannister, and The Mountain. Not to be creepy, but if you’re one of my training partners, it’s cause I like your body. Practicing with you is teaching me how to kill your type of body in the real world, and for this, I thank you. Granted, I also learn new ways I can die or get mangled, which is pretty awesome. Also, don’t mess with nice little ladies or pretty much anyone else in the real world because killers at my gym look like nice normal people.
Kick My butt
Before I went to any Jiu-Jitsu gyms, I decided that if I got to roll with any colored belts my first week, I better get my butt kicked efficiently. Wish granted. Thank you Dan, Teddy, and pretty much everyone who tapped me early on, you made me excited to train because of your BJJ skills of death.
Why learn if you’re good at it, am I right?
Additional Membership Perks
Alright, now I’m going to brag a bit. My gym has a crossfit-like gym, A/C, showers, and steam room. I train at a fancy BJJ gym but these were simply cherries on top. Also, I was lucky enough to have people I really click with at my gym and I’m making friends with people who practice killing me, which is freaking sweet!
Anyways, these were the main things that I remember putting on my checklist before walking into my first gym. Granted, the first gym I went to fit all these categories, and that’s because I do my research first with some geographical luck.
Thanks for reading, and if you are a Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, please leave a comment if you had something that was on your checklist before you joined that wasn’t on mine. Oss!