Choosing a BJJ club
There are several reasons why someone might find themselves out looking for a new BJJ club. The obvious one being the total beginner, looking to get started in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and having a look around their local area for somewhere they can get started with training. The next up might be someone who has just moved, be it from one city to the next or from country to country, whatever the move, they are in a new town and want to keep their training up. The third type is a bit more ambiguous. I have seen people over the years change clubs for many reasons, the atmosphere in their original club changed to their dislike, a gym became too commercial, a mc dojo if you will, there was some bullying going on that made the atmosphere unappealing....whatever the circumstance, it was time to move on. So let's have a look at a few factors to consider when searching for a new club.
1- Location off the nearest BJJ Club
I've heard plenty of stories of people travelling for hours and hours to get to their nearest club just to train an hours BJJ then get back in the car and drive home. While admirable, this to me isn't a good use of my time (unless of course you live in the middle of nowhere and your nearest club is miles away). If you are lucky enough to live in an area with several clubs, I would pick one relatively close by.
On a shitty winters evening when it's raining outside and the thought of a long commute to the club makes you cringe, you are far more likely to just stay in, so pick somewhere local, easy to get to that you can consistently make class and not have to spend hours getting to. Think work life balance !
2 - The Atmosphere in the BJJ club
I've been to many clubs over the years, all with varying atmospheres, generally dictated by the head instructor. Where you had a coach that was a bit of a tough guy, or fancied themself as one there tends to be this macho attitude that permeates down through the students. For me, this type of club is to be avoided, as they are generally full of douche-bags. Look for a club that has a friendly, chilled atmosphere.
If the people there seem friendly and say hi, or come over for a chat, you are on to a winner. Remember for 99% of you, this is a pastime, not a professional pursuit, so you want to do it in a nice atmosphere, with people that will (hopefully) become your friends.
3- Quality of BJJ training
The reason I put this one third, rather than at the top of the list is again that for most, this is a pastime. If location and atmosphere are crappy, there is a very high chance the new student won't even try a class, let alone sign up.
Good training is hugely important. If you are brand new, look for a club with a structured beginners program in place, it will exponentially improve your advancement. Clubs that teach whatever the coach fancies that day, I find are less complete in their games and quality of students vary wildly. A structured plan, leads to consistently good students. Think of it this way, would you send your kids to a school with no syllabus, with what they learn that day up to the whim of the teacher - I know I wouldn't.
Image courtesy of VT1 Gym
Look for a club that has a good high standard. Good physical training, but conducted in a safe manner by students that look like they have some self control. I'm not saying people need to roll light, but if they roll hard, just make sure it's safe. I'd avoid the MMA style of BJJ where someone generally ends up injured. An injured partner means you have one less person to help you improve the next day.
4 - BJJ club costs
While not the most glamorous factor in deciding your BJJ training, it is an important one. Aim for a club that isn't going to financially ruin you, training is great but you may need to occasionally have some money left over for smaller things, like mortgages, car repayments, kids presents etc etc. Worth bearing in mind.
Image courtesy of The Guardian
Clubs that offer additional things for your cash like a weights area, Judo, Wrestling or some Muay Thai or Yoga classes are generally better value - plus it's always good to try new stuff.
5 - The BJJ Club
The standard of actual clubs has changed a lot over the years. From the humble local parish hall, or car garage that many of us started in, all the way up to the new super clubs like the Mendes Bros are running there is a great variety out there. While not every town is going to have something as fancy as the Mendes Bros, you can certainly have a look round for something decent.
Image courtesy of Graciemag
Things like making sure the club is cleaned well, there are plasters lying in the shower, water bottles left strewn around around etc etc, just cleanliness in general. If the place looks clean, there is a good chance it is well run and professional, so just something to consider.
So that's just a few tips to help you get started with your hunt for a new club. I hope this helps in some small way - happy hunting & good training.
Thumbnail image courtesy of Renzo Gracie