How To Choose The Right BJJ Gym

choose-bjj-gymA Jiu Jitsu gym is not just a place where you go to workout and get fit for aesthetic reasons like a normal gym. It serves a bigger spiritual purpose in creating respectable and responsible human beings. A good academy has a lively vibe and positive atmosphere that transforms the character of anyone who walks through the door.

The idea of a sacrosanct training place has been present in martial disciplines since the dawn of civilization. The Kalari of Kalaripayattu (a South Indian martial art), Dojos in Japanese martial arts, the training halls of Shaolin and the first Gracie Academy in Brazil point to this everlasting and universal concept.

What is a Dojo?

The history of the word dojo goes back further than the feudal era of martial arts in Japan. Originally it referred to the prayer and meditation halls of Buddhist acolytes. Dojo literally means a place to study ‘the Way’ or ‘Do’. In Eastern philosophy and spirituality, ‘Tao’ or ‘Do’ is the underlying rhythm of the universe and the natural order of creation, existence and dissolution. Living by this code, a person becomes effective and effortless in whatever he chooses to do. Not surprisingly, the warrior class found it worthwhile to forge their spirituality to transcend the primal nature of conflict and violence and become fierce fighters. The term was soon adopted for the training halls of the warrior class where they would learn to train their mind and spirit along with the body. By resolving the fear of death and loss, such training developed nerves of steel that were not easily swayed or perturbed. The warrior code of Bushido arose from the resolute acceptance of both life and death as part of the same journey.

What does this philosophy have to do with my Jiu Jitsu training?

Jiu Jitsu training spills into every aspect of our lives. We deal with the force and resistance of an alive person and we also learn to work our way around it to minimize conflict. The Japanese term ‘Jujutsu’ literally means the gentle art and it shapes the way we interact with the world and ourselves. In a good BJJ school, you will be guided throughout by this spirit and attitude towards training. It is in your best interest to be discriminating in matters of choosing a place of training as it dictates how you develop and grow as a human.

A good BJJ school, at the end of the day, will transform you into a highly skilled and capable athlete. It will show you the benefits of delving deep into techniques and developing the concentration needed to learn a discipline. Your mood will be on the upswing as your skills improve and peers and teachers start to appreciate them. A rigorous belt testing policy turns you into an achiever who realizes the value of hard work. Most importantly, your attitude to Jiu Jitsu itself transforms into one of reverence as you continue on the path of learning and improvement at such a place. Indeed, for the masters of this martial art, Jiu Jitsu represented a way of life and a warrior spirit that never gives up in the face of adversity.

What you should be looking out for in a BJJ gym?

Here are six very important things to look for when you are looking for a bjj gym not just to train but progress at the same time.

  • Check if it is legitimate

Find out more about the founders and instructors of the academy. Ideally, they should have it listed on their website. Feel free to ask about their lineage and ranks. Even if you are not knowledgeable in such matters, you can always google or ask your buddies who are into martial arts or are training themselves, to verify the facts. Ask your friends and social network to refer you to a few good schools so you are assured of their legitimacy.

  • Check its timetable

Find out the available classes for your level of training and whether the days and timings offer you the flexibility to attend as many sessions as you’d like. The rolling sessions are as important as the training sessions too. To progress faster and get better, you need to experience rolling with higher ranked and more skilled or stronger opponents. So check the frequency of such sessions along with open mat days.

  • Check its location

Unless you live in a small town or a secluded area, always factor in the commute time while choosing a school. The easier and quicker the commute, the more energy you will have to spare for training. Lapses in concentration from lack of energy means a waste of your time, money and effort. This is not to say that this is the most pressing issue because world champions have emerged in spite of the hardships they have faced for commuting and other logistics. Be a good judge of your own will power and tenacity.

  • A friendly atmosphere with an edge

Learning happens faster with a spirit of camaraderie. It is understood that everyone is here to improve and evolve. It has got nothing to do with being extra nice and making the training process easy. You are challenged and encouraged to perform to the best of your abilities and cross your self-imposed limits. Being a good martial artist starts with being honest about our abilities and limitations. Hence it is also accepted that a failure today only serves to make us better for tomorrow. Your mates won’t go easy on you while rolling or drilling to make you feel better but they won’t be pricks about it either and break your arm to prove a point. Check with the instructors or professors if they would let you try out or observe a class.

  • Presence of higher ranked students and athletes

If the academy is well established, a good indicator of the quality of training would be the presence of those who are ranked higher than you. A person learns best by observing those who are better than him. So it’s essential that you get the chance to mingle and train with such people. If they are regular competitors, it’s even better. You can pick up vital tips and pointers on details that might be missing from other run-of-the-mill academies.

  • Is it well equipped?

1. Check the condition of the mats. Are they clean and durable enough? Hygiene is an important consideration when you start training BJJ.

2. Check the attention paid to safety like presence of first aid kits, CPR manuals etc.

3. Apart from just being on the mats, you also need access to basic strength and conditioning equipment like barbells, free weights, wrestling dummies, kettlebells etc. Bear in mind though that your professor might kill you with just bodyweight training! Like we noted earlier, observe and learn from the training. Marcelo Garcia isn’t known for doing any extra strength or conditioning training in his academy.

Quite clearly, there are many things to consider before you commit to train at an academy. Now that all these important factors are laid down, don’t rush to get admitted to any school that’d have you. Take time to evaluate all your options and run them by your friends – in real life or online forums. Happy hunting!

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