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Choosing A BJJ School

Posted by SteveFicca on May 4, 2012 at 11:25 PM

By Steve Ficca, The Mouth of MMA Editor


Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and MMA schools are everywhere now. Things have come a long way from the days where there might be a school or two in your state, and even fewer black belts to be found. Times and have changed and with the rapid evolution of our sport, schools are sprouting up everywhere. So how do you choose the one that's right for you?



I spent a good amount of time traveling the country and visiting some of the top schools out there. In just four years of Jiu Jitsu I have been fortunate enough to have visited 24 of the best schools in the United States, more than most practitioners will visit in a lifetime. I feel that my unique experiences put me in a position where I can critique schools in a way that many can't. I'd like to go through some of the reasons to choose (and not choose!) a school.



-Location: This has to be the number-one reason why people choose their school. Coming in fresh and unknowingly, the few brave souls that want to give this "barbaric sport" a try will venture into the academy closest to their house. If you get lucky, Lloyd Irvin or Gracie Barra set up shop right down the road from your house, and you've got a brilliant black belt just a hop, skip, and a jump away. Everything is peachy, and you'll get good in no time!


But what happens if you don't get lucky? Chances are you may have found either:


A: some heavyweight monster who looks like he just won his last bar fight. These guys are slamming each other all over the mats with reckless abandon, getting hurt like clockwork, and heel hooking each other like there's no tomorrow.


B: a traditional martial artist who feels that his accomplishments in his field of expertise (which are sometimes impressive) combined with his UFC watching experience, allow him to waltz right onto the mat with his black belt on and teach a BJJ class. I'm sorry Mr. Miyagi. It doesn't work that way.



-Schedule: It's important to find a place that offers a schedule you can swing. Let's face it, the greatest school on earth won't get you better if your work schedule doesn't allow you to ever make it to training.



-Attitude: If you're not surrounded by a bunch of humble guys eager to help you at every turn you're not doing it right. This art is intended to breed a level of humility and promote a friendly training environment. Tough guys walk into MMA gyms all the time (see guy A), but only the open-minded student who checks his ego at the door and is willing to dedicate himself to getting better should be welcome to train at your gym. Lots of guys start off like this as white belts, but if your purple belts are brash bullies, you're in the wrong place.



-Technique: For me this is the biggest. Does the stuff I'm being shown really work?  If I'm going to be training somewhere, I have to be able to trust the instructor's technique and attention to detail. We've all come across that meathead white belt who thrashes around violently, hurts his training partners, and thinks it's what makes him good. Some schools actually promote this behavior. Can you imagine that guy at purple belt (again, see guy A), learning from his black belt clone? It happens. A good school will focus just as much on defense as it does on offense, probably more. My rule: if you have blue belts who can't upa or elbow-knee escape I am NEVER coming back.



-Variety: If you're looking to become a well-rounded BJJ practitioner or fighter, you need a good mixture of gi and no gi. I've been to outstanding schools who just don't balance out their regimens. One of these schools had a curriculum that was about a 90/10 split. Seriously??? What if I'm training solely for self-defense and one day, I'm attacked by an assailant who's not wearing a jacket? No bueno guys!



These are just a few of the basic things I'd look for when choosing a school. Thanks to Google, it's pretty easy to get a jump on a place before going in. Do a little homework, and if you're fortunate enough to live in an area populated with a few different schools, shop around and find the place that's right for you.



Happy training!

Categories: Fighter Journals

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Reply SteveFicca
10:59 AM on May 5, 2012 
Make all the excuses you want Lex. You're training at one of the top schools on the planet and you compete more than I do. Whine away my friend. You've earned the right to
Reply Lex
12:26 AM on May 5, 2012 
Great post, as always. For me, location and schedule are a top priority, which is really sad sometimes, but job restrictions are less flexible than our passions ;-) Then again, that just sounds like another excuse ;-)