How To Find A Good Jiu-Jitsu Gym (8-Point Checklist)

By Tsavo NealLearning BJJLeave a Comment

how to find a good jiu-jitsu gym

Looking to find a BJJ gym that’s a perfect fit for you?

I’ve trained with many white belts who almost quit BJJ because they had a terrible first class.

They had no idea what to look for in a gym. So, they picked one that was unsafe, unhelpful, and unsocial.

If you want to have fun at BJJ and have the motivation to train consistently, you must find the right gym based on your goals and capabilities.

Anyone at any age or fitness level can start BJJ. But a jacked 25-year-old former competitive male athlete who wants to jump into tournaments belongs at a different gym than a 48-year-old mom of 2 looking to get in shape.

In this article, you’ll learn exactly how to find a good jiu-jitsu gym — one that aligns with your characteristics and goals.

And if you’re looking to start training BJJ — but don’t know what to look for in a gym — I’ll show you what to look for so you can make the right decision.

how to find a good jiu-jitsu gym

Me and some of my training partners at InFighting

Answer This: Why Do You Want To Start Jiu-Jitsu?

Before you look for your ideal BJJ gym, ask yourself why you’re looking to start training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

  • Do you want to get in shape?
  • Do you want to learn how to defend yourself?
  • Do you want a social hobby where you can exercise with friends?
  • Do you want to compete in BJJ tournaments?
  • Perhaps a combination of all of the above?

Answering why you want to start learning BJJ will enable you to find a gym and an instructor who can help you achieve your goals.

When I started BJJ, I wanted to learn a new skill, practice self-defense, boost my confidence, and build my social circle.

I have training partners who are ex-athletes who want to get back into competing.

I have other training partners who used to be competitive, but now they’re middle-aged and want to train for longevity and fun.

Each BJJ gym has a culture: the unique atmosphere, values, and behavior of its members (or, as the Zoomers call it, “vibe”).

  • Some gyms have a “hardcore” culture. They’re rough, competition-focused, and made up of serious athletes.
  • Other gyms have a “hobbyist” culture. They’re more gentle, patient, and open to people of all ages and fitness levels.
  • Gyms like Gracie Barra often have a traditional culture. They are conservative, structured, and may have strict rules.
  • Gyms like Tenth Planet often have an innovative culture. They are creative, non-traditional, and relaxed.

No matter the culture, most gyms are extremely friendly and patient towards newcomers who are overweight or out of shape. And no matter your level of fitness, your first few months of BJJ will be challenging as your body adjusts to “ground athleticism.”

There’s no perfect BJJ gym or culture for everyone. There’s only the best particular gym for you.

joe rogan jiu-jitsu: training with Jean Jacques Machado and comedian Russel Peters

Joe Rogan training with John Machado and Russel Peters

But before you start looking for a BJJ gym to join, be aware of the concept of “culture.” Seek a BJJ gym with a culture that matches your aspirations, personality, and vibe. That’s how you’ll have the most fun and stick with the sport.

Keep your “why” in mind as you consider the 8 factors below.

8 Factors To Find Your Ideal BJJ Gym

Now that you’ve thought about why you want to start BJJ, here are the 8 factors to consider when choosing a jiu-jitsu gym.

1. Price

How much does it cost?

Of course, you must be able to afford to train if you want to train consistently.

BJJ membership fees range from $100-$250+ depending on how often you want to attend classes and the quality of instruction.

At my gym, I pay $207 per month for unlimited BJJ classes. It’s one of the best investments I make.

So, think about how much you’re willing to invest (I use that word intentionally) in your BJJ training. And make sure it won’t break the bank.

2. Proximity

How close is it to you?

The closer your gym is to you, the easier it will be for you to train.

One of the reasons I chose my first gym? It was only 20 minutes away by bus.

I recommend finding a gym that is a maximum of 30 minutes away by car or bus. But the shorter the commute, the better.

So, when you start searching for “BJJ gyms near me” on Google Maps, note how long it will take for you to get to the gym.

3. Scheduling

How often can you go?

Every BJJ gym has different schedules.

  • At some gyms, you’ll train on weekdays at 6:00 am before work.
  • At other gyms, you’ll train on weeknights at 7:00 pm.
  • Some gyms offer BJJ classes 3 days a week. Other gyms offer 2 BJJ classes per day.
  • Some gyms are focused on gi, others on no-gi, and some offer both.

Take a look at your schedule and write down when it would be ideal for you to train. Expect to be on the mats for at least 90 minutes for each class (instruction and rolling).

When you’re looking at BJJ gyms near you, take a look at their schedule, and make sure it works for your schedule.

Training 2 to 3 times per week as a white belt is a great start. If you can do 4 or 5 times a week, you’ll make even faster progress.

4. Level Of Instruction

How easy is it to learn?

Between BJJ gyms, there can be a massive difference in the level of instruction.

Just because someone can do BJJ doesn’t mean they can teach it.

I travel 45 minutes by bus to train at my current gym, InFighting.

Why?

Because the level of instruction is very high. My instructor, Ritchie, is not only a great teacher, but he has a YouTube channel so I can review what I learn from him between classes.

When you’re looking for a gym, prioritize ones with instructors whom you feel you can understand and apply what they teach — and they’re willing to help you when you ask for it.

5. Gym Culture & Safety

Are your training partners concerned with your safety?

Jiu-jitsu is not particularly dangerous, but it’s not completely without risk.

There is a lot you can do to keep yourself safe (like tapping early, strength training, and working on your flexibility).

However, your training partners should also take responsibility for your safety.

When choosing a gym, look for a gym that prioritizes safe training.

That means people are asking each other about their injuries, aren’t performing dangerous techniques, and actively talk about keeping each other safe.

6. Hygiene

Does the gym enforce proper hygiene practices?

If you train BJJ, there is a slight risk of getting skin infections and other sicknesses.

Here’s what it looks like when a gym’s participants mitigate those risks:

  • They clean the mats with bleach after class
  • They wear sandals off the mats
  • They don’t train when sick
  • They wear rash guards and spats
  • They wash their gi, gi pants, belt, and any other garments after every class
  • They shower after class or as soon as they get home

If you notice people aren’t doing this in your BJJ gym, then your health is somewhat at risk.

7. Competition Aspirations

If you plan to compete, will your gym help you prepare?

Some gyms are tougher, more competitive, and designed to produce competitors.

If that’s what you want, seek out a gym that has a culture to foster competitors.

They’ll probably have coaches who are active or former competitors themselves. So, they’ll have more experience to help you compete successfully.

At these gyms, you’ll have training partners who are more serious about helping you improve and prepare.

8. Trial Class

How did you feel during your trial class?

  • Was the instructor friendly, attentive, and helpful?
  • Were the other participants welcoming and instructive?
  • Did you feel a good “vibe” from the gym?
  • Did you have fun?

You want to answer “yes” to all of these questions.

Your first BJJ class (and the first 6 months) are going to be tough. So you’ll need to be surrounded by people you enjoy training with and a culture that you like to make sure you don’t want to quit.

I was lucky enough to find my perfect gym on my first attempt.

white belt to blue belt bjj

Me with training partners after getting my blue belt

But I recommend you sign up for a trial class at a few gyms before you find the right fit for you. And now, you know what makes up a good BJJ gym.

In the next section, I’ll walk you through how to book your intro class.

Your Perfect Jiu-Jitsu Gym Checklist

Here’s a checklist that summarizes the 8 factors above. Reference it as you search for BJJ gyms.

  1. Can I afford it?
  2. Is it close enough so that I’ll go consistently?
  3. Does the gym schedule work with my schedule?
  4. Is the level of instruction good?
  5. Do I enjoy training with my training partners, and will they keep my safety in mind?
  6. Do the gym’s instructors and participants practice good hygiene?
  7. Does this gym fit my competition aspirations?
  8. Did I enjoy my intro/trial class?

If you can say “yes” to these 8 questions, then you’ve found your perfect BJJ gym.

Process For Booking Your First BJJ Class

Now that you know what to look for in a BJJ gym, let’s book your intro class.

Google “BJJ gym near me“.

Then, open up the Google Map which shows BJJ gyms near your location.

Save 5-10 of the highest-reviewed gyms.

Then, for each gym, go to their website to research the following factors:

  • Make sure their fees fit within your budget.
  • Ensure you can train regularly based on their schedule.
  • Learn their instructors are: their lineage, qualifications, experience, and competition history.
  • Reviews: what locals are saying about the gym (pay particular attention to beginners say about the intro class)
  • How their intro or trial class works.

After doing research, you’ll have a good sense of which gyms you’d like to try out.

Pick your top 3 gyms, and follow the instructions on their site to book your trial classes.

It’s during your trial class that you’ll find out about the factors you can only learn about in person: the culture, level of instruction, safety, your training partners, and the overall vibe of the gym.

Takeaway Thoughts

Now, you know how to find the best BJJ gym for you.

And you have no more excuses preventing you from testing a few gyms by taking their intro class.

If you want to know what to expect at your first class (and what you SHOULD expect), check out my article: Your First Jiu-Jitsu Class: Everything You Need To Know.

The benefits of jiu-jitsu are endless. But it all starts by searching for a good gym and taking your first class.

You’ve got this.

If you use this article to find your gym, let me know in the comments that I’ve helped you. You’ll make my day.

My goal with this site is to get more people into BJJ — and help them have fun while they learn so they don’t quit.

Happy rolling. 🤙


tsavo neal bjjequipment.com

Tsavo Neal

Tsavo is the founder of BJJ Equipment, an assistant BJJ instructor at InFighting, and a BJJ blue belt. He's a passionate hobbyist and BJJ gear/equipment aficionado. He launched BJJ Equipment in 2022 to make it easy for grapplers to find the best BJJ gear so they look, feel, and perform at their best on the mats.

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