BJJ has got to be one of the fastest growing martial arts worldwide. As the rise of MMA and BJJ were synonymous, the worldwide popularity of MMA has also meant the worldwide popularity of BJJ. If you live in a major metropolitan city, there is a good chance that there at least several Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu clubs for you to choose from. So the question now is – how do you choose the right Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu club for you?
Each Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Club is Unique
No two Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu clubs are exactly the same. The informal structure of BJJ worldwide means that each club is heavily influenced by the head instructor and his or her lineage. Accordingly, each club may focus on different aspects of the art; some may focus more on sport, some on MMA, and some on self-defense.
If you’re new to BJJ or just thinking about starting it, this may all be confusing to you. That’s why we are writing this article; so you will be more informed and make the right choice in your first Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu club. Trust us, you don’t want to be the person who keeps changing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu clubs, although as a beginner this isn’t frowned upon as much.
The 3 Main Differences between BJJ Clubs
#1: Mat Culture
How formal do you like your martial arts training to be? Some people prefer the traditional way – bowing on and off the mats, formally addressing your professor etc. and there are certainly BJJ clubs that have this environment. On the other end of the spectrum there are also many Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu clubs that have a very informal feel. In such clubs the environment can feel more like an intramural sports team and everyone is on the ‘same level’. Be warned thought that such informal environments can lead to a rather crass, locker room type of environment, which is not everybody’s cup of tea.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is simultaneously a combat sport and self-defense art. And within the combat sport portion it covers both sport BJJ as well as BJJ for MMA. Which aspect the club focuses on will vary, so make sure you choose a club that fits your wants. You should know however that the more sport BJJ focused clubs will generally have a more physically intense environment and the training will usually be much more physically challenging. Same goes to the more MMA-focused ones. These kinds of gyms will slant towards a younger and more athletically-inclined clientele. Conversely the more self-defense oriented ones will attract a demographic that more closely resembles the general population.
#3: Skill Level
This one is a bitter pill for most people to swallow, but it is a harsh truth. The average skill level of the practitioners in one Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu club can far surpass that of another club in the same city. This can be due to that club being around longer, having more skilled coaches, and attracting a more athletic demographic. This is also a huge reason why many people switch clubs. That being said, just because an academy has more skilled practitioners does not necessarily mean that it is better for you.