California! Sunshine, surfing, beautiful people, healthy food, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. All of the top academies, athletes, and BJJ tournaments reside in Cali. We know that BJJ came from Brazil, and California has a similar climate. That drew many Brazilian Jiu-jitsu practitioners to open academies in California. I am going to give you a rundown on the top BJJ schools and some of the best athletes that come out of there.
When it comes to choosing an academy there are some things you have to consider. These are the instructors, your goals, and the programs that the academy has to offer. How nice an academy looks is one thing, but more importantly are the instructors and the training you will receive. Don’t be fooled by flashy academies, and instructors with big names. Not all big name instructors make great coaches. So here is the breakdown.
Atos: This is one of the top academies located in San Diego simply because they offer a wide variety of programs. They have a kid’s program, women’s only program, and a competition program. The head instructor is Andre Galvao. He is a multiple time world champion in Gi and Nogi. This hall of Famer has quite the resume when it comes to competing. The rest of the Ato’s team instructors all compete and are successful. If you are a female practitioner and feel intimidated training by men. Atos offers a women’s only program taught by world champion Angelica Galvao. Classes are also available depending on your experience level. This way if it is your first time ever trying Jiu-jitsu you can take the intro to BJJ class. For those of you looking to compete this academy has the resources to make you a beast.
Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy: If you are a fan of the Gracie lineage and appreciate traditional BJJ this is the right place for you. Self-defence is their specialty. Located in Torrance with head instructor Ryron Gracie. Programs are offered to military and law enforcement. The curriculum puts an emphasis on effective techniques that work in hand to hand combat scenarios. Officers are taught survival techniques and how to handle another person without causing many injuries. Another program that stands out is the Gracie Bullyproof program. Many kids are victims of bullying today and don’t know how to defend themselves. Gracie Academy focuses on teaching kids confidence and how to handle bullies with the help of Jiu-jitsu.
Art of Jiu Jitsu: This BJJ academy is run by Gui and Rafael Mendes aka ‘’Mendes bros’’. Gui is the head instructor at the academy located in Costa Mesa. Both of them are multiple times world champions and two of the top BJJ athletes in the world. They are also really young and retired from competition. This is great because retired athletes can focus on teaching. It is very difficult to teach and compete simultaneously. If you are looking to compete this place has the resources to make you a great competitor. Both Gi and Nogi classes are offered at the academy. The combined experience of both brothers will allow you to cover all angles. The kids’ program is also amazing. There are different age groups that allow your kid’s a proper progression while learning Jiu-jitsu.
10th Planet Jiu-jitsu: Not your typical Jiu-jitsu school, but Eddie Bravo knows his stuff. He is the creator of 10th Planet Jiu-jitsu. Their program is based mostly on Nogi techniques. All of the techniques are applicable to the Gi as well. If you are someone that competes in MMA 10th Planet will be more suitable for your style. In MMA there are no grips or Gi so you must learn to control opponents with under hooks and over hooks. The Planet also offers wrestling. MMA, GI, and Nogi all incorporate takedown techniques in competition. Learning wrestling will make you a more well-rounded grappler.
Top BJJ Athletes and Tournaments
Most of the top BJJ athletes live in California. The great weather and Cali lifestyle attract many of the top Brazilian BJJ competitors. As the saying goes ‘’iron sharpens iron’’. If you want to be a lion you must train with lions. There are no shortcuts. Currently, many of the top competitors come from California. Athletes like Rafael Mendes, Andre Galvao, Caio Terra, Cobrinha, and Keenan Cornelius. This pool of talent raises the level of BJJ and creates more competition. Competition is what drives these athletes to continue evolving. All of this talent needs a platform such as tournaments to showcase their abilities. Two of the best tournaments are in California. They are the Pan Jiu-jitsu Championship and IBJJF Worlds. Each year they attract thousands of people and athletes. Only the highest caliber BJJ fighters compete in both tournaments. The prize for winning Worlds at the black belt level is around 10,000 dollars. Pan is a great tournament but does not offer any prize money. Venue locations may vary so it is always good to check online where the tournaments will take place.
If you ever decide to quit your job and train BJJ full time you should think about moving to California. You will not be disappointed. The weather is amazing, the food is great, and there are plenty of Jiu-jitsu schools to choose from. When you are not training BJJ you can ‘’hit the waves dude’’. Some of the top tournaments will be a drive away. That is a great perk since traveling to tournaments is expensive. Athletes from other states have to sometimes travel away from home in order to get quality competition and training. Before you make a decision on which academy to join do your research. Make sure your choice fits your goals and the environment feels right.