I often get emails from people trying to decide where to learn BJJ.
They’re usually trying to choose between 2 or 3 different schools…
Should they train with the purple belt down the street, or the black belt across town?
Should they study at the Gracie Barra school, the Atos affiliate, or the 10th planet representative?
Should they choose the small school that’s friendly, or the big school that’s less personal?
Should they stay at the school where they started, or go to a new one?
Sometimes the answer is pretty simple…
If you want to start BJJ at age 60 then a hardcore MMA gym full of steroid douchebags probably isn’t for you.
If you’re hell bent on medalling at the Mundials then you’d probably better pick the school with the widest and deepest talent pool to spar with.
And if you specifically want to work on a certain aspect of your game then you might pick an instructor who is well known for that position.
However, the vast majority of the time, it all comes down to personalities.
The better you get along with your instructor then the longer you’ll probably train at the school.
And the more aligned your goals are with those of your fellow students then the more fun you’ll have training.
Go and visit all the different schools in your area. Pay the drop-in fee, get on the mat with the people, and experience the class first hand.
The bottom line is that if you sign up with a school then you’re going to spend a lot of time there.
Training, recovering from training, and interacting with the other students all adds up to a BIG time investment. So it makes sense to spend a few evenings researching all the options available to you before you make that sort of commitment.
When you go to the school try to assess the head instructor.
It’s better train with someone you like and respect, than with a highly skilled competitor with tons of medals who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about your well being or progress…
Your training partners are just as important (sometimes MORE important) than your instructor. So don’t underestimate the effect that the head teacher has on the rest of the students.
Like attracts like, so most of the time the personality of the instructor sets the tone for the whole rest of the school.
An asshole instructor is inevitably surrounded by a cadre of asshole acolytes.
A friendly and helpful instructor usually attracts a much more friendly group of students.
When you’re visiting a school also try to figure out whether the instructor’s teaching style meshes well with your personal learning style.
This is a highly personal thing; everyone has a different optimal way of learning. What works to get a technique into my brain may not work for your brain and vice versa.
When you’re in the class and he teaches something does it make sense? Can you follow along?
Ultimately it’s not the system, the association, or the style of jiu-jitsu that’s good or bad.
It’s the teacher and the training partners that will make or break your learning experience.
It’s all about the people.