Which Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Gym Should I Join? How To Research

Finally, you’ve made the decision to start training Jiu Jitsu, but now you are having trouble figuring out which gym to train at.  How can you even begin researching?

Some potential grapplers let the excuse of not knowing where to start be an obstacle that keeps them from ever beginning their journey.  I hope this helps you take the next steps.  You’ll never regret it!

Researching Which Jiu Jitsu Gym To Train At

Great news.  Picking a gym isn’t hard if you know what you are doing.  

Here’s the problem in a nutshell.  Since you don’t know Jiu Jitsu yet, it is hard to know if someone is showing great BJJ or not so great BJJ.  Until you have been around a bit, anxiety about making  a wrong decision is normal.

The two core thing you are looking for in a gym are legitimacy and a culture that works with your personality.

Legitimacy is important, because no one wants to put in training time learning fake moves.

Finding that perfect fit in a jiu jitsu gym

Culture is essential because ideally you will spend quite a bit of time at the gym over the years developing into a better version of yourself.  The more at home you feel, the better.

Before I explain what how to research research to perform, it is important to set some expectations.  I would recommend when starting BJJ, to plan on committing to training a few times per week for at least six months.  

If you only trained for a few weeks or even months you wouldn’t really have a grasp of what Jiu Jitsu really is.  It’s sort of like reading just the first few paragraphs of the introduction to a book.  You don’t know what the book is about until you get much further.

Commit to spending a reasonable chunk of time with BJJ.  By the time you have trained six months you should have a decent idea of how awesome it is.  I bet you’ll be hooked.  The longer you spend at it, the more rewards you end up benefiting from.  Initial progress takes some time, but it is definitely worth it.

Which Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Gym Should I Join?

I’m going to make these research areas simple by using an analogy.  Taking the complexity of learning a skill out of the mix, what if you were doing buyers research on a normal physical product?

Compare choosing your new Brazilian Jiu Jitsu home like you would buy a new car.

  • Find a few possible dealerships (Research gym options)
  • Pick out the brands that are a good fit for us (Research lineage)
  • Take some test-drives (Take a trial class)
  • And make a purchase! (Sign up)


A great place to train Jiu Jitsu - Springfield BJJ

Step 1 – Research The Gym Options

Basic online research is your friend here.  Google “Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (Your City)” and “BJJ (Your City)“.  Hopefully you live in a city large enough to have a few academies to pick from.  If not, some Jiu Jitsu is almost always better than no Jiu Jitsu.

Note: Beware that “Jiu Jitsu” is usually shorthand for “Brazilian Jiu Jitsu” but some schools actually mean “Japanese Jiu Jitsu.”  Some schools teaching this completely different art use the vagueness of wording to trick students into thinking it is the same thing as BJJ.  It is NOT.

Check out the available search results and think about limiting it down to just a handful of potential Jiu Jitsu gyms that interest you.  The smaller your city, the easier this will be to do, but just be thankful if you do have BJJ in your town.

Make a short list of the few potential candidates, and start doing a little deeper research.  Check each gym from your list’s reviews on places like Google and Facebook like you would ANY other business.  (Remember, there are always a few crazy people out there, so don’t always give too much credence to few out of place low reviews).

Picking A BJJ Gym


There are a few different things to consider in potential gyms

How far is it to drive?

Remember you’re planning on making this drive a few times a week, every week, for awhile.

What type of gym is it?

It will probably be a blend of these four basic types

MMA Combat Club

Jiu Jitsu Academy

Traditional Martial Arts Dojo

School Club

What types of people who are like you already train there?

Is it a diverse group?

This one isn’t a deal breaker.  If you answer no to the previous question about people like you already training there, a yes to this one can be a good sign.  If you don’t currently see people like you there, but a diversity of others, there is a good chance you will fit in. I’ve seen great teachers adapt information to help out athletic competitors, family men, students, women, and a guy missing a hand.

Step 2 – Research The Lineage

Jiu Jitsu skills take a long time to develop.  Usually getting a black belt takes at least ten years.  Instructors at the gym you are thinking of joining have put in years and years training with THEIR instructors to improve.  There are no “self-taught” prodigies running schools.

Grapplers keep track of who promoted them like craftsmen traditionally have.  The student is a type of an apprentice, learning from a master, and their master had a master and so on.  In this way, Jiu Jitsu tracks the passing down of techniques and styles generation by generation.

For example here is my current lineage as a brown belt: Mitsuyo Maeda > Carlos Gracie Sr. > Reylson Gracie > Paulo Maurício Strauch > Caio Terra > Brian Stuebner > Lucas Walker

So Maeda trained the Gracie’s, who trained Strauch, who trained Caio, who gave Brian his black belt, who gave me my brown belt.Listen To Your Coach, Caio and Brian

In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, lineage matters!

Lineage isn’t everything though.  Just because someone has “good lineage” doesn’t make them a quality instructor or human being, and just because someone else has an “unimpressive lineage” doesn’t mean they aren’t a wonderful teacher with spectacular Jiu Jitsu.

Note: Checking lineage is centered around noticing what the differences between instructors are, and quickly spotting fakes.  (Yes, there are some people who PRETEND to be BJJ Black belts.  If you’re bored sometime, search YouTube for videos of them being exposed by real Jiu Jitsu practitioners.)

Going back to our car analogy from earlier, lineage is like the brand.  If doing your research shows you that two cars are identical and cost roughly the same, but one is a BMW, and one is a Plymouth, choosing often becomes easier.

Researching Lineages 101

  1. Google the instructor.
    1. In a perfect world you would find something reinforcing their level of legitimacy.  (YouTube competition or technique instruction videos, blog entries, anything).  My instructor is Brian Stuebner, so I would see what info existed about him on the web if I was a new student looking to see if Springfield BJJ was a legit gym in Springfield, MO.
      1. Not everyone is a digital marketing guru. So a lack of online presence doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of qualification.
        1. Sometimes going to the instructor’s instructor can help shine some light on what kind of legitimacy they probably have in the absence of direct information.
      2. Not all competitions and tournaments are equal.  Some of the most credible ones include IBJJF, ADCC, Copa Podia, Fight 2 Win, and others.  Many tournaments allow anyone to compete if they pay an entry fee.  Some people pay these fees, have no one in their devision and then brag about getting first.  Don’t train with people like this if you can help it.
    2. Since your day to day interactions will be with the instructor this is the person you should most be concerned with researching.  Sometimes you may feel iffy about your ability to judge what you see and could need more information.  Researching the person that belted the instructor is a great net step.

Rickson Gracie is a very legit Jiu Jitsu Instructor

  1. Who gave the instructor his most recent belt?
    1.  Legitimate instructors should be able to easily and quickly describe who gave them their belt and if they are still affiliated with them.  Often this will be on the “about” section of a gym’s website or academy.  In my example, this would be Caio Terra who gave Brian his black belt.
      1. If you can’t find ANY information about who this is, consider contacting the instructor to ask who they are under.  If they are evasive, this is a REALLY bad sign.
        1. Things happen.  People move around, and may have gotten each belt on their way to blackbelt under a different instructor, so just because a story sounds complicated doesn’t mean it is made up. (For example, my blue belt was actually under the 10th Planet affiliation)  You should be able to get a single name of someone who is essentially “vouching” for the instructor’s legitimacy.
    2. Many gyms will be associated with an affiliation. Not being an official part of any affiliation can be OK.  There is a certain “franchise” style model in BJJ, but some people prefer to stay “independent”.
      1. Someone still gave them their black belt, and they should be continuing their training with someone above them, so lineage should still exist.

Old School 10th Planet Photo

  1. If needed, Google the instructor’s professor, and maybe even continue this back a generation or two.
    1. Check for YouTube videos, entries on www.BJJHeroes.com, reddit conversations etc. talking about them.
    2. Going back more than 8 or 9 generations should probably get you back to the root of the tree where there are only a few legitimate beginnings to a lineage. There are definitely wikipedia pages about guys like Helio Gracie. who are at the top of the tree.
      1. The tree is getting broader now with more and more branches, but going back eventually you WILL find someone with information about them on the internet.

Step 3 – Drop In For A Class!

Nearly every gym offers a free trial class to make sure you like it.  At the end of your trial class, it is normal for them to ask you if you would like to sign up.

If you had a good time, but just don’t know yet, there is nothing wrong with not signing up and thinking about your decision.  If you loved everything about it, don’t be shy about signing up on the spot and saving yourself the headache of shopping multiple gyms.

However, just like test driving cars, trying out at least two is usually a good idea, but 20 is a waste of time.  Give a few gyms a try.

The difference between the gyms can be really important.  Even though the first place you go may be fine, you may find another that you are really excited to train at, or a different one you never want to set foot in again.  Each gym has its own unique culture to evaluate.

If you fell in love with the atmosphere of a place and can’t wait to come back tomorrow, SIGN UP NOW!

Dropping In To Try Out A Gym

After evaluating your options by taking trial classes ask yourself these questions to finalize a decision

Where did you feel most comfortable?

Which gym can you see yourself training at for at least 6 months to a year?

Can you see yourself becoming friends with other students there?

Is the location convenient?

Trying to keep your travel time to the gym under a half hour is smart.  Good Jiu Jitsu is totally worth an hour drive time, but how tenable is that for your life?  Remember, getting to black belt will probably take a decade.  Is driving to train three times a week, 1 hour, one way, sustainable in the long term?

 Can you afford to train there?  

Jiu Jitsu is very affordable typically and the prices between local gyms doesn’t fluctuate too wildly.  Don’t try to save some money by training with a purple belt instead of a black belt unless you just liked the purple belt that much better.

Will their schedule work with yours?

Will you be able to train 2 – 3 times per week most weeks?  Does their schedule and location combo work well with your life?

Does it look like they take great care of their students?

Did they have clean mats, attentive instruction, and keep an eye on injury prevention?

Start Training BJJ Today! Sign Up

Step 4 –  Sign up NOW!

Once you have found the right gym, jump in right away.  Don’t wait around dipping your toes in the water trying to get used to it.

Pay for your first month.  Buy a gi if you can afford it.  Plan the next day you are going to train and then MAKE IT HAPPEN.  Burn your boats and commit yourself.

I recently helped a student sign up who paid for 6 months in advance and bought a gi. He said yearly he does this with different skills to lock him into committing to learning.  He says, once he’s already paid ahead, not coming doesn’t even feel like a possibility.

Waiting to sign up may mean you never do.  Get it done and start your journey.  You’ve done the background work.  Don’t prolong the process.

Changing gyms later if you made a mistake is always an option.  But you didn’t make a mistake.  Because you followed this guide.

Enjoy your journey.  It’s one of the best things I ever did with my life.