Free agency isn’t just for professional sports. In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, it isn’t uncommon for students to test the market as a free agent as they reach the end of their contract with their current Jiu-Jitsu academy. There are many reasons to explore your options including not getting along with your instructor, class schedules, wanting a greater variety of training partners, or a change in work or life situation. Making the change can be tough, but in the end you must do what is best for you and your BJJ journey. Here are 10 tips on how to manage your BJJ free agency.
Know what you are looking for in a BJJ school: Assess your BJJ goals and what you want in a BJJ academy. A few major factors in picking a BJJ school includes price, quality of coaching, number of training partners, cultures, class schedule and variety of classes offered. Making a list of what is important to you in an academy and formulate what your ideal BJJ training situations should be is the first step to getting the ball rolling.
See where your current academy matches what you want: After evaluating what your ideal training situation should be, assess your current academy to see how well it matches what your ideal training situations. Your current school is the baseline for your evaluations and in the end you might decided to just stay put and continue to train at your current academy.
Research gyms: Start searching online for other BJJ schools in your area. Read the reviews on Facebook and Yelp and also evaluate their schedules, distance from work and home, coaches, and pricing and contract terms. Many schools don’t post their prices online, but will disclose it by phone, email, or during a school visit.
Schedule visits to watch or train: By this point, you know what you are looking for in a school and have found a few potential landing spots. Now it is time to schedule visits to the prospective academies. Most schools will offer free trial classes to prospective students. During your school visits, you will be able to assess the coaches’ teaching styles, school cultures, cleanliness of the facilities, amenities, and commute time. I would recommend scheduling visits during your likely training times since you will be able to better evaluate the commute to the gym, parking situation, and class sizes.
Keep visits low key: Be friendly and low key during your visits. The BJJ community is very small and there is a good chance somebody at one the academies you are visiting knows somebody at your academy. Be friendly and let the students know you were just passing through or just wanted to check out the gym. Don’t provide too much information or give any indication you are free agent. This will help to lessen any chance of future drama with your current academy’s coaches and training partners.
Do not talk bad about current academy or others: As stated above, keep the visit low key and do not talk bad about your current academy or others. The BJJ community is small and you never know who knows each other. Also, talking badly about others gives off a negative vibe about yourself. So be friendly, positive, and open-minded when you are visiting another academy.
Ask questions: Feel free to ask questions about the coaching, pricing, and culture of the school. While you will learn a lot about an academy by watching or training in a class, there are questions about normal class size, cleanliness, locker rooms, pricing, contracts, and gym perks. Asking questions will be beneficially in learning more about the coaches and the academy.
Talk to coach or manager about options: If a school appears to be too expensive or if the contract terms aren’t favorable, talk to the academy’s coach or manager to see if terms can be changed or negotiated. Most schools are flexible and want to gain your business. It never hurts to ask or to try to negotiate the best deal for you.
Take notes on your visits: Take plenty of notes on each of your visits and use a rating system to see how well it meets the criteria you defined for your ideal gym. Rate the gym from 1 to 5 on coaching, training partners, schedule, location, cleanliness, class size, and other features important to you and tally up the score.
Exiting current school: Your contract is up and it is time to make a decision. Stay put or move on. If you do decided to move on, do it in a way where you can maintain a positive relationship with your old academy’s coaches and students. Inform your coach of your final decision in-person and thank your coach for teaching you. Also, thank your training partners in person if possible as well and do your best to keep the door open for a possible return down the road. If you coaches and training partners aren’t happy with your decision, then that is their decision and beyond your control. All you can control is how you conduct yourself on your way out.