I’ve been doing BJJ for over 20 years, and I’ve trained in a lot of different academies in many different countries.
The gyms have ranged from community centers with some puzzle mats on the floor, to legendary academies in Rio de Janeiro, to world class facilities with top-of-the-line everything.
I’ve also encountered high levels of skill in even the humblest of schools. You don’t need a million-dollar gym to get great mat skills.
All that said, here is what my perfect gym would look like. I’m not going to include the top-level instructor because that’s a topic for another Jiu-Jitsu Times article.
Large Mat Space
How awesome would it be to roll freely without having to constantly stop and reset because you are banging into the wall or a concrete support pillar?
I would also want top-of-the-line mats that are neither too slippery when wet (remember the ADCC in Beijing where the competitors were slipping and sliding all over the place?) or too rough so there is too much friction to move smoothly on the bottom. Padded walls are a must.
Your over-35 bones will thank you after being taken down a few times. The floor is built on top of sheets of plywood which rest on tires or foam blocks. There is a hive to the floor that makes training takedowns much easier on the body.
Showers And Lounge
It sure is nice to have clean showers and a changing room available as well as a lounge where you can sit on the couch after class and chat with your friends. Let’s throw in a big flat screen TV with jiu-jitsu and MMA videos on loop, too!
Instead of having to go to a different gym to do some physical conditioning, you have some Cross fit style equipment — chin-up bars, kettle bells, Bulgarian bags, and dumbbells — to use at the BJJ gym. There would also be some heavy bags and pads if you wanted to do a little striking cross training. How about a cage or ring (or both!) as long as we are dreaming?
I’ve had the pleasure of training in some open air gyms. Hard to beat having fresh air and natural light from big openings that allow the air to circulate. It beats a basement, windowless gym any day!
Near The Beach
I love to walk down by the ocean with a coffee or fruit juice after class. You can see the ocean from the mats at the original Gracie Barra in Rio. It would be great if there were a Vietnamese pho place, sushi restaurant, or fresh juice bar located just down the block. I trained at one gym that had a craft beer bar on the ground floor!
What is your dream BJJ academy like?