So You Want to Start Jiu-Jitsu: Top 10 Things You Should Know: The School

You’re bored. The gym has become uneventful, same routine, same workouts, same… everything. You want a little more action, a little more pizazz, a little more excitement! That’s it! That’s what you’re looking for. Excitement! The repetition of your old ways has got to go. But what could you do. What is out there that isn’t some newfangled artsyfartsy thing that will have you tangled (literally) in knots? Well, if you hop on google there are plenty of things that pop up. Lots and lots and lots of different types of exercises, fads, & work outs that you can try. Some I’ve never even heard of, and some you need to buy special equipment or expensive DVD sets, blah blah blah!! But suddenly the heavens open, the light shines down and you see on your screen BRAZILIAN JIU-JITSU. BRAZILIAN JIU-JITSU! and just like in that sweet movie A Christmas Story, when he’s got Bad Bart in his sights- you’re chasing Galvoa or Keenan or Ribeiro or Nicolini around the mats… Hello, still with me here? Come back from la-la land. That’s it, much much better. Now as I was saying, brazilian jiu-jitsu has popped up on your screen. You’ve heard of this, you’re familiar with it and now you’d like to get started; as in yesterday! Slow down cowboy, there are some things you should know (top 10 +1). First things first, choosing your school.
* All schools or academies are not created equal: Do your homework before trudging around from school to school. Understand what you’re looking at and for. Accreditation, lineage, etc.
1. All professors are not created equal: Don’t waste your time. Do your homework. If you’re not sure what you should be looking for, speak to people who know the ins & outs, do some research and be well-informed. Just because someone has a belt (do you understand the belt system, how it works, etc) doesn’t mean they should run a school.

2. Shop around: It’s ok to try before you buy! Would you purchase the first house or car you looked at? I would certainly hope not! Be up-front and let them know that you’re looking around & would like to try a class. Most schools should not have a problem with this; especially if they know what they’re doing.
3. Price does not determine quality: Comparing price to be certain it’s within your budget is one thing. Taking the cheapest or most expensive school for the wrong reason (more expensive = better instruction? nope, sorry.) is another; and will cost you dearly in the long run.

4. Be honest with yourself and the school: be clear with your intent. Don’t say you want to work your way up to a competition level if you hate the idea of tournaments, or really want to learn self-defense. This will only waste everyone’s training time, and the time of your Professor. No-one has time to waste.

5. Not all atmospheres are the same: make sure the school you choose meshes with your personality. Some schools are more laid back and you can wear whatever you want (camo gi? no problem!) While other schools follow a more traditional viewpoint. Make sure you understand this prior to choosing your school, and that it’s a good fit for you.

6. Not all people are the same: Have you heard the saying “Birds of a feather flock together?” The same is true for people at the schools. They spend a lot of time together, make sure you feel comfortable. Not like put “your feet up on the couch” comfortable, but “at ease” comfortable.

7. Location: Are you really going to drive 1.5 hours EACH way 2 or 3 times a week? No, well then narrow your search. You know you’ll eat at that McDonald’s around the corner every day after class? IF this truly will be an issue (self-control) then narrow your search. Make sure the location makes it possible for you to stick with your training plan not ditch it.

8. Cleanliness: BIG BIG BIG deal. There are all sorts of disgusting things that come from dirty mats, dirty gis, dirty anything. People should be sweating, they’re training hard & that’s a different story. LOOK AROUND. Is the school clean? Keep in mind the time of day that you’re visiting. If it’s in the evening there have been classes running all day. The garbage won’t be empty (nor should it be overflowing!) and there are probably going to be flip-flops, sandals and water bottles lined up. It will smell, well, like a gym; but you shouldn’t feel like you’ve stepped into the sewage plant! Are the mats clean and taken care of? Locker rooms free of clutter and junk? Do you feel like you’d actually use the restroom (seems like a no-brainer, but I’ve visited schools while traveling… if you can’t use the bathroom because it’s so gross, what else isn’t getting cleaned?).

9.Respect: Another BIG BIG BIG deal! Watch the people. Watch them. If they have respect for each other you will be able to tell. Their interactions with each other will tell you a lot about the expectations of their Professor. There will be hard, focused training but no trash-talking, no rude comments and the Professor/Instructor runs the show. He talks & they listen. A question is asked and no-one scoffs at the person asking. Respect is key.

10. Are you able or willing to train at a co-ed school? Some schools have women only classes, some do not. If the answer is no, then don’t bother with schools where co-ed training is all that is offered. What would be the point?

In the era of commercialization it is a good idea to remind people that a “true” jiu-jitsu school is not a 24 hour fitness academy. The “workout” is only a fraction of the BJJ philosophy. Respect your teacher, Be loyal to your school, detach from ego, be ready to drill, and be ready to change the way you see life.


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