How To Train Jiu-Jitsu When You Don’t Have Money

As anyone who trains knows, training jiu-jitsu costs money, and it can potentially cost a lot of money.  While the excuse of “I can’t afford to train” is usually complete hogwash and there are plenty of ways for someone to cut back in other areas to allow them to train, in some rare cases paying money to train can be simply unacceptable.

I recently came across this Reddit post on R/BJJ:

I’ve been involved in BJJ for five years. I’m not good by any means which I enjoy because it’s always s challenge. I enjoy training and it’s a way for me to stay in shape and to beat my anxiety that once had me afraid to leave the house. Unfortunately my wife and I have come on to tough financial times and it’s just not possible for me to pay for training right now. Any advice on how a sub par blue belt with rough financial straights can continue training in the St. Louis area?

I will do my best to offer the poster and anyone else who legitimately wants to find ways to train without spending money some insight/advice.

Training for free is difficult.  You’re probably not going to become a world class competitor unless you train with world class training partners, and training with world class training partners can cost hundreds per month.  However, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Many gyms offer open mat and free training sessions; you just need to look at their schedules and find out when those are.  If you float between different gyms this can wind up translating to training seven days a week (probably with no actual instruction.)  Just rolling is probably not going to build up your arsenal of techniques, but it will keep you in rolling shape and will keep your mind on the techniques you do know.

You can also train by yourself at home.  You can do bodyweight exercises for strength and conditioning, which cost literally nothing.  Push-ups, squats, planks, even Yoga and movement drills are all helpful for physical fitness that will benefit you.

If you are able to spend just a bit of money, get your hands on cheap (albeit low quality) puzzle mats you can set up to train on.  Obviously this isn’t going to give you the same kind of training environment you’d have in a high level gym, but you can work on shrimping, granby rolling, bridging, and other fundamental movements.  You can also reach out to the local BJJ community; either by posting online or by talking about it at open mats and possibly find training partners in the mix.  You’d be surprised how willing people are to train with and even teach strangers for free.

If all of this isn’t sufficient for you, you can always go into the area’s academies and talk to the owners.  Explain your situation to them and see if you can come up with a barter.  Maybe you clean the gym in exchange for classes.  Or given that you’re a blue belt already, if you are decent enough to teach, maybe you can teach a kid’s class.  BJJ academies are for profit businesses, but the truth is having a member who pays their way in a non-monetary way is better than not having that member at all.

If it’s not a matter of whether or not training costs you money but rather how much money you pay, there are also ways to address that.

You can sign long term contracts at gyms committing not to leave, and often that greatly reduces your fees.  You can also shop around, maybe find a Judo or even wrestling club, as those grappling styles complement jiu-jitsu nicely but are often much cheaper to do.

Not having money is not a viable excuse to quit.  Where there’s a will there’s a way, and jiu-jitsu is a community that tends to often take care of its own.  Good luck!

Does anyone have any other suggestions?

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Emil Fischer is an active black belt competitor under Pablo Angel Castro III training at Strong Style Mixed Martial Arts and Training Center near Cleveland Ohio ( and teaching at Ararat Martial Arts and FItness Center. For more information, other articles, and competition videos check out his athlete pages at and Emil is sponsored by Meerkatsu (, discount code EmilKatsu), Eddy's On Coventry, North Coast Cryo ( NottaRookie, YM ( discount code COOKIES), Defense Soap ( discount code COOKIES) Impact Mouthguards ( discount code EMILIMPACT), and North South Jiu Jitsu Underwear


  1. As the man who posted this is in St. Louis, I DO have another suggestion. I train with Namido, a martial arts ministry that meets at The Sanctuary in Hazelwood, MO. The classes are on Monday night’s at 6:30. It’s Judo, rather than BJJ, but the coach, (black belt in judo and blue belt in BJJ) works in a great deal of Newaza (ground fighting). Most importantly, the classes, along with the belt tests, are free.


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