A few months ago we shared an info graphic we created entitled "The 4 C's to find a Jiu Jitsu School for you". Here is an expansion on the ideas expressed there. I also added an additional "C" which was an excellent suggestion by one of our followers on Instagram.
Do you want a more laid back or competitive vibe? Is your interest in Jiu Jitsu for sport or self defense? Do you enjoy socializing after training? You can find hints to a schools culture on their social media pages, and within google and yelp reviews.
Once you start visiting schools (and you should try out several) we suggest paying close attention to how the instructors interact with the students. If you are a beginner it's especially helpful to have attentive coaches with patience. You may also consider asking to watch an advanced class to get a sense of how they treat their students once they are more experienced.
Due to the nature of Jiu Jitsu, it should go without saying the mats should be clean, well kept and free of any debris. Are common areas kept clean? Equipment should be wiped with antibacterial cleaner after use (we keep a bucket of wipes on the mat and have the students take care of what they used). Bathrooms should be clean and in good working order, with toiletries available at a minimum.
Other students and their equipment should be clean, with clear hygiene expectations posted for members to see, and leadership should express and enforce the expectations for everyone.
It's commonplace in martial arts not to share pricing models publicly. In theory this is meant to get you to come in and experience the value for yourself, since without an idea of what you're getting, its is hard to determine if it's worth the cost or not.
In practice, this makes it hard to discern if you can afford it, and can sometimes come off as secretive, and at the very least inconvenient.
We find that being forthcoming works fine for us, but if cost is a deal breaker for you, you should be able to get an answer that is honest and clear.
You should also ask about contract lengths, if there are any, as well as cancellation and hold policies. Check the fine print, and ask for a copy or photo of anything you sign in case you come across any issues later.
Everyone learns differently, but in our experience you will get more value out of consistent teaching practices. Jiu Jitsu can already be difficult to learn, and learning a different set of techniques that are unrelated to each other can make it harder. Advanced classes should focus on problem solving and organizing your Jiu Jitsu, and classes should build off of themes and concepts.
*suggested by @daxmillion
All schools should have a zero tolerance policy for inappropriate and obviously criminal behavior. Claims should be investigated and the consequences should be consistent across the student body and leadership. We recommend Safe Sport certification, which was very enlightening to us, for information on spotting abuses in sport, grooming behaviors, improper relationships between students and instructors, and how to report through the proper channels if needed.
This policy should include in person contact, as well as unsolicited messages/texts/photos, or bullying language on social media platforms.
This can be difficult to suss out as a new member, but asking questions of current members can give you a sense of how things may have been handled in the past.
The unfortunate reality is there are bad people in every field. The Jiu Jitsu community is no exception. Researching instructors and students past behaviors is difficult, but can be valuable. We recommend checking out a few instagram accounts that call out criminal/grooming/sexually inappropriate behaviors in the Jiu Jitsu community.
( @bjjaveri @motar2K on instagram)
No place is the perfect fit for every student. Some of these things may not matter to you, and some may matter to you more than to others. That is why it is important to do your due diligence when choosing a Jiu Jitsu School.
Thanks for reading!