What to Look For in a Team

11:09 AM Moo 0 Comments

I got an email last night from a BJJ newbie asking me what to look for in a team.  Location may be the most important factor if you are in an area where there are not many schools to choose from.While everyone has differing views on this, I can offer a little personal insight on some factors that I find important.

1. Atmosphere: It's really important to rely on your gut instinct with this one.Do you get a positive vibe when you walk in the gym? Do people greet you? Is it clean? Most importantly do you feel comfortable learning there? A positive environment is the best type of environment to learn. Your skills will improve faster and you'll worry less.

2. Are there any white belts in the gym? This  may seem like a small thing but I have realized it is a huge red flag. Now of course if you walk into an advanced class you may not see other white belts but it is definitely worth asking about. Were there white belts who attended but were unable to stick it out? Why? What is the training like? Are you dealing with a bunch of upper belt mat bullies? In many instances schools without white belts are like that for a reason and some of them are rotten from the top down: power complexes, the inability to teach vs dominating white belts and an unwelcoming environment. If you see other white belts ask them what they like about the gym?

3. Are there women? Now this wont matter for everyone and some people prefer training with men. Do they promote women in BJJ but just currently lack female practitioners or is the environment hostile and one that makes women feel like they are unwelcome? I am blessed with some beautiful, badass female training partners and lucky enough to have a few upperbelt ladies!

4. Does the professor roll with his students? I am always very weary of professors who talk the talk and don't walk the walk. With injuries as the exception, your professor should  roll with students and want to understand your growth and development and get an understanding of where you are on your jiu jitsu journey. It is important to their personal growth as well as your own.

5. How does the school deal with injury?
Does your professor stress the importance of remaining injury free as well as keeping your partners safe? Of course with any contact sport some injury is inevitable,but is the prevention of injury and general safety an important point within the school. If not, it should be.

6. Partners!! Are these people who can help you grow and develop? Are they kind? Do you enjoy training with them? At my current school my training partners are both my family and my rock. I learn from them daily but I also enjoy spending time off of the mat with them as well. I trust them and that is a key factor in our success as a team.

7. Instructor Skill Level: As a white belt you want to learn as much as you can and with the proper instructor you can retain it. Some people think its more important to train under a black belt from whom you can learn about lineage. I genuinely believe a school (if possible) should have at least one black belt with other instructors of varying belt colors to teach classes dependent on level. That being said, I have attended some fantastic schools led by brown  and occasionally purple belts. Find out more about the instructor as  you want to be proud of your team and lineage, Jiu Jitsu is a small community.

What you should not look for:
1. A Jiu Jitsu Signifigant Other:People who go into gyms with the main goal of finding a jiu jitsu boyfriend/girlfriend are going in for all of the wrong reasons and this will be very apparent. If you happen to meet someone- great, but as the ultimate goal it's pretty weak reasoning.

2. Quick Promotion:If you enter a school or bounce around between academies with the intention of advancing as quickly as you can with minimal work...again, you're in it for the wrong reasons.

3.A way to feed your ego: Going into a school to prove you can dominate everyone there will serve you very little in Jiu Jitsu. You will alienate your own training partners and your performance will suffer as well. Jiu Jitsu is about give and take and if you are there to batter people...you know where this is going.

4. The cheapest school: Now this is a point of contention among practitioners and instructors alike. Yes, you want to pay for quality and get the best bang for your buck. The cheapest school might not necessarily be the best fit for you. You must consider quality as well as quantity. How often can you train? Do you have access to the mats outside of classes, what is the level of instruction like? Remember you aren't just paying for a membership you are paying for a lifestyle change.

What do you think? What other factors influence your decisions to join or not join a school?