After Royce Gracie showed the power of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for the world on television in 1993, many people decided to learn BJJ. Since then the number of BJJ schools & gyms all around the world has massively increased, it will be hard to not find a BJJ gym. Question is how do we tell which gyms is the best for learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?. Obviously some gyms only cater to “specific” BJJ audience where they only have competition classes, while most are an “all around” BJJ gym where you can find both regular & competition training. Which gym should you choose?
There are many factors that has to be considered when looking for a great BJJ gym. First you have to ask yourself what type of BJJ training you are looking for? Are you looking to train casually 3-4x per week or are you looking to compete in international BJJ tournaments? Secondly you have to determine what type of instructors and training partners that you need, in competition classes most instructors will be very “strict”, same goes for training partners. Other factors such as facilities, mat space, and equipments are among things you should consider as well.
BJJ Gyms vs BJJ Schools
In my years of trying out BJJ in various different countries and areas, in my opinion there are differences between BJJ gyms and BJJ Schools. The major difference is sometime BJJ gyms are a part of a general fitness gyms such as Golds/Crossfit and the head instructor has some type of arrangements with them, whereas BJJ schools are independent and offer BJJ as their main offering. BJJ schools are also often called as academies.
I have compiled an extensive list of brazilian jiu jitsu academies all around the world. I have visited some of it by myself to get a deeper experience of the school but i searched online for the most part. I will outline any pros and cons for each specific gyms for you to consider.
This post will be periodically updated as needed
My 3 Personal Measurements of Great BJJ Academies
Instructor quality is by far the most important thing that a great BJJ gyms has to have. There are many ways you can test whether the instructor is a world class or an average one. A test that i will do if i have the chance is to roll “lightly” with them, depending on your BJJ level this might be the only factor you will ever need when deciding whether the instructor is good or not. Because bad instructor will tap you out left and right using their muscles & power without exhibiting technical mastery. where a great instructor will roll with you technically and doesn’t even mind when they get submitted. Instructors with great competition experience is also something that you should look for although there will be exceptions such as John Danaher. All in all the instructor quality will most likely be the deciding factor when you are looking for the best BJJ gym, so determine your requirements and choose accordingly.
How the gym looks and cared for on a daily basis is also an important factor that you should not forget. A great BJJ gym should have enough mat space, grappling dummies, and BJJ gears for each students. The gym mats also has to be cleaned multiple times DAILY if there is a lot of classes in the gym, getting a ring worm or staph infection is not a fun experience. So if you have found a gym with the perfect instructor but the gym smells like a sewer then you probably know what you need to do next. Even though some people says you can train BJJ in the dirt if you have too, i rather train on a clean mat for my own health and safety.
Last but not least you also have to determine the type of training partners you would like to be around in the gym. Some competition only gyms will be consisted of people with competition aspirations and that could translate to injury if your training partners does not look after you when training. Good training partners is a must have because you won’t be able to enjoy the other factors if your limb is injured because your training partners rolls with their ego (Not looking at you, Palhares), they will also be the one to correct you when drilling techniques from the instructor. It will be very wise to spend several weeks in a bjj gym and roll with everyone that is a regular there just to get a feel of their personality. Finding a gym with good training partners is essential whether you train casually or a professional BJJ fighter.
My Best BJJ Academies List
Renzo Gracie Academy – New York City
I don’t think this is a surprise for anyone in the BJJ world. Renzo Gracie Academy in New York has been one of the most packed, talent filled BJJ gyms in the last decade. Renzo Gracie has built an amazing gym in the heart of New York, this is a manifestation of his hard work and great coaching throughout years of competing in BJJ and MMA competitions. Someof Renzo’s first BJJ blackbelt are Matt Serra, Ricardo Almeida, and John Danaher who went on to create their own accomplishments and awards in the combat sports world.
Whether you’re looking for world class gi or no-gi training in NYC. You can’t go wrong with Renzo Gracie Academy
Location wise it might be a bit hard to find the gym since the BJJ class is located underground, the reception area is also not right at the front of the gym, keep that in mind when visiting for the first time.
Gym Equipment: 4/5
Training Partners: 5/5
Nowadays the main attraction that Renzo Gracie Academy provides comes in form of the most dominant BJJ team in the world famously known as Danaher Death Squad. Professor John Danaher is one of the best martial arts instructor in the world and he teaches on Renzo Gracie Academy daily when he is not cornering his students or doing seminars all around the world. His star pupils such as Garry Tonon, Gordon Ryan, and Nicky Ryan is the reasons why so many people including me look at Danaher as a mystical figure. Danaher has taken his student from unknown to world champion level in less than half a decade, this is unheard of in any combat sport competition. Danaher is famously known as the man that brought leglocks to the mainstream in the world of brazilian jiu jitsu. He employs the same approach in MMA and currently Garry Tonon has an undefeated 5-0 MMA record. Regardless of your current BJJ level, affiliations, or any other concerns, you have to took one of Danaher’s classes and privates at least once in your life and take your BJJ game to the next level.
Marcelo Garcia Jiu Jitsu Academy – New York City
Marcelo Garcia Academy is one of the best BJJ gyms in the world today. Marcelo himself is an accomplished BJJ fighter that only loses to the very best in brazilian jiu jitsu such as Jacare Souza and Roger Gracie while being severely undersized while competing. He is also the one that made high elbow guillotine aka Marcellotiene become popular in the world of submission grappling. Marcelo Garcia is a BJJ legend and you have to train with him at least once before you die.
Gym Equipments: 4/5
Gym Environment: 4/5
The academy is on the third floor of the building and in my opinion comparing the area with the amount of students who have joined the gym, the area is just too small hence my reduced score However this doesn’t make the school lose any of it’s appeal, as it’s my personal favorite gym in the NYC area.
BJJ classes is available 7 days/week with regular and competition classes run by qualified instructors, if for any reason you don’t want to go to Renzo Gracie Academy then Marcelo Garcia is your best bet.
Unity Jiu Jitsu Academy – New York City
New York is a hot bed of amazing brazilian jiu jitsu gyms and Unity Jiu Jitsu Academy is one of them. With head coach Murillo Santana and prized pupils such as Joao & Paulo Miyao, Unity Jiu Jitsu has been one of the “dark horse” in the BJJ world. Nowadays you can find BJJ & MMA stars such as Dillon Danis, Mansher Khera, former DDS Member Eddie Cummings, and Aaron “Tex” Johnson within the gym walls. If you’re near the area then you MUST visit this gym
There are several variations of classes in Unity, the most interesting one is the Pro classes where all of the students there can’t sit out and take a rest unless the training is all finished (Pretty brutal training). Some of the classes are also FREE. Professor Murillo Santana is one of the very few instructors that provides this type of training for the masses.
Some of you might have heard that the facilities in Unity Jiu Jitsu is not hygienic, that might be true in the old location however since then the academy has moved to a new place and everything looks clean and sanitary. (No staph for you, thank god)