Choosing the right Jiu-Jitsu or other martial-arts school

At the Maryland Judo & Jiu-Jitsu Academy, we feel that choosing the right martial-arts school is like choosing the right college for yourself or your children.

Weighing the different styles and qualifications of various martial-arts instructors can be an overwhelming task. Team Maryland BJJ has put together a few guidelines you might want to consider when choosing a school. Feel free to call us to ask any other questions you might have.


First, why do you want to train in a martial art like Gracie Jiu-Jitsu?

This can be the hardest question, and to answer it, you have to be realistic with yourself and your goals. What do you want to accomplish? Do you merely want to get in shape, or are you interested in competition? Both Judo and Jiu-Jitsu have many prominent competitions (Judo, in fact, is an Olympic sport), but they also attract many people who never compete. Those people just love coming to the club to spar informally with friends. 

You might be interested in the martial arts as a system of self-defense. If so, you should consider the effectiveness and practicality of the various arts. A martial art might train a student to use nunchaku or swords, but you can’t carry those around on the street. Both Judo and BJJ mainly instruct students how to use their bodies to fend off attacks -- even from assailants who have weapons.


How does a student advance in Judo or BJJ? What are the qualifications of the instructors?

Some martial-arts systems put too much focus on becoming a black belt -- and they even hand out black belts to small children, for no reason other than good class attendance. This affects the integrity of the black belt, which should denote many years of study and accomplishment in the art.  For this reason, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and Kodokan Judo do not promote kids to Black Belt level.

At Team Maryland BJJ, we feel that a child who has gotten a black belt might feel a false sense of security. We believe parents and students should worry less about black belts and other belt colors, and focus more on some essential questions: “Is my child learning the techniques of the martial art? Would he or she be able to defend against a bully? Is my child having fun?”  

When choosing a martial art, one should also consider the “lineage” of a particular school. Where does that martial art come from, how did it start, and what’s the grounding philosophy behind its founding? Does the instructor have an active relationship with his instructor? Is he or she certified in teaching this art? Does the instructor have a college diploma or other certification? Does this instructor display the values and character that I would expect of myself or my child? 


Finally, how is the martial-arts school organized, and what should you look for in a school?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu schools have popped up like crazy in recent years, so it’s important to ask some incisive and personal questions about the structure and style of a school.

Visit the school and observe a class. Look at the instructor and how the students react to the teaching. Can you see yourself benefitting and learning in that environment? What is the student-to-teacher ratio? Is the instructor trying to teach 30-plus students, or is he or she working one-on-one with individuals?

Take a close look at the facility. Does it look clean and feel safe to you? Is it properly equipped to handle the training?

Remember to ask as many questions as you need to feel comfortable. Make sure you know exactly what you are getting into when you start your training at an academy. Reaching your potential in any martial art takes a long time, so be sure you choose the school that is right for you!


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