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Three Qualities to Look for When Choosing a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy

Not all Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) academies are created equal. Choosing the right fit for you will maximize your time on the mat and propel you toward achieving the full benefits of your training.

Training Jiu Jitsu is a fun and practical hobby that can unlock immense potential in our lives, regardless of athletic background, size, weight, or strength. It cultivates mental and emotional toughness, enhances the ability to perform under pressure and problem-solve, boosts physical fitness, and provides a supportive network, fostering confidence and emotional well-being. And, of course, it equips you with essential self-defense skills. All of which sets you up for success in every area of life.

To maximize these benefits, it's essential to choose a BJJ academy that emphasizes operational excellence. Finding your ideal academy will give you a second home within a welcoming community that supports and challenges you to reach your full potential. This article discusses the top factors to consider when making your decision.

After over 20 years of teaching and running jiu-jitsu academies, we’ve identified three of the most important areas to look for when selecting an academy for yourself or your family:

  1. High-quality class instruction

  2. Academy culture marked by supportive coaches and teammates

  3. Accessibility based on location and value

Let’s break it down!

1. Quality of Instruction

First and foremost, prioritize the quality of instruction when choosing a BJJ academy. Make sure the training experience is authentic and designed for student success. To assess the instruction's quality, consider three key factors: the instructors' expertise, the teaching methodology employed, and the overall class experience. Let's delve into each of these factors.


The credentials of a jiu-jitsu academy's instructors play a crucial role. When choosing an academy, look for those with experienced instructors who excel in teaching proper techniques and offer personalized attention and feedback. Look for instructors who possess years of training, coaching, and instructing experience (no pun intended). Their extensive expertise will significantly enhance your learning and understanding of the art of jiu-jitsu.

Another strong indicator of high-quality instruction, though not common, is an academy that offers specialized training for its coaches in teaching jiu-jitsu techniques, leading classes, and coaching students. An academy’s coaches' training program reveals the quality of the programming/commitment to excellence, and the instructors' ability to communicate effectively, prioritize student safety, and work with them to achieve their goals.

At Team Passos, we implement a coaches’ training program that educates our coaches on teaching skills, relating with students, and providing a safe training environment. Instructors receive personal coaching and participate in ongoing group skill-building workshops, contributing to an even richer student experience. This coaches’ training program and class curriculum is available through Jiu Jitsu Mentor and offered to other academies to help strengthen their programs and benefit their students.

Teaching Methodology

Another important aspect to consider is the class structure and teaching methodology employed. Jiu Jitsu classes can vary significantly. A well-structured curriculum is essential, as it fosters meaningful learning at each level, emphasizes proper techniques, and provides students with a clear path of progression and expectations. Many academies focus on teaching specific techniques, while others, surprisingly, lack a defined curriculum altogether.

We've discovered that a principles-based approach proves more effective than a technique-centered curriculum. Jiu Jitsu is a complex martial art and offers countless techniques to master. A principles-based approach equips students with adaptable and practical positions that apply to various situations and techniques.

This is why we've developed and refined a structured principles-curriculum for each program level, drawing on effective systems to guide students successfully through their jiu-jitsu journey (for more insight, see this blog article). Our emphasis lies in fostering a deep understanding rather than mere memorization or overwhelming complexity.

The best academies intentionally plan not just what content they will cover but also in how information is presented to students. Each class should reflect structure, organization, and thoughtful preparation. To achieve this, ongoing training for instructors and coaches is vital. Again, BJJ instructor training courses and programs are offered to academies through Jiu Jitsu Mentor.

Class Experience

The class should be fun and engaging without compromising the technical instruction or safety on the mats. A key to achieving this is consistency within how classes are run.

Look for an academy emphasizing proper warm-ups, easy-to-follow teachings, and a well-structured curriculum. These factors help to mitigate injury, ensure you get an overall great workout, and enable you to learn the art of jiu jitsu in a well-rounded and effective way.

Even if the exercises or techniques feel like a challenge, encouraging instructors and training partners make those moments in the jiu-jitsu journey enjoyable as you make progress. The academy culture goes a long way in creating a solid class experience.

Stepping on the mats should provide a great workout that is physically and mentally stimulating with the skills being learned also being effective and practical. A great class is both safe and fun while challenging students to grow and learn each day.

Program Offerings

Check to see if the academy you're researching offers classes tailored to different experience levels. Organizing classes based on skill levels is a highly effective approach to ensuring students receive instruction that matches their abilities, optimizing safety and training outcomes. Simply check the schedule to find the classes suitable for your skill level.

Furthermore, consider your goals when choosing an academy. Perhaps you prefer those that provide additional offerings like periodic guest seminars featuring top BJJ players, women-only programs, and team-building events off the mat. Clarify your training objectives and find an academy that aligns best with them.

2. Academy Culture

Every academy has its own unique culture. The academy culture has a direct effect on a student’s overall experience of training and more importantly in their progression in the martial art and achievement of their training goals. When you walk in, does the overall atmosphere feel positive, welcoming, and supportive?  


Hospitable and Professional  

At minimum, choose a place where you feel comfortable. Look to your interactions with the coaches and the overall student body for a positive and friendly experience. The academy should also feel clean, well-maintained, and safe. A professional and supportive academy goes a long way in ensuring safety and personal growth. 


Friendly, welcoming students and training partners make a big difference toward long-term training success. At Team Passos we say that #ItsNotAboutJiuJitsu. Of the many personal benefits training jiu jitsu brings, the community and relationships formed are at the top of the list of what makes the sport so transformational. 


You know you're in a good place when you find respectful training partners who want to share knowledge and help you grow. Training jiu-jitsu is fun and challenging. It requires a lot of time and energy so it’s important to train with teammates and coaches who you connect with and enjoy.  


Coaches Invested in Students 

Everyone who steps on the mats has different reasons for beginning jiu-jitsu. These reasons can vary from skills development and fitness to personal growth. A great jiu-jitsu academy has coaches who are also invested in the well-being of their students beyond the mats. 

Find an academy that can help you develop training goals and coaches who are invested in you as an individual. Great coaches will challenge students to be their best selves and support them to reach their goals.  

3. Accessibility 


To ensure progress in your jiu-jitsu journey, it helps to choose an academy with a convenient location and class times that suit your schedule. Consistency is key to making strides, especially when starting out. Aim for 2-3 training days per week initially, and attending regularly will be a definite win. Opting for an easily accessible academy will greatly support your consistency and overall progress. 



Price is undoubtedly a factor, though to make the best decision possible, you’ll want to look at the value provided by the BJJ academy. Don’t simply look at the cheapest rates or the month’s deal. Think in terms of quality. Will this academy help you in achieving your personal goals? Is this a place worth calling home? Does the atmosphere excite and motivate you to perform at your best? Consider these questions and the above factors to determine the academy's value. 



Students of BJJ will train for years, so joining an academy where you feel welcomed and connected is crucial. Taking the time to consider which academy you will call home is worth the effort.  

Choose an academy that offers a supportive and challenging environment, fostering your growth and learning within a community of teammates that promotes your overall well-being: mentally, physically, and emotionally. Gain insight into the instruction, facilities, and community of nearby academies, by exploring online reviews, academy websites, and social media accounts.

To find the best fit for you, we suggest visiting academies in your area. Most offer free trial classes. Scheduling these trials will give you the best sense of the place and its atmosphere. Visit a few places, while considering the factors outlined in this article, to determine the best match for you. 

Best of luck with the exploration. Enjoy your BJJ journey!  

If you’re in the Northern Virginia area, we invite you to come out and try a free class at our Team Passos Jiu Jitsu academy in Sterling. Send us a message through our contact form, and we’ll connect with you to set up your free trial. 


About Team Passos: 

Team Passos is about creating positive transformation in people's lives through world-class Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) instruction. They are a jiu-jitsu academy and affiliation based in Sterling, Virginia.  


The team, led by fourth-degree BJJ black belt Professor Tony Passos, brings over 20 years of teaching and training experience. Specializing in training kids and adults at all levels in a safe and fun atmosphere, they focus on providing innovative, engaging programs and, most importantly, delivering on the promise of personal transformation through the art of Jiu-Jitsu.  


Team Passos is fueled by the mission of providing students with the tools to reach their personal goals on and off the mat. 


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