I traveled around extensively between 2012 and 2019 and have visited many BJJ gyms in all sorts of places.
Sometimes there aren’t many choices in a given place.
For example, when I visited Iran in 2015, there was only one BJJ gym in Tehran, the capital city… and that was the only BJJ gym in the entire country.
Sometimes I visit gyms my friends run/train at/recommend.
But if I have multiple options AND don’t have any strong recommendations from people I know & trust, I usually check a few things about these gyms.
Most BJJ folks tend to be friendly, and I haven’t really encountered many jerks even after visiting different gyms in different countries.
So, the chances are, you could pick whichever gym that would be close to you, and you’d still have a good time meeting & rolling with new people.
Having said that, some of the things I check include, among other things, whether they have kids’ classes as well as whether they have female students.
I believe the presence of kids and women is a good indicator of welcoming gym culture.
My reasoning is the following:
- If there are kids’ classes, that probably means the parents trust the gym owner enough to let their kids train at the gym. The gym owner probably does their best to create a safe & friendly environment for kids to train at. If the gym owner has this kind of mindset, it probably means that they have a similar approach & attitude towards their adult students.
- If there are female students, again, that probably means the gym’s culture is welcoming towards female practitioners of BJJ, which is still rare in many countries. If the training environment is comfortable enough for these female students to keep coming to training sessions, then I’d say that’s great — probably they have fewer psychos, and more skilled folks who can roll with female beginners without creeping/freaking them out.
Do these reasons make sense?
p.s. This article on the presence/absence of women in BJJ gyms inspired me to write about this topic. It’s a good one… I recommend you to read it.