At the beginning of October, I made the terrifying and exhilarating decision to once again move across the country, having done so 5 years ago from Wisconsin to Texas. Instead of a hot, dry climate, I was moving to a city known for its rain, Seattle. Less than a month later, I made a four day road trip across the country to my new home. As if moving across the country was not stressful enough, I also had to decide what my future held in jiujitsu and where I was going to train. This decision felt like it could derail my journey or propel me forward; to say I was putting pressure on the decision would be an understatement. I sat down and thought about what I wanted out of a gym, a team, and a coach, and four main components jumped out at me.
1. A Women’s Team
First and foremost, I knew I wanted other women or at the very least smaller men to work with. When I first started training, I was almost always the only woman training, something I had grown accustomed to, but always wanted to change. Although less frequent than before, after four years I was still being paired with men 30-40 pounds heavier than me at the very least. As I progressed, I noticed that women move differently then men, and I knew I needed tough women to help me progress more on my journey. A gym without a women’s team would not be an option to me.
2. Welcoming Environment
When healthy, I spend almost every day in my gym, sometimes multiple times a day. I wanted not only teammates but that feeling of unity and family that so many gyms boast about. What I wanted most was a gym that worked to build each other up and help each other progress, and coaches less focused on money and notoriety, but more focused on individual journeys and sharing their passion for the sport. My new gym needed that “je ne sais quoi” feeling.
3. A Competition Team
Coming from a predominantly competition driven team, I was pushed into the competition scene within three months of starting jiujitsu and have never stopped, competing almost monthly, sometimes more. Competing is something that drives me in jiujitsu and helps me create short term goals helping me stay focused and driven during my journey. I knew I needed a gym that had some focus on competition, including a competition team and class. I needed a coach that had experience competing on the highest level and would be able to guide me through all the aspects of competing.
The last item I knew I wanted out of a gym was variety. I needed a variety of classes at differing times I knew I could make, along with different coaches with different focuses to help drive my jiujitsu forward. In addition to training in the gi, I needed nogi classes, along with competition classes, and a women’s class. To get the most out of my training I wanted to push myself in as many ways as I could, and the best way would be to continuously push my boundaries.
After deciding what was most important to me when it came to where I would train, I set out and tried numerous gyms around the area. Although I already had a personal tie to one of the gyms, I decided to keep an open mind and make as informed of a decision as I possibly could. It took several weeks of dropping in on different gyms before I made my decision. The most important part of making this decision was taking my time and not feeling pressured. I needed to be completely confident in my decision and that it fulfilled everything I wanted and needed to continue my journey.
What everyone is looking for in a gym is different. We all come from different walks of life, and have different stories to tell. My goals in jiujitsu will never be the same as anyone else. Jiujitsu is such an individual sport which is what can make it so appealing to so many people. Let me know what you look for in a gym in the comments.