Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has grown incredibly quickly over the last few decades and is now a popular hobby and sport in virtually every country on the planet, but where exactly is the best place to train BJJ? Decades ago, the answer to this question would have been incredibly easy and the clue is in the name: Brazil. Today though, that same question is nowhere near as straightforward. While Brazil was originally the only place you could train BJJ, people around the world could still readily access Judo, traditional Jiu-Jitsu, Freestyle Wrestling, and even Catch Wrestling once upon a time.
The difference between those grappling arts and BJJ though, is the fact that they had a significant headstart in terms of development and formalisation as a sport. As a result, both wrestling and Judo form part of the Olympic games and everyone competing in those sports represents their own country. That makes it significantly easier to figure out where the best place is to train in these grappling arts, because all you really need to do is look at which country is dominating those competitions.
Where Is The Best Place To Train BJJ?
Generally speaking, Russia tends to dominate wrestling and Japan tends to dominate Judo. For anyone looking for the best coaches and training partners in those sports, it’s pretty easy to see where they need to go. The same can’t be said for BJJ, as it’s a sport where athletes represent individual gyms as opposed to nations. Many athletes have their own opinions of which training partners or coaches are best to train under, and some of them still believe that Brazil is the best place to go, but are they right?
Is Brazil Still The Best Place To Do Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was still in its infancy in the 90s and the first few editions of both the ADCC and IBJJF World Championship were dominated by Brazilian athletes. While there was the occasional non-Brazilian who won gold at the IBJJF world championship, they were very few and far between for the first two decades. Things at ADCC weren’t a whole lot different either, and although there were more non-Brazilians winning the world’s most prestigious no gi tournament, it was usually only one or two gold medallists each year.
But a change happened in the 2000s that wasn’t really felt fully until much, much later. That was the time when most BJJ black belts who were successful in competition were suddenly deciding to move to the US and potentially even further abroad. It was significantly more lucrative to run an academy(or large affiliation) in North America and Europe than it ever was in Brazil, so it was the smart career move for any grappler with the knowledge and name value to open a large academy.
While the Machado brothers and some members of the Gracie family had moved to America much earlier than that, there weren’t very many of them and the sport wasn’t all that popular yet. The 2000s were when things really started to pick up speed, and dozens of truly elite grapplers were leaving Brazil on a regular basis. That change meant that it was no longer such an easy choice if you wanted to look for the best place to train BJJ. While most of the best people to train with were still Brazilian, not many of them were still in Brazil. At the same, there was plenty of talented grapplers hitting their prime elsewhere.
Is America The Best Place To Train Jiu-Jitsu?
That change in the 2000s had an incredible effect on the landscape of professional grappling that is only really starting to be felt now. All of those elite Brazilian competitors like Andre Galvao, Marcelo Garcia, and the Mendes brothers have had enough time now to build up an entire generation of top competitors to come after them, and have already begun working on the generation after that. Not only are they still attracting talent from Brazil like Tainan Dalpra and Kaynan Duarte, but they’re also developing homegrown talent from the US like Gianni Grippo and the Ruotolo brothers.
At the 2022 edition of the ADCC world championship there was actually more gold medallists from outside Brazil than from inside it, for the very first time. There was a total of three Brazilians, four Americans, and Ffion Davies became the first Welsh person to ever win the tournament that year. At first glance that seems like a slight lean in favour of the US, but Davies and two out of three of the Brazilian champions all train in the US too. Only one ADCC champion in 2022 actually trained in Brazil, Diogo Reis from Melqui Galvao Jiu-Jitsu. The IBJJF World Championship that same year wasn’t quite the same story, with fifteen Brazilian champions, two Americans, and once again Ffion Davies. Still, many of those Brazilian competitors were training in the US too.
Where Is The Best Place To Train BJJ Now?
It really does depend on what your goals are. If you plan to reach the highest level of no gi grappling, it seems as though most of the best training partners and coaches can all be found in the US. If you plan to reach the highest level of traditional gi grappling, then it seems as though there’s a fairly even split between the Brazil and the US in the modern era. That being said, a truly special athlete can obviously make it to the highest stages while training at any gym and not every facility or coach will be the right choice for that particular athlete.
That’s actually part of the beauty of BJJ, a sport that isn’t organized by nationality. Competitors are free to travel to any gym they decide best suits their needs, and they can train with anyone, anywhere while still belonging to their home-gym. With athletes that represent teams as opposed to countries, it’s much easier to find the best support network for that individual and competitors have access to a much wider range of coaches and training partners.
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