Why Are BJJ Classes So Expensive? Simply Explained


Out of all the martial arts classes out there, taking Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) classes is definitely on the high end as far as prices are concerned. You might be left pondering why this is the case.

As a general rule, you’re paying a high price to learn Jiu-Jitsu because certified BJJ instructors have spent many years of training to obtain BJJ black belt which is considered the most difficult black belt to get.

In this article, I will further explain some of the most important reasons that drive BJJ membership fees so high as well as provide some tips to help you save money should you decide to enroll and start your BJJ journey.

Why Are BJJ Classes So Expensive?

With BJJ, you are learning a high-level skill taught by a high-level instructor in each class. This is not the same as going to a gym where you can have any personal trainer instructing you on how many reps to take or which exercises to do.

It takes years of regular practice and rolling for one to become a BJJ black belt, where in some cases, it can take as long as 10+ years. The end result is that there’s a low supply of qualified instructors with BJJ black belts to teach the art, especially outside places like Brazil and the United States. Not to mention that one needs to become at least a second-degree BJJ black belt in order to award black belts to students. With low supply and high demand comes high costs, which is why BJJ is far from the cheapest martial art to learn and pursue.

But there is another big reason as to why they’re expensive and that’s the high costs that are associated with teaching it. First of all, renting the space can set one back plenty of money, especially if you’re in a location such as downtown New York like the Renzo Gracie Academy is. Even if it’s in a suburb outside a metropolitan area, one can still expect to spend at least a couple of thousand per month on rent.

Then there’s all the equipment you need to set up, most important of all, being mats which can cost $5,000 to $10,000. It’s extremely important to have high-quality mats and high-quality equipment in general. Add in utilities, insurance, taxes, affiliation fees and supplies among other things, and it’s easy to see why memberships can be expensive to offset these costs. After all, it’s very common for BJJ gyms or dojos to make losses initially before eventually turning profitable.

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Why Is BJJ More Expensive Than Other Martial Arts?

BJJ is more expensive than other martial arts because it requires high-level instructors with black belts. Because there is a short supply of these instructors, memberships are expensive in order to combat the excess demand. As aforementioned, costs in running a BJJ gym or dojo are also high, so having high-end membership prices can offset these costs and eventually help them turn profitable.

But what if a gym is in a good position financially? BJJ will still be more expensive regardless simply because of the high demand. Unlike other martial arts, there is a greater percentage of adult students with more disposable income who are interested in BJJ. Many of these adults are willing to pay the required amounts to progress in their BJJ journey.

In comparison, a lot of other martial arts such as judo or karate have a smaller proportion of adult students. Many of these arts also live off of a kid’s program which can be profitable, but not as much as BJJ. Some of these other arts are also taught in subsidized or donated gym spaces with some instructors being volunteers. This is the case with judo, in particular. The end result is the costs aren’t that high compared to BJJ which allows memberships to be cheaper.

Some BJJ gyms also have to pay affiliation fees. This is when an independent gym buys the license of an existing franchise like Gracie Barra. The benefits of this is you gain access to high-level knowledge from those franchises as well as get their instructors to come in for seminars or gradings. Their instructors can also reward black belts to your students if you are not a second-degree black belt. Additionally, being associated with a franchise is also good for marketing and exposure. However, affiliate fees can be extremely expensive with some franchises requiring gyms to have at least $50,000 set aside for upfront costs. For a small, independent gym, this is a lot of money to invest.

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Is BJJ Once A Week Enough?

If you don’t have time or are just looking to do BJJ as a casual learner, going for BJJ classes once a week can still be worth it. You can still learn a lot and have confidence in your ability. But to see some significant growth, repetition helps, especially when it comes to drilling and rolling with others.

That is why going at least twice a week is the recommended amount by most in the BJJ community. While some gyms will let you roll early on, others only allow it in advanced classes where you may need at least two stripes on your white belt which could mean six to 12 months of training. With just one class a week, this can take a lot longer.

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How Many Times A Week Should You Train BJJ?

As a general rule, it is recommended to attend BJJ classes at least twice a week. Some leeway is allowed if you’re just starting out as you can probably do with one class a week as you get used to the martial art. In the first few classes, one can expect to learn some basic movements like bridging and shrimping. Depending on the gym, you may get to roll as well, but it will be heavily supervised.

If you have a decent grasp of the basics, twice is the ideal amount to see gradual progress over a period of time. If you are looking to expedite the process of becoming a black belt or want to compete in the future, it is probably ideal to go at least three to five times a week. With that said, it’s important to have rest days so you don’t burn yourself out.

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What Is The Average Cost to Learn BJJ?

The average cost of taking BJJ classes per month can vary depending not only on your country, but your city. If you’re in a city with a high cost of living, it’s natural that the costs will be higher. There’s also the number of classes you are taking to factor in which can affect the average as well as the plans your prospective gym is offering, and if you’re using the plan or going on a pay-by-the-class basis.

Let’s assume the average cost of one BJJ class is $15. The following table will reveal how much you can expect to spend on average depending on the number of classes you are taking:

Number of classes per weekNumber of classes per monthTotal cost per month
14$60
28$120
312$180
416$240
520$300

This is just an estimation assuming the average cost of one class is $15. With that said, gyms offer membership programs where you can pay a discounted price for a set number of classes per week. Certain gyms also offer plans where you can pay a certain fixed amount per month for unlimited classes. The Unity jiu-jitsu school in New York City, for example, offers an unlimited plan for $200 a month. So it’s not necessary that you will always have to pay extravagant amounts each month if you would like to become a BJJ regular.

Is BJJ Worth The Cost?

If you have the time and are prepared to spend money on your new passion of BJJ, it is certainly worth the cost. Training in BJJ provides a number of different benefits and has aided in the growth of many individuals who practice it.

Among the benefits of BJJ include:

  • Learning self-defense
  • Confidence
  • Improved strength
  • Improved endurance
  • Improved flexibility
  • Weight loss
  • Stress relief
  • Improved mental health
  • Sense of community and new friends
  • Respect and discipline
  • Improved problem-solving skills

All in all, it’s very hard to find someone that has been committed to BJJ to say anything bad about it. However, it is an investment, both with time and money, and there have been many who have stopped practicing because they don’t have one or the other. But there are ways to save money on BJJ memberships as demonstrated in the next point.

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Tips For Saving Money On BJJ Memberships

There can be ways to save money on BJJ memberships if you’re cash-strapped but would like to continue pursuing the art.

One of them is to negotiate with the main instructor at your gym or dojo. Explain your circumstances involving your financial difficulties and see if a compromise can be made. Many instructors will be more than happy to work with you and find a way to keep you in the gym, especially if you display commitment and potential. Some gyms can also offer discounted prices if you are willing to help or teach kids classes. However, this is dependent on how advanced your own level of BJJ is, and if you are qualified enough to do so.

If you are paying by the class, consider their monthly or yearly plans. With yearly plans, in particular, you are more than likely to save per class than on a monthly plan.

Alternatively, if you are using an unlimited plan, but don’t go as often as you would like, consider a smaller plan or pay by the class if you go just once or twice a week to save on your monthly expenses. It’s better to pay $60 for four classes a month that you actually go to than $200 for unlimited classes.

Other ways to save money could involve your method of payment. Some gyms offer cheaper rates if you are willing to pay with cash as opposed to a credit card. You can also opt not to use additional services such as locker usage or shower access.

While everyone naturally wants to learn from the best, reputable instructors at popular gyms charge more than less reputed instructors in an independent gym. Consider an independent or less popular gym to save money while you still learn the basics. It doesn’t necessarily have to be taught by a black belt either as there are great instructors even at the brown and purple belt level. It’s also possible they are at black belt level but haven’t been promoted yet.

You can also consider online courses, videos and instructionals. There are a number of instructionals offered by prominent BJJ names such as John Danaher and Lachlan Giles, the latter of whom says most of one’s learning should be done out of the gym. There are also beginner programs such as the Gracie Combatives. This is an online program that consists of 23 one-hour classes that one can complete at their own leisure. It’s a video course, but you can still learn a lot and save plenty of money in the process.

On a side note, buying your own gear rather than buying from the gym can also save money as you will more than likely be able to find more affordable protective cups and BJJ gis elsewhere.

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Conclusion

As aforementioned, if one has the time and money, and is willing to be dedicated to the craft of BJJ, it can be one of the most rewarding experiences ever. Not only will you be able to defend yourself and others with your self-defense skills and knowledge, but you also reap a ton of other benefits that help your body, health and mind. Regardless of your age, BJJ is recommended for everyone, and it’s never too late to start.

Jeff J.

Jeff J is a retired Gunnery Sgt. with the United States Marine Corps and a former Federal Police officer. He was involved with extensive training with weapons systems, and hand to hand combat, mentored and trained hundreds of Marines in high-level fitness programs.

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