I'm looking for a BJJ school in my town and I've narrowed it down to two schools. One is a Gracie affiliate with more traditional style, very laid back, older crowd, guys with jobs and families. It's the oldest school in town, the instructor has 20+ years of BJJ training and has a dozen black belt students, plus lots of browns, purples, etc. The other is a competition-style school and an affiliate of a former black belt Mundials champ. The assistant instructor was a world-class brown belt who just got his black. The school is pretty young, so besides the two black belt instructors, they have I think one other black belt training there, maybe 2 browns, 5-6 purples, and the rest are white and blues. They've got a handful of Pan Am and Mundials medalists at white/blue/purple.

I'm 33 years old with a full-time career and other responsibilities. I'd like to compete a couple times a year (and win) relatively locally (I live in CA, so Pan Ams and Mundials are relatively local), but I've got no delusions about becoming the next Keenan Cornelius.


1) What is your take on the old school/Gracie style vs. the new school/competition style in terms of self-defense applicability and possibly for MMA? Are sports BJJ players clueless when it comes to self-defense or are more traditional schools clinging to "self-defense" because they're getting left behind in competitions? The first thing I learned at the Gracie gym was a headlock escape. Something I'd never seen before, but a very simple and effective escape for a situation that I might very well run into in the real world. But also something that (probably deliberately) seemed so intuitive, maybe most blue belts would figure it out, self-defense focus or not.

2) The first thing I learned at the competition-focused gym was an X-guard pass. I don't know **** about x-guard. I didn't even know knee slide at that point (still don't know it well). I don't expect a black belt instructor to stop class to teach me mount escapes when the rest of the class is blues and purples who want to learn some spider guard something or other, but am I eventually going to get the basics down by the time I get to blue? Like will I have to ask a purple belt I get paired with during sparring to help me with a basic armbar? It seems to me that this is pretty much the standard way BJJ is taught unless there is a specific beginners or fundamentals class. It's gone that way at literally every gym I've been to except for the Gracie affiliate because I went to a Fundamentals class, and a different competition-style gym because the instructor paired me up with a purple belt and put me on the other side of the mat and just had me work transitioning from mount to back to side control over and over.

3) Takedowns. The competition school is very guard heavy, lots of spider, DLR, X, inverted, etc. Pulling guard is the de facto strategy. They offer judo 2 nights a week (I could make it once a week), but I rarely see the BJJ guys there, and when I do, it's never the serious competitors. I know BJJ competitions only give 2 points for a takedown, but I've always thought of BJJ as takedown, pass/smash, pressure, mount, submit. I want to be effective off my back, but top game always made more sense to me in a real-life situation. The instructor at the Gracie affiliate told me that while there's no judo or takedown classes, he does teach single leg, double leg, uchi mata, osoto and ouchi gari and a footsweep, I think de ashi barai. His logic being that it's better to get good at 2-3 takedowns than try to learn a bunch and never getting good at them. Would I benefit from only 1 night a week of judo, or will I get frustrated at my lack of progress? What's my risk of injury in judo?

Sorry for the verbal diarrhea, but I've been overthinking this decision for a while, and I just need some honest feedback.

Thanks!