9 Oct 2019

In the middle of July this year I was informed by the people running the Guide Hut where I run Borehamwood BJJ Club that they had given up their lease to the local council and that I could no longer hire the building for my BJJ club. I was given about 3 weeks notice. As you can imagine, it was incredibly annoying to have to relocate at such short notice - it is one of the drawbacks of hiring a facility on a short term basis that I have come to accept.

After a few days of discussions with my club members, one of my students suggested the sports centre where he works - NextGen Fitness in Potters Bar. Specifically, their squash courts, which he noted were ample in size and always available. In fact, the local Muay Thai club was already established in one of their squash courts so they were definitely open to the idea of us being there too.

I was still a little hesitant as I have never before seen nor trained BJJ within a squash court before. So I asked around to see if anyone else used squash courts. I was quite taken by surprise by how popular it was.

Clubs based in squash courts

When I posted a thread on the Facebook UK BJJ Underground group, lots of people got back to me to tell me of their experiences. Here are just a few examples:

Mandala Jiu Jitsu in Sydenham Leisure Centre, London have a squash court all to themselves which is fully matted wall to wall. You would never know from the picture!

Mandala Jiu Jitsu

British Army BJJ also have a permanently matted squash court. The only way you'd be able to tell is thanks to the tell tale diagonal perimeter line on the original squash court wall.

Photo by Mark Badham

Fifth Element Durham - also have a permanently matted squash court as their training facility. As with the ones above, adding photos and logos to the mats and walls gives it a real old school dojo vibe.
Photo: taken from the Fifth Element Facebook page

IBJJF Europeans - even the mighty IBJJF were happy to use a squash court as the warm up room while hosting the 2019 European Champtionships in Lisbon. Looks rather steamy!

Photo by Mike Lagarto Pesco├žo Coburn

Positive benefits

The first and most immediate benefit to considering a squash court is the ubiquitousness of the sport - pretty much every medium to large sized sports centre will have one or more squash courts for hire. The other major benefit is that they're very big - 9.7 metres by 6.4metres, which can easily host a class size of 20-30 students (assuming complete floor mat coverage).

Near constant availability is also bonus - unless the squash courts are already booked out by clubs, most courts are available at peak times for a modest hourly fee.
Along with hiring courts, students can also gain use of the leisure centre changing room and washroom facilities and other amenities.

Negative drawbacks

Mat storage is the main problem. Not all centres will happily agree to have their squash court permanently covered with mats. The other main problem is noise - squash courts tend to have high ceilings and the uppermost portion of the walls are open which causes a lot of echo and noise from other courts. The other main problem is without vertical mats to protect the walls, there is the potential to have people colliding with a hard wall surface.

Some other problems to note - dirt, the court is used by other people all the time and they're aren't always good at cleaning up after themselves. Another problem is that it can get very hot in the court with little to no ventiliation available.

So we decided to go for it!

For our club, the pros far outweighed the cons. I decided to relocate to the squash courts at NextGen and can say that we're very happy there. The close proximity to the walls is a potential danger but we have spare jigsaw mats to act as a barrier plus students not sparring are tasked with keeping an eye open and intervene if there are any likely collisions. The mat storage isn't a problem as the gym manager was happy for us to store the mats in a spare part of the gym. The temperature can get a little hot but there is air conditioning. The floors are easy to sweep before laying out mats and whilst it does get noisy we've just had to get used to it.

Here is a video of us sparring where you can hopefully see how a typical small BJJ club can operate within a squash court..


Not So Squashed! - Hiring squash courts for BJJ

In the middle of July this year I was informed by the people running the Guide Hut where I run Borehamwood BJJ Club that they had given ...


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