Mixed martial arts is about more than striking and grappling and combining elements of different kinds of martial arts. It’s also one of the fastest growing sports in the world, in large part because just about anyone can do it, no matter what their size. It’s also a wonderful exercise, both for the mind and body. Here are five of the best MMA gyms in and around the city of Chicago.

(Photo Credit: valkobjj.com)

(Photo Credit: valkobjj.com)

Valko Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy
820 N. Orleans St.
Chicago, IL 60610
(773) 556-8155

After training for years with well-known MMA instructors, both on the Gracie Barrie team in Florida and the Carlson Gracie academy in Chicago, the owner Jay Valko (with his Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt) opened his own academy in 2007. This gym offers classes in judo, jiu jitsu, boxing, wrestling and muay thai with the help of eight different instructors. The first class is offered for free, and then the academy offers a variety of membership packages that are flexible to fit your schedule.

POW Gym Chicago
310 S. Racine Ave.
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 829-7699

The expansive gym offers a lot of amenities, including an open gym, climbing wall and hydro massage bed. The options for classes are pretty extensive too, including boxing, kickboxing, krav maga, judo/grappling, muay thai, weapons self-defense, speed training, functional strength and cardio. And there’s even kid classes too. All the trainers have a long history of experience, and classes often focus on everything from striking and self-defense skills to MMA. In addition to group classes, personal training is also available.

Chicago Jiu Jitsu
4900 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60625
(773) 334-5189

The family-run gym has three locations in Chicago, and the entire family has proven their dedication to Gracie Jiu Jitsu from the beginning. Two of the brothers even traveled to Brazil, where they studied with some of the best instructors in the world. Every single teacher is not only a certified black belt, but also a certified teacher, ensuring a safe and educational environment. In all locations, Chicago Jiu Jitsu offers classes geared toward everyone from beginners to advanced. While the gym is known for its group classes, it offers private instruction too.

Related: Best Gyms In Chicago

(Photo Credit: Team Redzovic - Gracie Jiu Jitsu's Facebook)

(Photo Credit: Team Redzovic – Gracie Jiu Jitsu’s Facebook)

Chicago Mixed Martial Arts
1528 N. Halsted St.
Chicago, IL 60642
(312) 646-0626

For tough but educational and fun classes led by experienced instructors, head to this MMA gym on the Near North Side. What makes this place unique? It teaches both Gracie Jiu Jitsu as well as Sityodtong Muay Thai. Classes are designed both to teach self defense, as well as to prepare students, if they want, for competition. Adult, teen and even youth classes are available. Before purchasing a membership, you can also take a free trial class.

Victory MMA Gyms
5101 S. Keeler Ave.
Chicago, IL 60632
(773) 957-8040

No matter what your skill level, or if you’re just starting out, Victory MMA Gyms will welcome you and get you in the best fighting shape of your life. Victory offers few gyms in and around Chicago, making it easy for you to get to one too. At all locations, you will learn all about MMA, including self-defense tactics like striking, ground and pound tactics, escaping and defense, among others. In other words, you’ll be trained in both grappling and striking. Private classes are also available in addition to group classes.

Related: Best Alternative Sport & Fitness Activities In Chicago

Liz SanFilippo Hall is a freelance writer, who enjoys trying new foods from all over the world. But her favorite city for culinary treats will always be Chicago. When not blogging about food, she’s working part-time at a culinary vacation company, The International Kitchen, based in the Windy City, as well as repping Younique cosmetics and skincare products. Some of her writing can be found at Examiner.com.