10 Tips to Visiting a BJJ School While on the Road

Photo by: BJJPix

For some BJJ addicts, it is important to get their training fixes in while on a business trip or vacation. Visiting new schools is a great way to network in the BJJ community, learn new techniques and possibly train at a renowned school with a famous coach. I have been fortunate enough to visit several schools while on the road in the New York and New Jersey area as well as Bangkok, Thailand. All of my experiences visiting schools have been very positive and confirms my belief that BJJ practitioners are some of the friendliest people around. Here are a few tips that I received from my more experienced training partners and coaches in regards to planning a trip to a BJJ school while on the road.

  1. Ask your coach if there are any schools he/she would recommend: BJJ is a very small community and your coach can provide recommendations on where to train. Your coach will likely recommend schools within your school’s affiliate network or a school from his network of BJJ contacts. Some coaches will call the school in advance and help to get mat fees waived.
  1. Call ahead: Give the school a phone call a week before going and confirm if they will be open, class schedule, if a specific instructor will be teaching, gi policy, if there is a mat fee, and if they have showers in their locker room. If you are going to New York and are dying to take a class with Marcelo Garcia or John Danaher, confirming their schedules will help you plan out which days you train. Also, schools such as AOJ and Kron Gracie have a strict white gi only policy. Asking what their policy is prior to the visit, will help avoid any drama that could impact your training.
  1. Respect the mat fee: Most schools will not charge a mat fee to visitors from an affiliate school. Some schools may still charge a mat fee even if they are affiliated with your school. If they the school does have a mat fee, be respectful and don’t haggle about the mat fee and bring cash to the class to cover the mat fee.
  1. Arrive 20-minutes early: At your home school, you know the culture and routine down pat and can stroll into the school right before classes start with no issue. While on the road, arrive 20-minutes before classes start. Arriving right before class starts could cause headaches for an instructor who is a one-person show at their academy. Get there 20-minutes early to fill out paper work, pay fees, get a tour, buy water, and any additional information
  1. Be Humble: Introduce yourself to your classmates. Be friendly. Don’t bring up any tournaments you have previously won or talk up how great your school and coaches are even if they really are amazing. Complement the school’s facility and be friendly.
  1. Assimilate: Each school’s cultures and routines differ. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. As a guest in their house, fall in line and do their warm ups and drills to the best of your ability. Some drills might be foreign to you. Just try your best. Also, during instruction, the technical instruction and style might differ from what you are used to doing. Drill and execute the moves as shown and give the technique and teachings a chance.
  1. Roll/Spar Light: Don’t go hard in your rolls. Let your training partners set the pace or tell your training partners you would prefer to roll light. Some schools are very aggressive during their training sessions while others are mellower. In some cases, going hard and winning a rounder will give the instructors a reason to match you up with someone even more difficult the next round and the rounder after. I have seen visitors who roll aggressively with smaller training partners and it could leave a bad taste in the mouths of other students at the school. I have also seen a visiting Blue Belt injure a new white belt in rolling, which made him a target for the upper belts in subsequent rounds of rolling. The safe approach is to view rolling while on the road as “just getting some rounds in so I don’t get rusty,” rather than an all-out war to prove West Coast BJJ is better than East Coast BJJ.
  1. Thank All of the Coaches and Training Partners: Thank all of the coaches and training partners for letting you train at the school. Remember you are representing your coach and home school and you could be the only person they ever interact with from your school. Leave a positive lasting impression on them. Be friendly and invite your training partners to your school if they are ever in your area.
  1. Ask them for a good spot to eat: You will be hungry after working out. Why not ask the locals where there is a good spot to get some grub? This is a common question that visitors to our gym have after their workouts. When I trained in Bangkok, I went and grabbed dinner with a few training partners after our evening workouts and had some great local dishes.
  1. Write a positive Yelp and Facebook review for the school: Both Yelp and Facebook are low cost marketing tools used by BJJ schools. Most BJJ schools are small businesses with a shoe string budget. A positive Facebook post and review and a Yelp review is very helpful to the schools in helping attract new students.


  1. I would also suggest that a visitor respect the instructor and not add to, correct or disagree with what they are teaching. If you don’t like the teaching move along or open your own gym and teach the way you want, but do not disrespect an instructor in front of their class.


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