My home gym is located in a city that gets a fair number of tourists. Along with the normal back packers, there are plenty of jiu-jitsu addicts, who stuff a gi in their luggage and Google search for a BJJ or MMA gym to get in a roll.
Jiu-jitsu subculture might be unique in that way, as most other fighters won’t pack a rash guard before heading out on holidays.
Along with the openess of the BJJ subculture to visiting new academies on the road, there are a few small items of etiquette that are appreciated by the academy owners.
For the record, these aren’t necessarily my views, but some other gyms may be more or less strict on some points.
Message ahead to introduce yourself.
It is considered polite to give the BJJ school a heads up via IM or email before dropping by. Why is this important? I suspect it comes from the early days of BJJ in Brazil where cross training between academies was the norm, and an unannounced visit might be interpreted as a “dojo storm” or challenge. A more practical reason to contact the gym ahead of time is that the schedule information on the website may not be up to date or a local holiday may be disrupting the classes.
Inquire about mat fees.
Always inquire if a drop-in mat fee is expected. A great many academies may dismiss the offer in the spirit of BJJ brotherhood and invite visitors to train for free. BJJ globetrotters have set up a school network for that very reason.
However, if the BJJ class is run by a parent gym or within a fitness facility, the head instructor may not have the ability to grant a free visit. Also, in tourist centers, the gym may get a large number of drop-ins and must charge something to pay their bills and keep the doors open.
Bring a plain, white gi.
No doubt some BJJ free spirits will scoff at this suggestion, as they feel that it is a silly rule. But in some high level academies (think Mendes brothers AOJ) all the students wear white gis.
At Gracie Barra most notably, all students are mandated to wear the GB uniform. When I was in Brazil, allowances were made for visitors in that a plain, white kimono was acceptable.
Observe the rolling rules
Don’t be the douchebag who cranks a heel hook on an unexpecting student from the host academy and has the entire mat come to a standstill when your training partner shrieks clutching their knee. That is no way to make friends, and your next match up will likely be against the school’s mat policeman!
Stick to the basic IBJJF rules to be on the safe side, and save the pro wrestling neck cranks for your bros back home.
It can be a great experience to visit an academy in a new city or country and meet friends who love jiu-jitsu as much as you do!