Be A Good Guest When Cross-Training At Other Jiu-Jitsu Academies

Photo by: BJJPix

Visiting other gyms is one of the most enjoyable aspects of training BJJ (and, frankly, if your gym doesn’t allow you to cross-train, you should find a new one). Whether you’re looking for a spot to train for a few sessions while traveling for work or vacation, or you’d just like to check out an open mat at another local academy, you can make the most out of your cross-training experience for yourself and the students at your host academy by making sure you follow some basic etiquette before and during your training session.

1. Contact the gym beforehand.
Plenty of academies allow drop-ins with no advanced notice, but it never hurts to shoot them a message and let them know you’ll be showing up. The coach may want to let their regular students know that they’ll have a visitor from another academy so they can maximize attendance and give their students the chance to roll with someone new. Contacting the academy before you arrive also gives the owner or coach the opportunity to let you know of any rules or stipulations you need to know about before you walk in the door, such as uniform policies and if you should arrive early to sign waivers and any other necessary forms.

2. Be prepared to pay a mat fee.
Many gyms will waive mat fees for first-time or out-of-town visitors, and truly open mat sessions are usually free for anyone and everyone who wants to drop in. Still, you may find yourself in an awkward position if you show up to train and get charged a mat fee that you weren’t prepared to pay. There are many reasons why gyms might want to charge a mat fee for visitors, such as if they’re a top-level training academy that attracts lots of tourists or if they just need the money to pay the bills. Again, this is where contacting the academy before you show up can be helpful. Simply ask the coach or owner if there’s a mat fee before you come. And of course, be respectful of their response. Their decision to charge or not charge a mat fee is up to them, and your decision to go or not go is up to you.

3. Roll respectfully.
No, you don’t have to go light on everyone, but don’t be That Person who neck cranks everyone you roll with, either. Different academies have different rules for rolling, and what might be standard fare at your usual gym may be considered aggressive and dangerous at another gym. If you aren’t familiar with which submissions are permitted at your host gym, ask the coach, and take a moment before each of your rolls to ask your training partners if there are any submissions they aren’t comfortable with. When in doubt, let the students at the host gym set the pace. Don’t roll like you’re competing at the ADCC Trials if everyone else seems to be happy moving at a cruisy pace. Establishing yourself as a safe and friendly visitor is more important than getting in hard rounds at a gym where you don’t regularly train.

4. Respect the gym’s rules and customs.
Treat your time at an academy the same way you’d treat going to your significant other’s house for dinner. While dangerous or disrespectful behavior should push you straight out the door, there will likely be some aspects of the class routine that are different from what you’re used to. Some academies have rules about how to interact based on belt rank or how you should address the instructor, and others completely throw tradition out the window. Even if you find the rules and expectations to be too strict or too casual for your taste, just, uh, roll with it. No one is demanding you take those customs back to your home gym, but while you’re visiting somewhere else, be a good guest for the hour or so that you’re there.

5. If you have a good experience, tell people about it.
BJJ is growing, but many gyms are still small businesses with coaches and owners who have other jobs to make ends meet. While you shouldn’t feel obligated to leave an online review or make a post on social media about your time there, the exposure can be helpful to academies trying to grow their student base. Cross-training is one of the best ways to build the sport of jiu-jitsu as a whole, and letting your friends and followers know that you had a good time can direct more students to good environments to start or continue their BJJ journeys.


We are lucky to be able to have access to so many gyms within our sport, and we should make the most of it within our own towns and when we get the chance to travel. Being a good guest when visiting other academies doesn’t just reflect well on you — it also encourages more gyms to open their doors to visitors while setting a good example for other students who would like to expand their training horizons.


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