The true BJJ addicts will often pack a kimono in their luggage when they are on short business trips or vacationing in a different city.
BJJ has truly become a global art and there is a solid chance there will be an academy wherever you visit. A group of new friends who will very likely offer to show you around the city and take you someplace to eat after the class is great to have when you are a stranger in a new city.
I welcome many travelers at my BJJ academy in Saigon, Vietnam, and Jiu-Jitsu Times readers are always welcome to visit.
However, there are certain things you can do to make visiting another gym better.
Here are four of them.
BJJ academies are not very formal places, but it is customary to message the academy ahead of time to introduce yourself and inquire about the training times. The instructor can help you find the gym and will be expecting you.
Have A Plain White Gi
Now, many of you will argue about this, but most experienced travelers have a plain white gi specifically for visiting other academies.
Some academies have a policy that students wear their kimonos, but a plain white kimono will offend few.
I have often thought in the back of my mind that a patch from another academy could be considered a bit of a target and motivate your rolling partners to go a little harder to show you that no outsider is going to come into their academy and show them what is up!
Have A Fun Attitude
No one wants to have a newcomer visit their academy, go hard, and get tapped in front of their instructor. You can call it ego or whatever you want, but there exists a certain territoriality in jiu-jitsu academies.
Be careful not to bring an aggressive attitude or roll intensely at the beginning. The instructor may observe this and introduce you to the academy pitbull to “slow your roll.”
Smile A Lot
In the sometimes intense atmosphere of a BJJ academy, other students can be apprehensive about getting tapped out by a stranger of lower rank and react to new faces a little cautiously.
Worse, some students are wary of the outsider who comes in and could injure them with heel hooks and neck cranks
An open attitude and friendly smile do more than anything to make friends and have the best spirited rolls wherever your BJJ travels take you.
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Hey Mark, good article. I travel almost weekly, all over the US (occasionally overseas), and have had the unique privalege of training at about two-dozen different gyms/studios in 2016. I’ve found that the vast majority of gyms are very welcoming of out of town guests and agree that dropping a note ahead of time is a must.
One thing to keep in mind there is that, if you ping them, either via email, or through their online forms, and they don’t respond, it’s a good idea to give the gym a call before you show up.
Your “keep it fun” and “smile a lot” rules are excellent guidelines and I’d even take that one step further and say focus upon keeping your rolls very relaxed, at least in the beginning. I’ve found that experienced grapplers (the people I try to pick out for training) will tend to match your intensity so, if you go in loose and looking to flow, they won’t tend to immediately drop in for the ankle lock or neck crank (although that’s not always the case so be ready!).
Even though I’m away from my actual family, and my home gym, a lot, I consider my ability to train at so many different gyms, with so many amazing people, to be one of the greatest blessings I could possibly receive. Hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to drop into Singapore someday!