Most people go on vacation to get their well-earned rest, but for some jiu jitsu addicts this is the perfect opportunity to guest train at local clubs. Whether you are an experienced BJJ traveller or you’re just starting out here are 5 things to bear in mind before going (which may not always be obvious).
1. Prices – depending on the geographical region you need to be prepared for different scenarios.
Continental Europe – Most BJJ gyms here are relatively small teams, usually run by local champions. There aren’t too many BJJ hubs on the continent and in effect each club faces a limited number of visitors every year.
These guys are usually very friendly, welcoming and they often refuse to accept payment for training even if you’re staying there for a longer term. This has been true for me in Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, Poland, France and Czech Republic. The team that I trained with in Israel was extremely friendly too, to the point of offering help with getting around the area, which wasn’t easy unless you had access to a car.
United Kingdom – Due to a high concentration of BJJ legends, you should be prepared to pay for classes, especially if you are training in London. The volume of visitors here is relatively high at all times of year and rents are ever increasing. A fee of £10-20 per class can be expected, but for exact figures it is better to contact the gyms themselves. Some offer special deals for travellers.
Don’t be surprised if they are not as friendly as the European places. It is usually due to the high turnover of people, but if you approach them first they’ll be happy to train together and share tips on great places to visit. There are also many excellent clubs outside of big cities in the UK and these guys resemble their continental counterparts.
California – There’s an even higher concentration of world champions here and even more visitors gathering in San Diego and LA to learn from them. As a result, training in California is not only expensive (prices start from $30 per day, but most of the time it’s more than that), but also may not be as pleasant as it would appear to be.
The instructors here are used to meeting thousands of people every year most of whom they will never come across again. It would be impossible and exhausting for them to approach everyone, so unless you’re planning to train in one place for a few weeks, don’t be offended if the instructors are polite and professional, but don’t pay much attention to you otherwise.
2. Colour of Your Gis
White gis are probably not the intuitive choice when travelling around, but in terms of visiting other clubs they are often the safest. Many academies have their own rules against wearing gis of certain colour, but white is always permitted. Sometimes they are kind enough to let it go or lend you one, but it’s not worth the risk of having to spend $80 on a new one when they’re not feeling merciful.
3. Showers & Changing Rooms
When I first started training abroad, I was very surprised to find out that many gyms don’t have showers or even separate changing spaces, not to mention separate facilities for women. That’s why it’s safe to turn up already wearing compression shorts and a sports bra, so that you can quickly change anywhere. Wearing clothes which you won’t mind wearing on your sweaty body afterwards is a good choice too.
4. Message the Club Before Your Visit
Even though most places won’t turn you away if you just show up for a session unannounced, it’s always good to get in touch with them beforehand. This is the best way to find out about any club specific rules, fees and customs. The receptionist will be able to direct you to the right class and let you know about any changes to the timetable that may not be listed on the website.
When visiting a place for the first time, make sure to arrive early, as some places can be hard to find.
5. Always respect local rules and have fun!