5 Power Places Around The World To Train BJJ

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We have all, with the exception of a few prodigious talents, hit a plateau when it comes to Jiu Jitsu. Even though everything might be going fine and you are doing well in your class, you feel a lack of motivation and spirit. The kind that got you fired up when you started off training.

Many beginners and intermediate practitioners of Jiu Jitsu give up on their dreams when they hit such plateaus. Most quit after they receive their blue belt, which is nothing but just getting off the blocks in the long journey of Jiu Jitsu.

Injuries and recurring pain is of course the most common reason such practitioners prefer not finding out what lies beyond the temporary discomfort.

Other than that, a lack of variety and sufficient challenge at the local schools fail to motivate and spur the practitioners on. If you feel yourself stuck in a similar limbo, it might be time for a change of scene and to visit new places, mingle with like minded warriors and come back with a fresh outlook and repertoire of training knowledge. Yes of course, we could attend new seminars or roll to practice a new technique or two. But they don’t compare with the wholesome experience that we gain from a BJJ pilgrimage, so to speak. It will fill you up with new hope and dreams as you break out of your comfort zone and experience the fresh breeze of the world outside.

In this article, we list 5 places that are known for their martial arts and BJJ prowess that will recharge your batteries and leave you hungry for more training by the time you are done with your vacation and back on the mat.

Brazil

The birthplace of Jiu Jitsu. Sand, surf, sea and Jiu Jitsu is what defines life here (one could also argue about adding the beach beauties, football over here but we’ll limit ourselves to Jiu Jitsu for now!). Any nondescript gym you walk into will have a dozen of black belts unlike any other academy back home. Most of such guys have been training since they were kids (6-7 years old) and by the time you are up against them, they have already had more than a decade’s worth of training. Jiu Jitsu is something the Brazilians truly enjoy and don’t just do it for the sake of competitive gratification. BJJ visitors to Brazil come back surprised at the relaxed and non-chalant manner in which Brazilians approach their BJJ training and yet manage to tie you up so easily.

Rio de Janeiro is by far the most popular city among those visiting Brazil for Jiu Jitsu.

  • One of the oldest academies, Carlson Gracie Academy is a mecca for BJJ practitioners and is located in the busy hub of Copacabana.
  • Other academies of note also have a presence in Rio like Checkmat, Gracie Barra HQ, American Top Team.

Hawaii

Another favorite of the fans of surf and sand, Hawaii is home to JiuJitsueiros who prefer the laid back life of barbecue, music, waves to the urban jungle. Relson Gracie started it all among the Gracies and Brazilians by moving to Hawaii and till date he continues to train there. Hawaii offers some of the top attractions for surfers and world class BJJ academies that are located nearby. Hawaiians are known for their friendly nature and welcoming spirit towards appreciative visitors. With cliffs along the coastline (like the NaPali coast), you can go for hikes and immerse yourself into the wild nature that’s sure to help you return to your senses.

Both Brazil and Hawaii are surfing hotspots and we have covered the combined lifestyle of BJJ and surf in a separate piece. Make sure to read through it to know more about the BJJ culture in these places.

Japan

Finally, all Jiu Jitsu traces its origins here to the warrior arts of the Samurai. Training in Japan is a world apart from anywhere else. The practice of martial arts is sacred in Japan and goes beyond mere aesthetics and competitiveness. The mindfulness of Zen Buddhism has seeped into every part of martial arts training in Japan over many centuries. And being a BJJ practitioner, you can not afford to miss a training opportunity at the temple of modern Judo, the Kodokan Headquarters in Tokyo.

  • The insistence on proper conduct and distraction free practice comes as a culture shock to many practitioners who are used to a modern and urban lifestyle. It’s a good thing, it will make you humble.
  • Also the lessons you receive in traditional dojos are only as intense as your eagerness to learn. If you are not paying attention or show disinterest, you are not entitled to learn from the master.

Japan (and Okinawa by association) is home to traditional martial arts that are complete systems as they cover all aspects of striking, grappling and even ground work. Make sure to learn a bit of Japanese and keep an open mind as long as you are in a traditional dojo. If you gel well, you can uncover a vast array of fighting techniques and strategies from the masters. Did you know Okinawan Karate has elaborate joint locking, throwing and ground grappling techniques too? Or how about the concept of receiving and redirecting force in Aikijutsu, Jujutsu and Aikido? That can surely help you against the big boys the next time you are competing in the Absolutes. Sword training (Kenjutsu) will make you more sensitive and responsive to attacks as you train yourself to stay alert and keep moving. The sword adds a new dimension of respect for your opponent and will positively affect your BJJ since you gain the ability to read attacks even before they have achieved their full force.

To attend such traditional dojos, contact your local teacher of Karate/Jujutsu/Aikido/whatever you are looking for, who will also be affiliated with the global associations and organizations. He can help you by putting you in touch with people in Japan who train regularly and can volunteer a bit of their time to show you around. Also a recommendation from such a teacher will make it easier for you to gain entry into the traditional schools. The whole idea of suddenly dropping in one day to get a couple of hours of training is alien.

Rolled Up Episode 20 – Temples, Okonomiyaki & Paraestra Hakata https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQf5c9-a9mQ

Rolled Up Episode 21 – Paraestra Hakata with Kenshi Tomari https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qol4putMNcQ

Dagestan, deep in the mountains of Russia

This is not exactly a place for BJJ pilgrimage with modern amenities or a happening nightlife. Dagestan is a mountainous region on the borders of Russia currently torn by war and strife because of separatist rebels. But it is also home to some of the toughest warriors to emerge from the land of Russia. Historically, the tribes from this region have resisted hordes of invasions ranging from Mongols to Romans. In recent years, Dagestan has been put on the world map thanks to a breed of super tough fighters dominating in MMA tournaments across the world. The usual training regimen followed by the fighters here is brutal with lot of hill runs and outdoor training to ensure your conditioning is invincible. The mountain air improves your endurance like anything. Even Jon Jones visited Dagestan for a while to train in the native wrestling system of Russia. Combat Sambo also has a strong presence in Dagestan where you can train with national champions.

Khabib Nurmagomedov is a recent entrant to UFC with a professional MMA record of 19-0. Check out how a day of training in the mountains of Dagestan looks like https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxqa_F9XA7o

Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi has claimed its spot as the modern mecca of Jiu Jitsu and submission fighting, and rightly so. Sheikh Tahnoon from the royal family was struck by the BJJ bug while he was studying in San Diego where he trained at the Gracie Barra. He was hugely inspired by the advent of UFC and Royce Gracie submitting opponents at ease with BJJ at UFC 1. When he returned to his homeland, he set up the Abu Dhabi Combat Club in 1998 and worked to lay the foundations of the Abu Dhabi Combat Club Championship the same year. With the help of Nelson Monteiro, the now famous ADCC took off. The first time invitees were blown away with the hospitality and facilities they enjoyed and from there on the event has grown bigger. With qualifiers spread across 6 continents, ADCC has become the Olympics of submission grappling. The professionalization of the sport happened in 2009 with the launch of the World Professional jiu Jitsu Cup in 2009, affectionately known as the AD World Pro.

The royal family has been infected by Sheikh Tahnoon’s enthusiasm and its sons have taken to BJJ training quite well. The UAE Jiu Jitsu Federation has introduced Jiu Jitsu in the sports curriculum of close to 500 schools across UAE. Renzo Gracie has been a long time mentor of Sheikh Tahnoon and has close ties with the royal family now. With the biggest names in Jiu Jitsu considering Abu Dhabi as the heaven of submission grappling, you should make it a point to visit the academies there and get an experience of training for the highest level in the sport. You can find a list of schools and academies affiliated with the UAEJJF on their website where you can go and train. The frequency of smaller competitions held under the federation’s banner has increased as well so if you plan your trip well, you might be able to get in some competitive experience as well.

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