BJJ Pilgrimage: BJJ Traveling Tips & Tricks

planning bjj tripsThese are exciting times for Jiu Jitsu practitioners, whether you are a professional, amateur or just a dabbling enthusiast. The sport has seen phenomenal growth in the last decade and now you can find excellent academies to train in almost every corner of the world. Every academy has something new to offer when it comes to Jiu Jitsu. Over the years, it has become almost a rite of passage for many BJJ practitioners to plan out trips to places of Jiu Jitsu excellence where they can also soak in the new culture, make new friends and have an overall good time. Pilgrimage is the right word to describe it as you return a changed person with experiences, stories and knowledge that open your mind beyond the ordinary.

In this article, we will share 9 tips for planning your bjj trip. Make sure to stock a bottle or two of Ojimas OSU with you before you leave, it will come in handy when you are training for long hours.

Locations like Rio, Sao Paulo, Hawaii, Los Angeles, New York are packed with world class academies run by world champions and highly decorated professors. Naturally the locals, especially those who train are used to receiving curious visitors looking to get the right blend of Jiu Jitsu training along with experience of the local cultures. They will definitely make your life easier and make sure that you get the most out of your visit. But there are certain things you need to be aware of and factor in when you’d be planning for your trip or once you touch base.

Sketch out an outline of what your week(s) would look like

We know, you are being a traveler and you really believe in Lao Tzu who said that a good traveler doesn’t have any fixed plans. But if BJJ training is one of your priorities, you’d do better to do some homework about the academies you’d like to visit and train in. Google or start a discussion in the popular BJJ/MMA forums to get a lowdown on the good places to train along with their proximity to unique local experiences like surfing, paragliding, cave exploring. Find out the timetables and policies of the academies you’d like to visit. Once you understand the terrain you will be at ease when you reach. This also means you won’t spend all your time on the mats of a single academy. You could have done that back home as well.

Travel light

Specially if you are visiting warm and temperate climes, lugging around a heavy backpack can be draining.

  • Don’t pack too many clothes, only the essentials. Make use of laundromat services or check with your hosts about such arrangements.
  • Pack two Gis or at most three. If you can afford a super lightweight Gi, you have the freedom to indulge in training every day as it can be washed and dried easily. You don’t want to be known as that new guy across the continent who shows up in a stinky Gi.

Attend open mats and don’t get hurt

Even if you might not have the time to attend classes, do this at any cost! Rolling with people completely out of your comfort zone will be challenging as they might have a very different game than what you are used to back home. This will expose many chinks in the armor, humble you and finally transform you. But also remember, some places can be highly competitive and there are always subconscious territorial battles going on in everyone’s minds. So remember to tap on time if you are rolling against stronger or higher ranked partners. Remember your purpose of visit. Getting injured on the first day isn’t what you traveled thousands of miles for.

Take a private class

Any good academy can arrange a private, one-on-one class with their top black belts or promising brown belts who are coming up in the ranks. If your budget allows, it is highly recommended. While attending an open class you don’t get to choose anything that you might specifically want to learn or have your doubts cleared about. With a private session, you have the freedom to do so and gain deeper insights into the game. A good hour with a top black belt will give you enough knowledge and experience to last a year when you put it into practice once you return. That also brings us to…

Record your training

Keep a record of your training on videos or written notes. You will go through a ton of lessons if you stay even for a week. Even though at that moment it will feel as if you’d remember everything after you return, there is just too much to recall and drill. Instead put in the effort when the new lessons are fresh in your memory and in the process, you will also become aware of the technical things you are not clear about. By the end of it, your mind would have pieced in ways to fit these new learnings into your own training.

Check the competition schedules

You might be lucky if your travel dates coincide with any of the locally held competitions. Along with getting some valuable training at the academies, you get to test it out right away, make even more friends and expand your knowledge as you will be in the midst of a huge flux of talented competitors.

Maintain good hygiene

This is common sense but we still figured we’d mention it since every once in a while, we’ll have the guy visiting from across the country with razor sharp toenails who manages to leave a mark, quite literally! Trim your nails, wash your Gis, use anti-bacterial soaps and don’t carry wet, soaked clothes in your backpack for too long as they will manage to stink up everything in there.

Fit in with the local culture

First and foremost, you can always get acquainted with the local language even before you land. If you are visiting Brazil, it doesn’t take much effort to learn some simple Portuguese. You can easily ask for directions, order food and be generally friendly to people since you will feel confident, almost at home. The locals also respect you a lot when they see you making the effort to meet them halfway there by learning their language. A dictionary also works well.

Also, be aware of the local customs and hand signs and gestures. With some confusion and miscommunication, you can have something ranging from a funny story that you can laugh your head off at, to something that makes you pack your bags and leave the next day.

Get out and experience the local culture

Remember it’s not only about BJJ. Make it a point to check out the local attractions and maintain good friendships with everyone around. The locals can introduce you to foods, places and experiences that regular tourists never find out about or are simply not bothered. That way, we are blessed to be in the BJJ community which makes sure no visitor goes away without tasting the good things in life.

With these tips, we hope your dreams of going on your own Jiu Jitsu pilgrimage becomes reality soon. Going into the unknown is the best way to learn about the world and get a deeper appreciation for martial arts. As we see people are essentially the same everywhere, we learn to respect the integration of martial arts in society. There is a whole different world outside the four walls of our schools. It’s time to go forth and explore.

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