At the start of your Jiu Jitsu journey, your own gym will feel like a sanctuary of sorts. While there may be people from various backgrounds, you will all probably share similar philosophies of the sport. However, if you never leave your own gym, you might not realize how expansive and enriching different gyms can be.
Jiu Jitsu is a sport that can trace its origins to several nations and cultures. Since its inception, nearly every developed nation has acquired at least some Jiu Jitsu presence. This global presence brings different perspectives, innovative teaching, and fun characters.
“Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world”Gustave Flaubert
The Benefits of Travel
Test Your Skills
Travel, in and of itself, can be beneficial, but traveling for Jiu Jitsu is nearly essential to continued growth in the sport. Although your teammates can challenge you, you risk your practice becoming stagnant if you find yourself rolling with the same people over and over.
That is not to say that you will not progress without travel, rather, you will have to be diligent in evaluating your Jiu Jitsu game. Are you and your teammates getting better, or simply getting used to each other, and therefore able to roll with each other more effectively?
Traveling to a new gym is a great way to test your skill level against an opponent who is essentially an unknown quantity. Keep in mind that a practitioner at your gym and one at another may have a greater skill gap than a mere glance at their belt can tell you!
Another benefit to Jiu Jitsu travel is honing your competitive edge. If you are a competitor, complacency is your enemy. If you refuse to train outside of your own gym, you risk the aforementioned issue of becoming too comfortable with how far your Jiu Jitsu takes you with your teammates.
However, stepping onto a foreign mat can awaken that competitive spirit. It may be unspoken, but anytime a visitor steps onto the mat the rolling dynamic shifts.
The visitor wants to represent their school and style of Jiu Jitsu, while the residents want to prove their home turf is superior. There is rarely any ill-intent in this dynamic, but the competitive spirit is good to keep you on your toes.
Traveling to another gym for an open mat or class is a great way to receive the benefits of a tournament without the pressure to perform.
Jiu Jitsu provides a great environment to meet lifelong friends. Traveling to other gyms only increases that ability. Think of it like leaving your hometown to go off to college. You have a great fondness for all your friends back home, but when you move out, you have the opportunity to expand your thinking, encounter new perspectives, and meet new people you wouldn’t have otherwise.
It is probably more likely that many of the friends you meet on your travels will be relegated to your Instagram story feed, but there is something to be said for maintaining those distant relationships. A random like, or shaka emoji on your latest tournament video is just another great source of support to keep you on your Jiu Jitsu journey.
These relationships could even provide future training, teaching, or competition opportunities. How many of you have either received or extended the invitation, “if you’re ever in the area, come roll!”?
While many gyms want to be welcoming to guest practitioners, it is in everyone’s best interest to have advanced notice of a visit. The instructor or owner’s first priority will be the safety of their students.
If you don’t notify the gym you are coming, you will be doing yourself and the academy a disservice, and some owners may even turn you away. Consider calling or reaching out on social media at least a few days in advance of your visit.
Ask about and obey the rules
One benefit of the Jiu Jitsu culture is the universal nature of many of its “unwritten” rules. Everyone knows not to go barefoot when off the mat, so be sure to have appropriate footwear.
However, depending on a gym’s culture, there may be other unspoken rules that are not as obvious. I can recall that one gym I visited did not allow anyone to walk around shirtless. While this is a fairly common practice in my home gym, I understood the restriction and abided by it.
In addition to asking the owner or manager about any rules, as a sign of good faith, you should ask if there is a mat fee. While many gyms have a mat fee, many owners understand that if someone is just in for the day they might be incentivized to come back if the fee is waived. However, as a good guest, come prepared to pay the fee.
Aside from explicit rules, try to be a respectful observer of the gym culture. Train your hardest, make friends, and avoid beating your chest.
Whether it’s just to the gym a town over, or across the ocean, traveling for Jiu Jitsu is paramount to growth. Travel can provide a range of benefits like new friends, expanded perspectives, and harder training.