Spreading Your BJJ Wings: How to Train While Traveling
You have your main BJJ gym, but sometimes, you have to expand your horizons. Here’s the BGWG way to visit other gyms right.
If you get to know me personally, you’ll understand that I love traveling. I like discovering new places, new cultures, new friends, and new food. To keep up with my training when I miss classes at the gym, I always try to find a BJJ spot in the city or country I’m visiting. No matter where you visit, BJJ has a common language and understanding. Training while traveling isn’t the biggest deal, but if you were wondering how to train BJJ while you’re visiting another city or country, here’s how I do it:
1. Prepare Before Hand
Once you’ve booked your tickets, secured your lodging, and planned out your itinerary (this part I’m bad at. I’m a “live in the moment” kind of girl), it is time to decide when and where you’ll train. This might be as simple as a Google search of gyms in your area, scrolling social media to see what pops up for the place you're visiting, or asking a friend who has traveled to and trained in that area (most people are excited to share and will tell you to tell the head coach they sent you).
Once you’ve decided where to train, look at their schedule and decide the days and times you will train there. I would also call in or message them on any social media that they have and introduce yourself, tell them your planned training days, and ask about any mat fees they might have. Most gyms are excited to have people come train with them and will be looking out for you.
2. Pack for Both Gi and No-Gi
Planning out what to pack and preparing outfits for travel is also one of my favorite things about traveling. I do also get excited when I know I’ll be training in a new country but nowadays baggage is a big issue, especially when you want to do gi. Packing No-Gi stuff is a lot easier because you know it's just shorts, spats, and a rashguard. If you’re savvy, you probably can repurpose your no-gi fits for other outfits. Gi is the bigger problem because your gi is just for BJJ.
If you really want to bring your gi and you don’t get extra baggage, invest in packing cubes or a vacuum-sealed bag so you can fit your gi inside your one carry-on bag. If none of these is an option, you might be able to rent a gi from the BJJ gym you’ll be training at. You would just need to find the information out before and make sure you carry your belt, which of course is easier to pack.
3. Show Up Early to the Gym
When you finally touch down in your travel city, explored around, and ate some delicious food, it’s time to go to your first class in the new city. Make sure you give yourself enough time to get to the gym early to meet the coaches/owners, sign a waiver if they have it, pay any fees, take your time to change and stretch and familiarize yourself with anything else you need to.
Admittedly, I’m notoriously bad at this part when I travel outside of the country. When I went to Peru, I didn’t take the time to confirm the address and ended up going to the wrong address. It worked out because the class actually started later than I expected so I was kind of on time but not really.
4. Be Friendly
I hope this goes without saying but make sure you introduce yourself to the gym members, talk to people, and make friends. This is also why it’s important to show up to the gym early because you can take the time before to talk to people and decide who your training partner is before the class starts. Also, being friendly ensures you’ll have fire conversations after class and great rolls after. Plus, if you’re a solo traveler, you can have some friends to chill with outside of the gym.
5. Do Every Part of the Class
Yes, purple belts, I also mean warm-ups. The warm-up might be a little different from the warm-ups you’re used to at your home gym but make sure you’re a great sport about doing the warm-up, even if you’re out of breath and dying or if you feel you look ridiculous. Also, attempt to do every technique that is shown and ask questions to make sure you understand
If you’re injured and can’t do certain exercises or moves, this is something to note to the professor when you come in early.
6. Check Your Ego
Around here we check bags and egos. There’s nothing you need to prove when you go train at another gym. You’re just there to learn and grow. You can prove yourself and show out when you go to a competition. While you’re training outside of your home gym, you’re representing your home gym. You don’t want to ruin it for other people who might travel to that gym, and you also want to be the person that says, “tell professor I sent you.”
Don’t assert yourself (let the coach pair you up or let someone choose you especially if you talked to that person before), Roll graciously, and don’t go crazy. If someone is trying to go crazy on you just ask them to slow down or just talk to the coach silently about it.
7. Don’t Run Right After Class
After getting your training and positional sparring in, make sure that you stick around for rolls, some after-class conversation, and pictures of course. People love to know how you feel about their city, give recommendations, and as I mentioned before, they might invite you out to go discover something only a local might know about.
Also, if you’re in a different country, you can use that after class time to learn some lingo or practice the language. I speak Spanish and I always like to practice when I go to Panama or when I went to Peru. In addition, I’ve met a lot of expats who give some great insight about being a foreigner in a different country. That is mostly how I decide if I would live there.
Broaden Those BJJ Horizons
Traveling doesn’t always have to be about the sites, it can be about getting train BJJ in a different place, where you meet new people, and build lasting friendships outside of your BJJ gym and across cultures. Training while traveling is the one thing I look forward to every time I book a trip.
What are some of your tips for going to other gyms while traveling? Let’s chat about it on Instagram @blackgirlwhitegi_bjj.