Jiu-jitsu Vacation

Monday, November 7, 2016

Jiu-jitsu Vacation

I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to travel all around the world, because of Jiu-jitsu.  I love to travel & experience new places, and of course I love being on the mat.  So, of course, the first thing to go into my suitcase is usually my gi.  I always encourage my friends & students to do the same.  I have developed friends all over the world through this amazing art who I still keep up with!  As I am getting ready for my next Jiu-jitsu trip overseas, I thought it would be a good time to discuss training while away from home.

While it is definitely growing, the Jiu-jitsu community is still fairly small, so when you meet a fellow Jiu-jitsu practitioner, there is an almost immediate connection.  Even though we may live in different states, different countries, belong to different teams, have different lifestyles, we still have the commonality of Jiu-jitsu that links us together.  By taking advantage of the opportunity to train when you're traveling, you will expand your horizons, pick up new ideas & perspectives, and almost certainly meet some amazing people!  Whether you're traveling for work, a weekend getaway, vacation, or maybe visiting family over the holidays, there's almost always an opportunity to fit in a couple hours on the mat.  Even though you're away from your home academy, you can still keep your skills sharp & maybe even pick up a few new ideas.  Here are a few tips that can ensure that you make the most of your visit.

1.  Plan Ahead.  If you know when/where you will be traveling, a quick Google search will usually yield some results on potential training locations.  However, check with your instructor first.  Chances are, they may have some local connections or recommendations for good places that you can go train.  It's always best when you have someone that can point you in the right direction, and possibly even make an introduction for you so that you have a known point of contact in the host academy.

2.  Call or Email.  It's always a good idea to let the host academy know that you're coming.  Usually a quick phone call is sufficient.  Make sure to let them know that you are a Jiu-jitsu student visiting from out of town & ask if it's ok for you to attend training & what would be the best class for you to attend.  You may be asked to pay a small mat fee, so make sure that you inquire about that also so that you're prepared.

3.  Training Attire.  Depending upon the length or your stay & how many times you plan to train, you may need to pack more than one gi.  You want to make sure that you have a clean gi to train in.  It is highly recommended that you avoid colored gis.  Some academies have restrictions on certain gi colors, but you can never go wrong with white.  Also, be aware that some academies may have restrictions on wearing patches from other teams/academies.  Some may even require you to rent their particular academy gi to get on the mat, so again a little pre-planning goes a long way.  Check the schedule to see whether the class you are planning to attend is gi or no-gi & plan accordingly.

4.  Be Punctual.  Make sure that you show up on time, or preferably a little early for the published class start time.  You may have to take care of some logistical things, such as signing a waiver, etc. and give yourself time to get changed out & ready for class.

5.  Introduce Yourself.  You are the outsider, but there's no need to be stand-off-ish.  An extended hand & a smile will usually do the trick to break the ice.  It's been my experience that most Jiu-jitsu people are very friendly & helpful, as long as you come in with the right attitude.  Let them know you're in town visiting.  Often they can recommend good local spots to check out also!

6.  Follow Protocol.  Remember, you are a guest, so please learn & abide by the host academies rules & protocol.  Some academies operate very informally.  Others are very regimented.  If it's not what you are used to, do your best to follow along or ask if there's something you're unfamiliar with.  Many academies will have their rules/guidelines posted in a conspicuous location or even on their website.

7.  Keep an Open Mind.  Chances are, you will find more similarities than differences from your home mat.  However, each academy will do things slightly differently.  Some place more emphasis on self-defense.  Others are more sport oriented.  Some spend more time on technical drilling, others focus more time on sparring.  You may see techniques demonstrated in a slightly different manner than you are used to.  Remember, sometimes there is more than one right way.  Just try to keep an open mind & do it their way while you're in their house.  With the right attitude, you're almost guaranteed to walk away with a few new details.

8.  Train Smart.  No matter how cordial the environment may seem, you are still the outsider, and when it comes to roll time, there are sure to be a few students who will want to test you, especially if you are an upper belt.  Expect to have some higher intensity rolls.  It's a great chance to get in some good competitive training, but just make sure that you maintain a good attitude.  You're not there to prove anything to anyone.  Along those lines, make sure that you don't go too hard, or be too stubborn to tap when you need to and risk injuring yourself or someone else.  If you are the upper belt, its usually a good idea to let your training partner set the pace for the roll.  Be aware that some academies have different restrictions for what techniques are allowed during rolling.  If you have any questions, ask.

9.  Hygiene.  Practice good personal hygiene before & after training.  Not all academies have the same cleanliness standards.  Make sure that you take the opportunity to shower as soon as possible after training & be sure to thoroughly wash & decontaminate your gi & equipment.  You don't want to bring ringworm or staph back with you from your trip.

10.  Have Fun.  Training at another academy while traveling can be a very rewarding experience, as long as you are prepared & have the right approach.  You will likely come back with some great memories & maybe a few new friends, so make the most of the experience & enjoy your time on the mat!

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