Art by Marc Scherer
So you're thinking about visiting a city abroad? Pack your gi and train some Jiu Jitsu while you’re there! Over the last 4 years I've been fortunate enough to visit Australia, Japan, China, Ireland, Scotland, France, and England and every time I've packed mine. Why? Because when you begin training, not only are you learning a practical martial art for self defense, you're joining a brotherhood. It's a brotherhood that has welcomed me with open arms every time I've stepped into a different country, and it feels like compensation for all the times you get tapped out at home.
It's also the best way to meet the locals and enjoy your international travels; and once you know the locals, then you get to see the true character of any city. However, visiting other countries requires certain etiquette.
So follow these rules and you'll be sure to excel in any foreign land’s Jiu Jitsu community:
- Consult your instructor for schools to visit. Chances are, if your instructor has done any traveling, he's already established a relationship with other schools or there may be an affiliation in a different country of which you weren’t aware. Your instructor is the best resource to find out that info quickly and efficiently. If not...
- Scour the web for schools. Google and Facebook are your friends. I found a club in Nice, France while randomly searching Google.
- Contact the school ahead of time. Contact the owner of the school to let him or her know that you intend to visit. You may be visiting during a holiday and he school will be closed. Better to know ahead of time then you be standing outside waiting in the rain. Also, this will give you any details that you'd need such as how much to pay and which class you should attend.
- Bring a gi without patches. The most disrespectful thing you can do is show up at another school rocking your patches. Maybe you can get away with this if you're a black belt cut anything below is a no no.
- Arrive early. Class may start late but it's never appropriate to walk in on the middle of a class. You want to arrive early so that you can meet the instructor and introduce yourself. You already have a target on your back by visiting a different school, so don't make the situation any worse.
- Play for position not submission. One thing you have to understand about visiting a school is learning to earn their trust. You trust people at your gym because you see and train with them every day. You're all learning from the same instructor, and he is guiding the class insuring no one gets injured. As a visitor, you have to understand that several factors are going to arise. First and foremost, no one knows you yet. If you get overly aggressive and hurt someone you may not get invited back. Or worse, you have an entire school ready to kick your ass and no one to help you because you felt like proving yourself. Leave your ego at the door.
Now this doesn't mean you have to tap. By all means defend yourself, but work more positions, sweeps, and passes. Play the cat and mouse game. Work your subs after you develop trust.
- Go out for a beer. Congrats you just survived your first class abroad and, if you didn't make an ass of yourself, chances are you made some friends. Go out for a drink and celebrate.