Travelling non-stop around Australia for the past 12-months has meant that I haven’t been faithful to one BJJ club. Sure it’s meant that my training hasn’t progressed how I’d like, but visiting another BJJ school whenever I can has given me a unique insight:
Different teaching styles, class formats, and traditions.
I quickly found some clubs do things differently than places I’d previously trained.
There are some things that you should do (or not do) no matter where you…
…there are some other things that are more club specific.
Either way, here’s a handful of things you should keep an eye out for when visiting another BJJ school:
1. Call ahead before you visit another BJJ school
There’s more than one reason why you should call first. Luckily, nearly every club I’ve trained with has been very welcoming of casuals….
…but some clubs don’t like it.
It’d be good to find this out over the phone, not once you’ve turned up.
Calling ahead is also a great opportunity to find out if it is the right class for you, to find out what gear you need to bring, and how much cash you need.
2. Find out what to call the coach
Some clubs are more traditional than others. You might be required to call the head instructor sensei, professor, sir, Steve, or “the Dragon”.
[Well, maybe not the last one, but it could be just a nickname]
If you’re too shy to ask, be sure to watch for others people’s lead.
3. Get there early to introduce yourself
You don’t want to be the reason why a class starts late.
There might be waiver forms to fill out. The coach might want to chat with you to find out your training history to make sure you’re a good fit for the class.
Getting there early also gives you a good chance to say hi, and introduce yourself to others that you’ll be rolling with.
4. Pay the casual fee (even if they don’t ask you to)
Sure, many clubs offer the first few sessions free. It’s pretty common knowledge:
This is so that potential members can see if the club (or grappling in general) is for them.
Either way, someone has bills to pay. It might be their business and main source of income. There might be hall hire to pay. If it’s in their garage there’s the cost of electricity and extra insurance.
So it’s my personal opinion that you should offer to pay whenever you’re visiting another BJJ school. Every time.
5. Travel with a white gi without patches
Even though you and I might think a black or pink gi is pretty cool, some clubs don’t.
I’ve trained somewhere that even wearing a blue gi was only for club comps.
Some clubs are completely fine with you wearing your club’s patches… others not so much.
Your best bet?
Play it safe. Keep a white gi that doesn’t have any patches on it for whenever you’re travelling and planning on visiting another BJJ school.
Check out some ultra light BJJ travel gi options here.
6. Bring shorts with no pockets if you’re planning on training no-gi
Even the best lightweight travel gi takes up more space than a rashy and a pair of shorts. That’s why most of my training while doing a lap of Australia has been no-gi.
I quickly found out that some clubs let it slide if you turn up wearing normal board shorts…
…others are keen on maintaining the IBJJF’s rule of not having anything with pockets.
So do yourself a favour and pick up a pair of fight shorts. They’re pretty inexpensive and take up hardly any extra space.
If you’re like me and like to travel as light as possible, check these out. They’re ones that don’t stick out like the proverbial, so can double as gym shorts.
7. Be ready to bow on and line up in belt order
Some clubs you just say hi, get on the mat, train, and say thanks at the end.
But don’t be surprised if some clubs you visit keep traditions like bowing on/off, running warm-up laps of the mats in rank order, or lining up to give each other a high five at the end of the session.
Just ask someone.
8. Ask the same or lower belts to roll
You’ll find that in some clubs it’s a spoken rule to not ask higher belts to roll.
Some clubs consider it disrespectful due to tradition, others it’s because people are preparing for comps.
Either way, until you get a feel for how things roll at that club, err on the side of caution.
[My perspective on this changed a bit recently when I heard this interview with John Danaher]
9. Fix up your belt when it comes loose
I’ve trained at some places where belts and jackets coming loose isn’t a big issue. A belt that comes off gets thrown off to the side, and the grapple continues.
People are almost naked by the end of the roll, and they fix themselves once the timer goes off.
At other places you get a nice little rest, because it’s expected that you pause to fix your belt so that it’s tied the whole time.
If you’re unsure, ask.
10. Find out the footwear etiquette
People are passionate about what happens with your feet.
In some places thongs (aka flip flops) are lined up against the mat, so that your bare foot never touches the non-matted area. It’s like the ground is made of larva.
In other places, all footwear has a neat little storage area and you don’t dare bring your shoes anywhere near the mats. Walking on the floor is fine.
I’ve even seen some places where people walk over the mats with shoes on, and no-one bats an eyelid.
Before you enter, pause at the doorway and have a quick look what the go is.
11. Pack the right gear if you’re planning on visiting another BJJ school
If you’re planning on training, it’s not just about having the right gi.
Pack a rashy, mouth guard, thongs, towel, and water bottle.
They’re part of the 6 Things You Need to Pack if Visiting Other BJJ Gyms.
12. Be a good human.
Turn your phone off.
Don’t heel hook the white belts.
Don’t disrespect a coach by contradicting or adding to their instruction (unless you’re asked).
Say thank you at the end of the session.
13. Leave an online review
A Facebook and/or Yelp review can go a long way.
I know that when I’ve been in a new town and have been planning on visiting another BJJ school, I’ve Googled which clubs are in the area.
Visiting another BJJ school: YOUR club?
Some clubs are casual, some more traditional in their approach to training.
Neither is wrong.
The key point is when in Rome, do as the Romans do.
Not all of these things will apply, but they’re worth keeping an eye out for.
Comment below if your club does anything different that’s not listed?