I am lucky in that I have a great job that takes me around the US. When I travel for business, I stop in at the local academies. I have dropped in to over 10 different gyms and I have never regretted these visits. The Jiu Jitsu community is typically very welcoming to visitors. It’s a great chance to test your skills against strangers in a relaxed manner, and it’s also a great way to meet people!
There are some things to remember when visiting a different academy, and I will outline some of the tips I have learned over the years:
1: Contact First Before Coming
Always contact the academy first before dropping in. It allows you to introduce yourself and learn some of the nuances of the gym. Do they only allow white gis? What is the drop-in fee? Can you go to the “Advanced Class” as a 3-stripe white belt? You will want to know the answers to these questions BEFORE you pack your bags!
Most academies have their own websites, but if that isn’t an option they should have a phone number to call. I always give the dates I will be in town and my belt level and school affiliation; then I ask about their visitor policy.
2: Come Early
You will want to get there early for a few reasons. It’s a good idea to meet instructor before the class starts so that they can help you and look out for you. You will generally need to sign waiver form, so you also want to get this out of the way.
3: Be Humble
You should not be visiting to prove your technique is the best in the land. You are not at the Mundials. You are a guest in someone else’s home, so be respectful. Treating every roll like it’s a deathmatch is a great way to be kicked out.
Respect the instructor’s teaching and don’t teach your own knowledge unprompted. This is especially true when you are a lower belt. Trust me, you do not want to be that guy.
4: Understand the Rules for Rolling
You do not want to go breaking gym rules, so do your best to understand them. When rolling, try to stick to non-white belts if possible. Again, you are not here to smash new white belts, you are here to learn, have fun, and get a good test of your current skills.
I also typically won’t ask women to roll. I have heard many stories of women getting creeped on by strangers and I don’t want to appear like one of those guys. If they ask me, that’s fine, but I don’t want to push anyone.
At first, try to stick to typical submissions. Steer away from neck cranks or chest compressions, for example – anything illegal under IBJJF rules. Some academies are okay with them, but many are not. After a roll or two you may have a better grasp of what is acceptable.
Leg locks are another potential hazard area. Check before you put someone in a leg lock. Even though leg locks are becoming more accepted, there are many gyms that still prohibit them altogether, especially at lower belt levels.
5: Use Proper Gi and Patch Etiquette
Some schools have a gi policy, while others don’t care. The safest bet is to wear a white gi with no school patches. Many academies will prohibit patches of other affiliations.
6: Be Positive
Above all, you are there to have a good time. Stay positive and that will go a long way. Try to get a picture post it on social media (if that’s your thing). The exposure will benefit you both. Thank the instructor and the people you drill and roll with.
So there you have it – 6 tips for visiting another academy. The general theme is to prepare and be humble. If you have been training BJJ for a while, it should be no problem. Even if you haven’t, follow these tips and you shouldn’t have any problems.