Stranger in a Strange Land: Etiquette When Visiting BJJ Gyms

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Travelling with Jiu Jitsu is one of the best ways to expose yourself to the various games and techniques of the BJJ world.


If you’re worried about having a target on your back visiting a foreign gym, you should be. However, there are a few things you can do to ensure it remains a friendly target and not one that says, “Kick Me, I’m a Dickhead”.


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Dos and Don’ts When Visiting a BJJ Gym


1. Contact the Owner First

You wouldn’t storm someone’s house without introducing yourself first, would you? No, that would be rude and obviously against the law.


Phoning, emailing or reaching out on social media to the owner of the gym you want to visit will get the initial introductions out of the way, provide you with the opportunity to find info about the gym and start you off in the owner’s good books.


Things to ask:

  • Class times?
  • Which classes are open to casual visitors?
  • How early should you arrive before class starts?
  • Uniform code: white gis only, are two tone gis ok, is ok to have patches on your gi from another gym, etc.
  • Do they have lockers?
  • The cost of a casual session?


2. Wear Fresh Gear

Your gear doesn’t have to be fresh out of the packet, but you definitely need to make sure whatever it is you wear is clean: no one wants to roll with a ball of cheese on a Tuesday night.


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3. Introduce Yourself to the Coach(es)


You may feel a bit like the teachers pet when you do, but ensuring the coaches know you’re a respectable person is vital for your longevity on their mats, and will stop the session from becoming a one-hour shark tank, featuring you as the naïve teenager on a midnight skinny-dip.


4. Shake Hands With Everyone on the Mat


After you’ve met the coaches, go around shaking hands and introducing yourself. You may or may not be met with conversation, however it is a good sign of respect and will generally reduce any death stares and mumbles of “who the f*$k is that *&$#?” throughout the night. 


5. Learn Their Specific Rules


Look around the gym. Usually you'll be able to find a list of specific rules printed and posted on the wall. Gyms will differ on a few things and it’s important you find out what you need to know as soon as you can.


For example:

  • Do they roll for heel hooks?
  • Is it ok to ask a higher belt to roll?
  • Can you talk with others if you’re not rolling?
  • What is the procedure for water and bathroom breaks?


If there aren’t any rules posted, you’ll be able to ask one of the coaches or fellow students that you’ve introduced yourself to earlier – you did remember introduce yourself, didn’t you?


6. Use the Magic Word


Ensuring you use your manners when asking to leave the mats for water, use the bathroom, call the coach over to help or to ask another student for a roll. It may seem like common sense, yet you’d be surprised how many transient grapplers forget to do it; making that target on their back grow larger and larger.


7. Pay Your Dues


More often than not, the coach or owner of the gym may let you off paying for your casual training session if they find you to be a respectable guest.


While this is done out of kindness, you need to understand that it is a privilege and not a right.


BJJ is a business like any other and all monies earned from teaching classes goes towards feeding, clothing and putting a roof over the heads of the coaches – don’t ever think otherwise.


8. Jiu Jits n Chill

Remember, you’re visiting a gym, not competing in a tournament. Just like your academy: training is training. You’re there to learn, enjoy your rolls, and make new friends.


Just helax, and roll to the level of intensity of your partner. Because, going too hard or trying to prove yourself may result in an unfortunate car park escalation.


If you feel you’ve followed all the tips in this article to the letter, and still find the other students are out for your blood, it may be a sign of respect – or it may be you’ve drop in on a gym of jerks. Either way, you now have my blessing to unleash fire and fury.


After all, you’ve clearly done your best to be nice.

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