If you’re planning on travelling overseas to train BJJ, then congratulations, I’m really happy for you. However, travelling overseas on a BJJ trip is very different to travelling with your mates on a normal holiday.
To help you out, and to ensure you have the best experience possible, I have listed out 11 essential tips to get you on your way.
Improve Your Training Experience Overseas With These 11 Travel Hacks
1. Pack Early and Pack Light
Two common things can go wrong with your luggage on a Jiu Jitsu trip:
- You leave packing until it’s too late and do it in a rush
- You pack way too much and end up lugging heaps of shit around with you
If I had to choose, I would rather fail with (I) rather than with (II). Trust me, there’s nothing worse than carrying around heavy arse bags from airport to airport, hoping you won’t get charged extra at check in.
Don’t pack too many gis either. I know, the whole purpose of your trip is to train Jiu Jitsu, however, on average each gi you take will weigh about 2kg and no matter how well you fold them, the more you have the more it will feel like you’re carrying Damien Maia on your back. Rule of thumb, keep it to two gis maximum and stick to the lightest gis you can find.
Also, you should make a list of all the things you’re taking with you before hand to help you pack. This will not only allow you to see which items are necessary and which aren’t, it will also help you out on your return journey, and prevent leaving anything behind.
The final tip for your luggage involves purchasing padlocks for your bags. I suggest the combination locks, rather than padlocks needing a key, as those tiny little buggers are easily lost.
Don’t risk it, having padlocks is essential for overseas travel and will protect those sweaty ass gis and your underwear from being stolen by some pervert while you’re not around.
Creating a budget might seem obvious, but if this is your first time overseas, especially by yourself, it is very easy to get lost in currency conversions.
If you’re traveling to a country where the currency trades in at a lot less than your own, don’t get carried away thinking you’ve got Elon Musk money.
Surprisingly, countries with weaker currency are known as financial pitfalls for many travellers, as there is a temptation to forget about how much you’re actually spending (see my last trip to Thailand).
One of the best ways to help you budget for daily spending is to restrict yourself a set amount each day. Be conservative with the amount and try not to reach it if possible. If you can do this you will be left with a surplus each day that you can compound at the end of the week and treat yourself with on weekends or in the weeks to come.
Your BJJ trip will be different to a normal holiday away and there are a few extra expenses you may or may not know about. These include:
- Gym fees and memberships – Some gyms may charge ridiculously high rates for casual sessions and, if you’re planning on sticking around for a week or two, Paying a full months fees may be a more viable option.
- Public transport – In some countries it may be possible to purchase refillable cash cards for public transport, which can make travelling around cheaper and a little more convenient. E.g, The Suica cards for Tokyo railways.
- Laundry – Yep, get ready. This is going to sting ya. Make sure you keep a hold of all that loose change you get. It will come in handy.
3. Take Recovery Tools
If you’re going to be training a lot, you’re definitely going to need to recover. Taking a few recover tools with you is a must to ensure those muscles and joints are the getting as much love as possible before the next session.
Take either some or all of the following:
- Lacrosse balls
- Resistance bands
- Compression garments and socks
4. Learn About the Culture
Before you set off on your journey, you must learn at least something about the culture of the land you’re going to visit.
You don’t have to go hard into the history of the country, but at least familiarise yourself with the local customs and etiquette. There’s nothing worse than coming off like a rude obnoxious tourist to the locals.
Disrespect will make you no friends and this is true both outside and inside the gyms.
Ensure you ask about the specific gym etiquette where you’re going to train before your first session. Ask about things like:
- Is it ok to ask a higher belt to roll
- Where do you stand during the line up
- Gi requirements
- What you need to do if you have to go to the bathroom or leave early
5. Learn Some of the Language
Hit up apps like Duolingo or Babel a few months before you leave to help with some of the basics. Some places may have a lot of English speakers, but places like Japan and Brazil will not and learning the basics is essential.
You don’t need to be fluent, but learning how to say hello, please, thank you, a few directions and how to count will help you out more than you can imagine.
For training, make sure you learn things like:
- Counting – for situps, pushups, rounds etc
- Left, right, up, down, under, on top
- Guard, side control, pass, mount, sweep, etc
- Do you want to be my partner?
- Would you like to roll?
- Can I get water?
- Can I go to the bathroom
- Sorry, I have an injury in my (X), do you mind if we go light
- Ah! My (shoulder/knee/back/etc)
6. Test Run Public Transport
It’s one thing to research which trains or buses you need to take, it’s another to actually use them.
Take a test run on the public transport you will need to use to get to the gym at least a day before your first training session. There’s nothing worse than missing out on a class or arriving late because you were lost or you didn’t realise how long the bus/train was going to take.
7. Be Aware
This one is common sense, yet common sense seems to be lacking in a lot of people.
Be conservative and try not to stand out too much on public transport or when you’re walking to and from the gym.
Unfortunately, some areas of the world can be risky and you should find out about these areas before you go walking into them brandishing your camera, phone or your new watch like a naïve tourist.
8. Research Accommodation
Research your accommodation options online before you commit. For most of you, your accommodation budget will be tight, and to be honest, you may only need a place to leave your gear and rest your head at night. However, you still need to make sure your accommodation is at least in a safe area with locks on the doors, close to food, public transport and hopefully the gym.
If you’re thinking about travelling to Rio for your training trip, I have nothing but good things to say about the BJJ hostel known as Connection Rio, located in Barra da Tijuca. I spent the better part of three months there in 2015 and it was definitely the best time of my life. Staying there enabled me to train at a number of world-class gyms and meet the who’s who of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Staying in a place like Connection Rio also means you will be around like-minded people; giving you a few training partners to hang out with on your downtime. Trust me, it can get lonely at times when you’re abroad and making new friends will make your trip a lot more enjoyable.
9. Don’t Take it to Heart
Ok, real talk now. When travelling and training overseas, you are going to encounter some douche bags who will see you as a foreign invader in their gym. These people will do this to all visitors and it’s not about you specifically, so don’t stress too much.
Often, you may find that this aggressiveness against you may only last a week or one session. This is because some of the locals are possibly testing you to see if you’re an ok person, and may end up befriending you after this ‘trial’ period.
However, if this aggressiveness feels a bit over the top, or it lasts longer than a week or so, you may be faced with two dilemmas:
- You’re training in a gym full of douche bags, or
- You’re the douche bag
Either way, you need to assess the situation and make the appropriate adjustments, i.e. leave that gym, or check you’re attitude.
10. Roll With Respect
Speaking of checking your attitude, make sure you roll with with respect. This may come as a bit of a surprise to some of you, but no one will be impressed if you roll as hard as you can with everyone you train with. This especially goes for people you’re bigger than, younger than or more experienced than.
If the resident black belts start calling you out and wrecking your shit, you may have found the reason why.
11. Enjoy the Country
Remember, you’ve made it overseas, a luxury many people in the world will never get to do. Make sure you spend some time travelling around and enjoying the country.
It would be an absolute shame to look back on your travels only to remember the inside of the gyms, rather than the beaches, sites and culture.