I would say that I'm fortunate in that I get to travel for work and do my best to travel with my gi or at least my belt. With each visit I make new friends that add to the network of exchange and mutual respect. Living in Bangkok also provides me opportunity to host a number of visitors that share the same practice of traveling with their gi. While each school will have their own practices and may differ in approach, I've always made conscious effort to be open-minded and to do 'when in Rome...'. It's not my intention to impose my opinions to the mat of another school nor is it my intention to keep from learning what new ideas or attitudes the school has to offer. Training BJJ is an exercise in humility as I am reminded of how much I don't know and that makes me even more hungry to learn. Being that I am away on business now, I thought I'd might share some of the small things that I do when visiting a new school. While this may be nothing new and mostly common sense, I would hope that visitors to my school would have the same respect and appreciation when being welcomed to a new place. -Luke
-When I can, I like to contact the school in advance to introduce myself and the days I will be in town. In this introduction, I tell where I am visiting from (Bangkok) and who I study under. The years of experience I have in BJJ and what belt I currently hold. This is also good to know if the schedule is accurate and which classes are good to attend for your level.
-Some schools will insist on a mat fee and this can vary according to where it is and whether it's a single drop-in or a week's worth of classes. On some occasions, I've been given a quote but upon arrival, the drop-in fee was waived. So you never know but I would never intentionally avoid paying if that is the school's policy.
*In addition to the mat-fee, I've also been asked to sign a form that forbids me from sharing techniques learned from this school to anyone else. Now I won't get into whether I support this concept or not, but it is something to think about when considering the environment. While BJJ is quite informal in comparison to other martial arts, it has not lost it's sense of loyalty and family ties. (There is a clear difference between visiting schools when traveling and floating between schools)
3. LESSON PLAN
-At my main school in Bangkok, a hard warm-up is a fixture in our routine but this is not the case in other places. While training in Japan, there was no cardio or plyos done but a quick stretching session and right into technique. My comparison is not to argue which is better but to share that the difference in experience. Keep your mouth shut and do as you're told. Don't cut yourself short and object to something because you're not familiar with it. Decide that when you've completed the class and you have time to yourself to decide either way, 'Yes, I really like the drill they did today and would like to share it with my teammates.' You never know, you may learn something that is completely new. Save yourself from saying, 'But we don't do it that way at my school.'
-That's not say you can't ask questions but they should be in a tone that is asking for clarity or better understanding, not in opposition. Again, get all the information you can before you decide whether it is for you or not. Make an informed decision and get the best you can from each experience.
-I have never visited a school where the local guys (especially same belt level) didn't bring their 'A' game when rolling with me. So it would be naive of me to assume that I can relax as if I were at my home academy. But regardless of where you are, respect for your sparring partner should always be present. There are way too many meat-head-jerks so why would you want to be one when visiting another school? You're only asking for a major ass-kicking from a higher belt at the academy.
-Admit it when you've been beat and tap. You'll learn a lot more getting back to the action then wasting your time fighting an armbar as if it were the Mundials.
-If the guy you're sparring is refusing to tap, don't power through, transition and alternate your attacks. Keep things moving so that you learn and try not to play too tight of a game.
-I would also wait for an invitation to roll with a higher belt and ask either same belt-level or lower myself. Be respectful of what the belt represents in each school. Some places are really informal and it doesn't matter but until you know for sure what the vibe is, I'd play it safe.
-Unless you're hurt or have to leave at that very moment, it's rude to say no when someone asks you to roll. Granted, use your common sense when with each situation.
-I started the practice of buying a t-shirt from the schools I visit. Some have them and some don't but it's a nice souvenir of where you've been and I'm sure they school appreciates the support. If you have t-shirts from your club, you can always offer a trade.
-Be sure to thank the resident black-belt/instructor and all those you've rolled with.
-Help clean up when appropriate.
-If I know I will be back, I try to keep in touch with the head instructor or office manager. This way you can thank them for their hospitality and will be remembered the next time you're around.
SCHOOLS I'VE VISITED/TRAINED AT:
AKA (Dave Camarillo)
Alliance NYC (Fabio Clemente)
Axis Jiu-Jitsu Tokyo
Bangkok Fight Club
EMAC (Adam Kayoom/Pedro Schmall)
Lotus Jiu-Jitsu WA (Tony Smith)
Micheal Jen CA (private)
Ralph Gracie SF (Kurt Osiander)
Renzo Gracie NYC ( John Danaher)
Tinguinha Academy LA (Mauricio Mariano)
TAKEN FROM CLAUDIO FRANCA'S SITE:
1. Always show respect to your instructors, training partners, and fellow human beings. Respect in training means: do not seek to harm fellow students physically (e.g., by cranking a submission harder than necessary to make them tap) or emotionally (i.e., by calling them names or making jokes about hurting them). Respect also means that you must train seriously and hard enough for you and your partner to improve his or her skills, conditioning, and fighting spirit. Not giving your best during training detracts from both you and your partner’s experience.
2. Maintain good hygiene (i.e., shower and brush your teeth regularly). As you can imagine, it is difficult to concentrate on technique when you find your partner’s smells distracting!
3. Keep finger and toe nails short and clean to prevent injury to yourself and others.
4. Bring a clean, dry gi to each class. Also, always keep a rash guard or T-shirt in your gym bag for no-gi classes.
5. Keep shoes off the mat, so that we can keep the mats clean and sanitary.
6. Do not walk outside with bare feet. If you have to go outside, wear sandals or shoes. Items (5) and (6) are especially important to prevent the spread of skin conditions such as ringworm.
7. Do not shout loudly or use profanity in the dojo. This should go without saying.
8. Do not talk while the instructor is talking. It distracts those who are trying to learn and is disrespectful to the teacher, as well as other students.
9. Stand, sit with your legs crossed, or kneel during class. No lounging. Studies show that people learn more effectively when seated in upright postures.
10. Please wear your gi, a T-shirt, or a tank top while in public areas of the Dojo. No bare backs!
11. Do not leave the mat during class without the instructor’s permission.
12. Keep cell phones off during class. Again, they distract those who are trying to learn.
13. If the instructor has not changed the task, then continue doing the task he or she has given (i.e., don’t sit around talking because you feel you have done a technique enough times). You can NEVER do a technique too many times.