The holidays are upon us! This time of year can often be stressful, and this is true for grapplers as well. The holidays often mean travel and thus a disruption of our favorite method of stress relief: training. While I look forward to seeing far-flung family members on Christmas, I often find myself dreading missing out on training. The solution to this problem is simple: Pack your gi and visit a local jiu jitsu school.
Visiting other schools is a great experience that every jiu jitsu student should indulge in, but this can also be a stressful experience, so here are few tips to make visiting schools as smooth and enjoyable process as possible.
Know the Rules of the Academy: This is the most important one. If nothing else, know and follow the rules of the school you are visiting. I personally reach out ahead of time when planning a visit, and one of the things I ask about is mat rules. If I forget to ask ahead of time, I talk to the class instructor before rolling for the first time. When you do roll, remember that this isn’t the time to take your personal stand against a particular rule set you don’t approve of. Their house, their rules. If heel hooks are a big part of your game but you end up attending a gi class where they aren’t allowed, then work on a different part of your game. Respect the school enough to follow their rules.
Socialize: When you visit a new school, it’s a good idea to show up a little early. You’ll need to sign a waiver, pay a mat fee, and be shown where to change and put your shoes. So you’ll likely have a bit of time before class where you will just kind of hang out as the regulars drift in. Don’t just awkwardly sit there until class starts, though. Walk around and introduce yourself. This might be difficult for the less outgoing grappler, but you already have one big thing in common with anyone at a jiu jitsu school. Talk to people before class, swap social media information, hang out after class. This will make the visit about more than just the rolling and make it easier to come back because you’ll remember feeling welcome.
Remember You Are Not Representing Your School: Visiting schools can be a lot like doing a competition. You will feel some nerves rolling with new people at a different school, it can expose you to other grappling styles, show you holes in your own game, or even show you aspects of your game that are progressing positively. One big difference between stopping in for a class at an academy and getting on the mats at a tournament, however, is mindset. Don’t put stress on yourself that you need to ‘defend you rank’ on the mat by tapping out every lower belt and dominating those at the same belt level as you. Don’t worry about how your rolling is reflecting on your school. It is a class, and for the day those people are your training partners, not your competition.
Keep an Open Mind: Part of seeing different styles is that they will do things that are familiar to you but are also slightly different. Don’t dismiss it as ‘wrong.’ Work the technique being taught in class. By all means if you have a technique that compliments something being taught and you find a tactful way to share it, do it. The sharing of knowledge is always a positive, but be sure to do it in way that doesn’t feel like you are trying to hijack the class from the actual instructor. Keep an open mind and you might learn something new you can take home.
These are the basic rules I set for myself when I visit a new school and it has led to friendships, new perspectives, and an ever-growing network of gyms I consider a home away from home. I hope that you get to enjoy this part of the jiu-jitsu experience as well.