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A How To Guide: Training Abroad

"Make sure to wear a clearly obvious Jiu Jitsu T-shirt everywhere you wander. This will surely attract other BJJ practitioners’ interest in you."

We all experience times of restlessness, when life begins to veer into that danger zone of mindless repetition; when the mundane tasks of your everyday life begin to lose their purpose and too many hours are spent at the office. You may find yourself contemplating crashing your car into a guardrail so you can call in to attend day practice. You may find yourself thinking, “Man, I need a vacation.”

Longing for change is expected. You may find yourself a bit distracted, daydreaming of coconut trees, an island breeze, or replaying the Danaher Series in your head. You’re browsing flight prices, casually selecting the “Go Anywhere” option on the destination bar.

Then, maybe it's time to pack up and leave...even just for a bit. And if you also happen to train Jiu Jitsu, the thought of whisking off to profound hills, clear water beaches or bustling cities will mean nothing without the discovery of new training partners and the chance to test your skills in an unknown, foreign location. Not to mention, just a few days off the mat, even on vacation, will have any BJJ junkie itching to grapple.

I have devised a few methods to find Jiu Jitsu while traveling. These tactics have never failed me on the road, and I hope they will also bring you more training opportunities. When it comes to locating Jiu Jitsu dojos abroad, any rookie could perform a quick Google search: “Where to train Jiu Jitsu in Costa Rica?”

But why not take a more personal approach by harassing strangers you meet along the road there? For reasons unexplained, surfing and BJJ seem to coincide more often than not. Maybe it's the carefree, accepting-of-all demeanor, or maybe it's the similar board shorts attire that draws these two activities together. Regardless, I have found much success in combing the beach for rashguard-wearing, surfboard carrying company to inquire about Jiu Jitsu near by. Note: this may require you to rent a surfboard and even paddle out, as if to say, “Hey! I'm one of you!”

Why not? When’s the last time you went surfing anyway? Language barrier should not be a problem. Simply secure a rear naked choke on your newfound surfer friend and wait to see if they react with a quick tap. If not, they probably do not train Jiu Jitsu and therefore are of no use to your quest.

No beach at your destination, and thus, no surfers? No problem. Make sure to wear a clearly obvious Jiu Jitsu T-shirt everywhere you wander. This will surely attract other BJJ practitioners’ interest in you. Make sure to diligently scan for any signs of BJJ life by investigating the apparel and backpacks of passing bystanders that may be wearing various Jiu Jitsu logos. And of course, always keep your eyes peeled for cauliflower ears. Also, be sure to always greet new people with an arm drag in lieu of a hand shake and await their reaction.

Continuing on in your Jiu Jitsu attire, simply ask the locals. Take the time to stop into various cafes, thrift shops or bars so you never miss an opportunity to strike up a conversation with the local barista, bar owner or single guy in the pool. You never know who knows a guy that knows a guy who knew another guy’s sister that stole her ex’s dog once upon a time…that trains Jiu Jitsu. Of course, there is no shame in checking in with your fellow Jiu Jitsu-ers about their own experiences training around the world on the BJJ Globetrotters Facebook page. After all, we do live in a modern world where one can reach the ends of the earth and the billions of people that encompass it along the way with one easy post.

Lastly, there have been several times where I’ve done a quick Internet search on a country/city I will be traveling to, only to find there are no leads on a gym whatsoever. Do not let this deter you. Very often, once in location and through the use of the methods above, I have found to my surprise that there were in fact thriving Jiu Jitsu scenes. Even if that Jiu Jitsu is hiding in the corner of a cramped building space, someone’s garage, a locals back yard and even once, atop a small meat market, it is there waiting to be found.

Good luck!