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Rick Baker is a white belt, and we know white belts are people too. In this instalment of ‘White Belt Fever’, Rick details his experiences training on the road. 

BJJ is almost akin to a secret language. I was recently in Germany and decided to get some BJJ in while I was there. Upon making this decision, I realised I hadn’t actually trained anywhere outside my affiliated gyms.

I’m (obviously) still a white belt, but as I’ve started to take my training a bit more seriously, I at least felt confident enough to understand the mechanics and terminology of BJJ to try it out on the road. I must also stress that I come from a pretty open minded gym, whereby me visiting gyms on my travels is certainly not frowned upon, which can be the case under some coaches.

If you are planning on doing some gym hopping on your travels, I’d always make sure it’s cool with the place your dropping in on. While the majority of places I imagine will be accepting, it’s always a courtesy to get in touch first just to make sure. I messaged a few spots beforehand and all of them welcomed me with open arms. They also let me know prices and updated class schedules so that there were no surprises when I arrived.

Gyms by nature are usually pretty hard to find. They tend to be in strange locations - non high street locations - due to the nature of the business and cheaper rent. I’d done my research and the gym I was visiting seemed checked to follow suit. With the help of google maps I was on my way. After walking round in circles fa few times I found the building. A five storey building with a sign for the gym I was visiting right at the top. I rang the buzzer and after what seemed like forever the door clicked open. I headed up the stairs, walking past music rooms on some floors and what sounded like a couple arguing in German on another, I finally got to my destination. By this point I was almost shaking with nerves. I stood in front of the door, took a deep breath and knocked. No answer. I waited, and decided to just push the door open. As I did so I was welcomed by that overwhelmingly familiar scent of sweat and rubber mats that every gym exudes. This alone put me a tiny bit more at ease, at least I knew I as at the right place! I peeked round the corner and saw a wrestling class taking was on. Thank god I was in the right spot. I got changed into my gi and continued to be a nervous wreck, pacing up and down watching the wrestlers put in some work. A few more BJJ guys came in, I introduced myself and got more and more nervous. I waited for the class to start, stretched off, and a really funny thing happened. The second I partnered up with someone and started doing some partner drills, all of my nerves disappeared. It was like a weight coming off my shoulders. I felt like I was at home. The class went on and I learnt some technique, then rolled afterwards with the guys, and I could have stayed all night and geeked out on Jiu Jitsu till the cows came home.

I finished up, got changed, took some pictures and thanked them for having me. I headed back to my hotel absolutely elated. I literally felt like I was in the coolest secret club in the world. There I was in the middle of Germany learning combat sports from some of the nicest people I could ever have had the pleasure of meeting. I made a promise to myself that whenever I’m away from home, where possible, I will make the time for Jiu Jitsu.

There’s been a lot of talk recently about whether or not people should be allowed to train at other peoples gyms or not, and I understand both sides of the argument to a certain extent, but as BJJ is limitless, so to are we as BJJ practitioners, and to not develop our skillset whenever we get chance, whether we’re working away from home or sailing the seven seas, seems almost disrespectful to the art itself.  If you get the chance to train away from home, I strongly suggest you grab it with both hands.

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March 10, 2017 — Jiu Jitsu Style