Cross-training is one of the most enjoyable aspects of jiu-jitsu, and while visiting new gyms and meeting new friends is fun, there can also be some confusion if a new gym functions differently from your normal haunt. When you message or call a different gym to ask if you could stop in to train with them (which, yes, you should), make sure you ask these questions so you’re prepared and represent your own gym the right way:
1. “Can I come train with you on X day?”
Some days are great to stop in to visit a new BJJ academy, others aren’t. If you pick a random day to show up, you may unluckily choose a day in which the head coach is out. Gyms may also reject visitors on certain days, such as during promotions, or if there are contagious illnesses experiencing an outbreak in the jiu-jitsu community. Most of the time, you’ll probably be fine, but it never hurts to double-check.
2. “Is there a mat fee?”
Jiu-jitsu gyms are usually small businesses, and as such, every dollar counts. Not every academy charges a mat fee for one-time or infrequent visitors, but many do. It’s better to be able to walk in prepared rather than showing up with no money or not enough money on hand. Whether or not you decide to train at a gym that does charge a mat fee is up to you, but don’t criticize the academy owner or try to sweet-talk them into waiving it for you — mat fees help gyms keep the lights on and put food on the table for the families that own them.
3. “Are there any prohibited techniques or submissions?”
Look, I know it’s basically 2020 and the prejudice that exists against leglocks shouldn’t exist, but hey, their gym, their rules. There are plenty of academies out there that don’t allow certain submissions, either at all or on people below a certain rank. Again, you don’t have to like it, but it’s better than going in and unintentionally breaking the rules (or an unprepared white belt’s neck) with a prohibited neck crank.
4. “What are the uniform requirements?”
Some academies and affiliations have strict uniform requirements, while others are more liberal with their policies. While some gyms do require certain outfits for aesthetic purposes (for example, white gis), others put their clothing policies in for safety purposes. For example, a gym may require all students to wear long sleeves and spats to offer extra protection against skin conditions in hot, humid climates. This is something the owner or coach will likely bring up in your initial conversation, but it never hurts to ask.
5. “How can I return the favor?”
It’s proper BJJ etiquette (and just a kind gesture) to extend a general welcome to the gym you usually train at to the students and coaches of the gym you’re visiting. But if you have a good experience at their academy, ask what you can do to help them out once you’ve finished your training session. Many coaches will suggest leaving a review on the school’s page or sharing a post about your experience on social media. Or maybe they’re hosting a food drive for a local charity and could use canned goods or donations. Perhaps they have a seminar coming up and request that you share the details with your social media followers or teammates.