When you were younger, your parents might have sent you away to summer camp to learn how to play nicely with other children and finally get some alone time for themselves. Those days of horseback riding, campfire stories, and macaroni necklaces might be over, but now that you’re a grown-up, you can do something even better: jiu-jitsu camp!
OK, so jiu-jitsu camp isn’t exactly the type of camp that you were used to as a kid. But if you really love jiu-jitsu, it’s one of the coolest ways to take a “vacation.” If you follow any BJJ athletes or fan pages on social media, you’ve probably seen these events advertised at some point. They’re often run by one or more black belts and can last anywhere from three to ten days, which makes them stand out from a regular seminar. But is it really worth taking the time off work and spending the money to attend one?
According to black belt Kenny Kim of Kenny Kim BJJ in Marietta, Georgia, these camps aren’t just a great time; they’re also an important investment if you’re serious about taking your jiu-jitsu to the next level. “It’s more than just training. It’s a whole jiu-jitsu experience,” he says. “You get to spend time with some of the top athletes in the industry. Not just on the mat, either— you also get to know them outside of training on a more personal level. Plus, you can experience a whole new city, state, or even country, depending on how far you’re traveling.”
It sounds like a dream come true, and depending on whose camp you’re attending, it really can be a once-in-a-lifetime jiu-jitsu experience. What holds many people back from doing it, though, is the price tag. While Kim’s upcoming camp in Atlanta is only $85 for seven training sessions over four days, other instructors may charge hundreds of dollars for fewer sessions. For those of us who don’t have a ton of cash to throw around, it can be hard to decide if it’s really worth it to spend that money.
“It’s important to choose a camp with a high-level instructor so you can get better, but you should also know who you’re dealing with since you’ll be spending so much time with them,” advises black belt and multiple-time world champion Samir Chantre. Even though you might not know the instructors on a personal level yet, look for reviews left on their gym’s websites and Facebook pages to see if they have mostly positive or negative comments. If you’re going to put forth the time, money, and effort in order to attend a week-long camp, you should at least be somewhat sure that the person you’ll be training under isn’t a huge jerk.
If you’ve found what appears to be a great camp run by people you’d love to train with, make it happen. “Everyone has to work. Everyone has to pay rent and bills,” says Kim. “If you don’t want to make your jiu-jitsu a priority, nobody is going to try to force you to attend a camp. But you can’t lie to yourself. If you ‘can’t afford’ a $100 camp, but can afford a $200 bar tab, that’s your choice. If you really want to live the jiu-jitsu lifestyle and walk the walk, you might have to make a few sacrifices along the way.”
While it’s true that not everyone can spare the money needed to make such an investment in their training, forgoing a few extraneous expenses in order to attend a camp is usually well worth it in the end.
Jiu-jitsu athletes are really lucky people. Most soccer enthusiasts will probably never have the chance to play a game against Lionel Messi, and basketball fans would either have to be really rich or really lucky to shoot hoops with LeBron James. But for us, training with world champions and other “celebrities” in our industry is something that’s almost guaranteed to happen if we stick with it long enough. Spending a week getting personalized tips from Tom Brady and then grabbing dinner with him later would be an impossible dream for his fans, but jiu-jitsu camp allows us to do just that with some of the athletes we admire most.
Best of all, you don’t need a whole lot of preparation if you want to attend a BJJ camp. Just bring your normal jiu-jitsu gear (maybe a little extra since you’ll be training and sweating quite a bit), an open mind, and any questions you’d like to ask the experts.
“Be an active participant,” recommends Kim. “Have a clear goal in mind of what you want to achieve, and soak in all you can.” This is your chance to ask about that move you saw someone pull off at Worlds, and you shouldn’t be shy about taking it.
Being as I had a blast and learned a ton when I attended a week-long camp with Kim, Chantre, and Osvaldo Queixinho earlier this summer, I guess I’m a little biased when I say that you really should register for the Atlanta Open camp that they— along with multiple other black belts— will be running starting September 20. But whether you choose to train with these top-level athletes or have your eye on another upcoming camp, trust me when I say you should go for it. It won’t just benefit your jiu-jitsu; it will become a memory that will last a lifetime.