Visiting another school…. Getting the most out of a drop in

Anyone who has trained jiu jitsu for any length of time has probably had the itch to drop in at another school for a visit. Maybe you just want to meet new people, maybe you want to be exposed to a different training environment, or maybe you are just going to be out of town for an extended period of time and visiting another school will be your only opportunity to train. Whatever the reason, visiting another school can be a great experience. It can also be a little intimidating or overwhelming for some people. Whether you are excited about the opportunity or are a little nervous about it – here are a few tips that may help you get the most out of it.
1. Identify as many schools in the area that may be worth visiting. This will give you the best odds of finding one that will be a good fit for you. It sometimes takes multiple web searches to find all the schools in a given area. Sometimes, some schools will show on a search for “BJJ near…” and other schools in the same area will show for “Brazilian Jiu Jitsu near….”. It is also worth just asking around. If you know other people that do jiu jitsu and live in the area you are looking to visit shoot them a text and ask. Jiu Jitsu forums and message boards can also be helpful.
2. Do some research. You can find out a lot about a school by visiting their website, social media sites, checking reviews, and just asking around. You can get a pretty good idea about a school’s jiu jitsu style and the training environment by checking their website and social media and by asking a few questions on the phone or via email/messaging. This will help you find a school to visit that’s right for you.
3. Call ahead. Some information I try to get on a phone call: A) Is the class I’m interested in appropriate for my skill level and open to drop ins? B) What’s the drop-in fee? C) Are there any uniform requirements? Some gyms prefer white gis. D) Make sure I have the correct address and directions.
4. Go with an open mind. No matter how much research you do and how many questions you ask sometimes you show up at a school and find the class is nothing like what you were expecting. You can still have a positive experience and get a lot out of the class…. but this is unlikely to happen if you are not open to trying something new and doing things a different way.
5. Be humble. You don’t have anything to prove to anyone and most people don’t like a visitor coming in and trying to be king of the mat. Start off slow and loose during sparring. With each round as you get to know the group and they get to know you, you can ratchet it up a notch. I’d rather leave the class feeling like I didn’t do my best jiu jitsu than leave the class feeling like I wouldn’t be welcomed back.
6. Make some connections. Jiu Jitsu is largely about the journey and the friends you make. At a minimum, make a social media connection so you can follow them and keep in touch. If things went well and you felt like things really clicked, exchange contact information. You never know when you’ll be back in the area or when someone from that school might be in your area and you can get together again for some training.
7. Leave the school a good review online. It’s not easy building a team and running a business. Good reviews help. If they treated you well and you were able to get some quality training in, the least you can do is take five minutes to leave them a good review.
One final thought: The visit will be what you make. Some things are out of your control—the size of the school, how accomplished the instructor is, the skill level of the other students on the mat, etc. However, you do have control over your attitude, your effort level, your preparation before the visit, etc. Put as much effort into finding the right school and properly preparing for the class as you do once you get there and you will have an awesome visit.
Train hard. Train smart. Get better.

By Joe Thomas Find more articles by Joe Thomas here

My Trip To Burma (We Are Not In Kansas Anymore)

A few months ago my wife and I traveled to Burma (also called Myanmar) to spend time with family. Our time in Burma was spent in the city of Yangon. This was the first time that I had ever been to Asia. It was truly an amazing trip that I am excited to share with you.  We met a lot of great people, tried new and interesting foods, a pick pocketing experience, and I even had time for a little Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

In general, the people of Burma are very nice and quick to smile.  I was at a large disadvantage with getting to meet strangers because of the language barrier.  I quickly learned a handful of words “hi” and “thank you” being on the top of the list.

Before we departed on our trip I contacted the Yangon BJJ House. I emailed Tammi and the door was opened for a visit. The Yangon BJJ House has a fun group of skilled grapplers. They welcomed me onto their mat like a friend and we were laughing and joking within minutes. This was a great feeling that no matter where in the world you are you can find a BJJ school and feel like you are home. They asked if I would teach the class and I was more than happy to show a couple of techniques and roll with everyone. I got some great mat time in with this group of dedicated grapplers.

Yangon BJJ House

Yangon BJJ House

I had an opportunity to do a BJJ demonstration at a grade school. I jumped on this opportunity. The kids at this school all do Taekwondo every day for exercise. The majority of these kids had never even heard of BJJ, a couple of them said that is was similar to wrestling. My wife and I teamed up to show a few throws, and demonstrate a couple submissions.

Getting Thrown

Getting Thrown

The first throw was so surprising to the kids that some of them screamed and thought that it was fatal! I asked for volunteers to throw me with a (Seoi nage).  Many hands went up and I selected a few kids.

Burma BJJ kids

This is Shane, he performed a great throw.

Now to tell you about my little situation that happened at Shwedagon Pagoda. Shwedagon is a beautiful Pagoda that is visible from all over the city.  We had a wonderful time looking around and learning about this Pagoda.

Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar

Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar

While I was looking around, one of the locals came up to me with a camera in hand and motioned for us to take a picture together (there was a language barrier so no words were spoken). This may seem really odd, because I am not famous.  But in Burma I am a rather large light skinned person, with possibly the biggest nose that these people have ever seen 🙂  This was not the first time that a local person wanted to take a picture of me (more people wanted pictures of my wife and sister-in-law but for their good looks).  Two more of his friends wanted to join the picture and I put my arms around the closet guys.  My brother-in-law joined for the photo bomb behind us.

What happened next was the surprising part.  I felt a thumb trying to needle its way into my back pocket. My pocket has a flap, it was not buttoned but it was down.  He was trying to get past the flap, and I felt this.  I took my arm down from the guy on my right side and grabbed his hand with my hand.  Stopping him from getting my wallet, he was busted! Next I smiled for the camera (the wrong camera) and we took the picture. I was excited to get this photographed. After the picture we separated. His friends (I think knowing that he had failed) wanted to take another picture, they did not realize that he got busted. I smiled and made it clear to them and my group that we are not taking another picture because I don’t want to lose my wallet.

Here is on of my favorite pictures from my trip to Burma. The guy to my left is trying to pick my pocket.

Here is on of my favorite pictures from my trip to Burma. The guy to my left is trying to pick my pocket.

I never felt threatened by this group of men. Nor did I feel the need to react in a more dramatic or violent way. I did not want a problem even if it was not my problem, I did not want to find myself dealing with the local police. I was just happy that I kept my wallet. I was confident that my group could handle a confrontation if one happened, but I was happy to just be on my way.

This was the only time in Burma that we had any problem with security. My brother in law and his wife stayed in Burma for a year and had no problems like this.  After we stayed in Burma for a week we went to Bangkok for a week where I hiked up the tallest building in Thailand and got kicked out by security when I made it all the way to the roof, Great Success! Check that video out here!

We have all had training partners like this. Too big too strong.

Did not roll with him

The Floating Market

The Floating Market

Please no sex in the park

Please no sex in the park

Rolling in Burma

Rolling in Burma