Nomad Jiu Jitsu: Training Jiu Jitsu as a Full Time Traveler
Our secret’s out: we LOVE Jiu Jitsu!
It might not be news to those who have been following the Wild Hixsons for a while.
A little over a year ago, I started training at Gracie Bradenton after a long fascination with self defense and BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) from the sidelines. We had the chance to stay in Florida for a full month last year with that excellent gym nearby, and I knew it was time to saddle up and start my training.
Over the last year, I’ve trained at dozens of gyms all over the country, remaining pretty terrible at Jiu Jitsu (which is kind of how it works) while gaining skills slowly but surely. And as I gained competence, I found training to be one of the greatest ways to make connections on the road and challenge myself personally. One year later, back at Gracie Bradenton, my coach Sonny Parlin gave me my blue belt (2nd step in BJJ), and the fearless Andrea began her training as well, earning her first stripe on her white belt.
I’ve learned a lot of lessons from training BJJ on the road, and I’d even be willing to bet that these translate to training many different sports as a full time traveler.
So here are some of my top lessons as a training nomad:
1. Start Solid
Especially if your sport is a little complex like Jiu Jitsu, I highly recommend making sure you start in a place where you can build a solid foundation. Like I mentioned, I started with a full month at the same gym so that I could get my feet under me a bit with my training. That experience significantly cut down on my learning curve when we started moving around again to other gyms.
I knew what style I wanted to learn, and the hardest part (being a brand new person to the sport) faded much quicker. Don’t get me wrong, I was still usually the newest guy in the room for probably the first 6 months of training, but at least I knew some of the basics so that I could work things. It’s possible to start training more piecemeal, and at the end of the day, it’s most important to just start training, but if you have the luxury of staying somewhere to train for a bit, do it.
2. New Places Get Easier
I would regularly come home from the first-day training at a new gym on the road and tell Andrea how much it sucked. The first day is THE hardest at any new gym. You don’t know anyone, you’ve forgotten everything from the last stop, the style of this gym is different from what you’re used to, and you just want to quit and go back to your last gym where you were more comfortable. But the thing is, comfort is the enemy. I’ll talk about that more in #4.
The thing I can tell you is that after a horrible Day 1 at a new gym, Day 2 is the best. You’re not brand new, you start meeting people, and you settle into the new routine. And it just gets easier from there. Over time, new gyms will get even easier once you adapt to your sport, so much so that you’ll rarely feel out of place in a new gym again.
3. Learn The Language = Make A Community
This is where it starts to get fun. Depending on your sport, a few months in and you’ll really begin to learn the “language.” A lot of people relate learning BJJ to learning a language: you learn a few letters, then some words, then some sentences, eventually you are writing a novel. About 6 months into my journey, I felt like I could understand the language, even if I couldn’t speak it myself. And once you know the language, you’ll start to make amazing friends and connections.
I pushed this further by having many of my BJJ connections on the Strangers Worth Meeting podcast. But it got to a point where I could make connections with everyone I met. We all share a common passion for the sport, we all voluntarily put ourselves through the pain that is Jiu Jitsu, so we all get what it takes. It gets lonely on the road sometimes, but through BJJ, I’ve got a map of friends and mentors all over the country that just keeps growing.
4. Enjoy The Advantages
It’s easy to point out the things that are difficult about training a sport like Jiu Jitsu on the road, but what about the advantages of traveling and training? Turns out there are many. Top of my list is that you are constantly exposed to different styles of the sport, which means you’re becoming versed in so many approaches. Every gym has a different way of doing every technique, addressing every position, and what I start to find is that I can feel where gyms have strengths and weaknesses. This might not make sense to everyone, but you’ll have more success with a rubber guard at a Gracie school against your opponent than at a 10th Planet school.
The variances give you a leg up in your training, and I know I learned faster because of the variety of styles I’ve been exposed to. Most practitioners go to some other local gyms for open mats or learn in competition what other schools are doing, but traveling full time and training is like a constant crash course in different styles. Once you get past a certain point in your training, trust me, it becomes a big win.
So if you’re a full time traveler or a nomad yourself, I HIGHLY encourage you to get into your sport, be it Jiu Jitsu or some other martial art, rock climbing, archery, or anything else. If I can do it on the road, you can do it on the road too, and you’ll find the ups and downs make life more interesting. Now as I progress through my blue belt, typically a pretty long stage, I get to sit back and enjoy watching Andrea embrace all of these same challenges and advantages of the first year.
Tyler & Andrea
We are full-time adventure seekers taking on the world in our East to West RV! We have seen so much personal growth during our first year of nomad life that we wanted a way to capture all of those moments and share them with you! Our goal is to inspire everyone to chase after their dreams and always seek adventure in whatever they do.
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