Traveling is the Best Way to Train
Jiu jitsu is an intimidating sport. There’s no question about that. I’ve been training for about 5 months now, and my heart still races most days I train. When you add traveling full-time on top of that, training at a new gym with new people and new styles all the time, it’s a recipe for fear and even wanting to give up.
But the thing about training BJJ is that it sucks for everyone, especially at the beginning. Ask anybody, and they will 100% agree with you. Deciding to train BJJ means deciding to embrace all the sucky parts of it because all those parts will make you stronger.
So basically, traveling while training is like training on steroids. And there are some hidden benefits because of that.
Here’s why I say that:
1. The hard parts are harder
I really think that most people who decide to train BJJ are looking for a challenge. Not necessarily just a physical challenge, but a mental challenge as well – the challenge of engaging in physical combat without having to pull punches. In BJJ, your effort can be pretty near 100%, which is something you shouldn’t do in other martial arts since no one should take 100% head punches or kicks all the time. Mental plus physical challenge is something that is absent from the majority of our culture, so most of us are very uncomfortable with it. The cool thing about the people who train jiu jitsu is that they want to go in and confront that discomfort.
It’s one thing to confront this discomfort at the same gym where you get to know and trust everybody, make friends, even make lifelong bonds with people. The battle to get yourself to class or open mat becomes easier as the situation becomes more familiar. It’s a completely different beast to change gyms constantly. You don’t know where you stand, you don’t know who’s nice and who will go too rough, and most significantly, you are on the outside. Forcing myself to go train is always incredibly difficult when we go to a new gym – there have been plenty of times when I’ve delayed my first class by a few days for no reason. One time, I showed up and sat on the bench the whole time because I was too intimidated to roll.
But I started training BJJ because I wanted to become tougher, and the only way to get tougher is to go through the hard shit and not give up. I know that I am already remarkably tougher and more confident than before I started training, and most notably, I feel less afraid of people and confrontation. As I keep traveling & training, I am becoming less and less afraid of those first classes, too, which means I’m not only becoming tougher, I’m becoming more independent. It’s one of the most difficult journeys I’ve taken on, but I think that going through difficult things is the only way to become truly independent, and I am thrilled to see who I become in a few years.
2. We can learn the important stuff more quickly
The most obvious benefit of traveling while training BJJ is that you become a mutt. Tyler & I have gotten to learn from so many different coaches and systems that our foundations are pretty broad and pretty strong. However, I think one of the coolest parts about being a mutt is that we are forced to synthesize the information ourselves. We may stick with a gym for a unit and learn all about arm bars, for example, but we will usually not get to see how that coach integrates that concept into their whole system.
At first glance, that might seem like a detriment, but I think what really happens is that we have the opportunity to start making those connections for ourselves, allowing us to gain a deeper understanding of the strategy. And that is what makes you a good jiujiteira! As a white belt only a few months into training, I don’t have a vast library of knowledge yet (and I spend most of my time defending myself from being crushed), but the one thing most people will tell me is that I move well.
To me, that means that I understand the fundamentals of most positions, and I think I can attribute a lot of that to learning about each position from so many different systems and being able to integrate those concepts together. Tyler recently told me that he has found himself combining submissions from different systems to make up his own thing – that seems pretty cool to me. So far, I just enjoy putting non-10th Planet people in ‘lockdown’ and trying to stay alive as long as I can!
3. We get to make so many friends
BJJ is especially notorious for how easily you can build a fierce community. It’s really remarkable how quickly you can connect and make friends in the BJJ world – I think it has something to do with the cost of entry. Everybody knows what it takes to show up to a jiu jitsu class or open mat, especially as a newbie who’s going to spend the whole time getting demolished, so there’s a big piece of your character that’s out there for everyone to see and respect.
It might sound weird, but training BJJ while traveling makes the process of making friends really efficient. Most people at most gyms are incredibly welcoming to newcomers, and are always excited to see us when we return the next time. It’s a fantastic way to build relationships, and nobody can get sick of us because we never stay anywhere that long!
I have thoroughly enjoyed (and hated at times) my experience traveling full-time while training BJJ. There’s no denying that it can be more challenging than training at a single gym, but I think it can also be even more rewarding. The harder the challenge, the bigger the growth.
A big shout-out to Heather Raftery @livewildandwonder, the original traveling jiujiteira who showed us that traveling full-time while training BJJ can be an amazing adventure!
Tyler & Andrea
We travel the country full-time in our RV, making documentaries and podcasts about our life. We are the ultimate adult beginners. From RVing full-time to cooking to some of our newer interests like bow hunting and jiu-jitsu, nearly everything we do we discovered as adults. Being an adult beginner is surprisingly challenging, and at times we really do feel like we don’t know anything! But if there’s one thing we know in the Hixson household, it’s that we want our lives to be wild, free, and lived intentionally. If something looks difficult or intimidating, it’s probably worth doing. And there’s no better time to start than now.
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