Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Training at Other Schools

It's been a while since I updated this, but between work, the commute and BJJ, I just come home and pass out! I think I've said this before, but I have to work a minimum of 43 hours a week. It's an AmeriCorps funded to position, so to ensure that I get 43 hours per week, I have to sometimes do community service projects on the weekends to ensure I get enough hours in- I need 1700 by the end of June between work and community service projects! BJJ is definitely keeping me sane and balanced through the early morning train ride in, the working day, and the late train ride home.

I think most people who do BJJ, if not all, feel a pretty strong sense of loyalty to their gym and their coach. This is natural and to be expected. Your coach is the person who pushes you to get better, shows you techniques, and supports you in competition. You also probably have teammates that you're friends with. They are as important as your coach and they often push you (literally) on the mat and help you to get better as well.

However, I think you are closing yourself off if you ever only choose to train at your own gym. Now if your gym is the only one in the area, one can't expect to drive several miles just to find somewhere else to cross train. But in more densely populated areas like New York and New Jersey, there are a plethora of gyms. Training with other people is important for the following reasons:

- exposure to other teaching styles and techniques. Your instructor might favor a certain style (spider guard, half guard, etc.) and it's good to get exposure to what other instructor's strengths are. This is also why seminars are a good idea
- training with other students sharpens your game. After a while, you can figure out what your training partners' strengths and weaknesses are, making rolling a little more predictable
- for women, it's tough to find other women to roll with, so going to other gyms is a good idea

I'm not saying you should equally split your time between 2 or 3 gyms. But I am saying that maybe once a month, you should go check out the classes or open mat at another school. During nogi class at Shaolin's a couple of weeks ago, Alex, one of Shaolin's purple belts was teaching class. He clarified that our open mat on Sundays is open to EVERYONE- from white belts to black belts, men, women and students from other schools. He made the point that the more you train with other people, the better you're going to get. You're going to be exposed to so many different styles and setups that you'll be rounded. He went so far as to say it's easier to progress in BJJ in NYC because there are so many different schools and therefore more training partners and opportunities to improve. I'd never thought of it that way and it makes sense.

Having trained with three different coaches in the past 6 months alone has showed me the value of cross training. At Traven's there was an awesome, consistent group of women to train with and that's where I first began training BJJ consistently, thus setting a solid base. At Jason's I learned to focus on competition gameplans, balance gi and nogi, and was forced to roll with people much bigger than me because there were fewer women on the mat. At Shaolin's I feel as though I am really improving my half guard and getting more opportunities to train because I can roll in the beginners classes and drill and roll in the advanced classes. All three of these black belts are AMAZING coaches and each gym is a unique experience that will ultimately improve my jiu jitsu.


  1. Yeah, I'd agree. I have definitely benefitted from moving around a lot over the last few years. It wasn't intentional, as I moved around due to work, but it meant I have now been a member of eight different clubs. I think it is especially useful for people like me, who don't have an interest in competition.

  2. Hi there. I think I met you briefly Tue night at the gym. My name is Caroline (short Filipina). It was my first time ever in a BBJ gym and I really liked it. I had a session with Van. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming. I went to an all-level class yesterday (Wed) morning and that was great, too. I didn't roll, but watched. I will most likely only go to all-level classes because the beginner classes conflict with work a lot. I feel a little like I've been thrown into the deep end of the pool since I know so little terminology and moves, but I am happy to go and learn. I thought it might be so boring for advanced students having to wok with me, but reading your blog made me think it might not. The next 2 weeks I have an easier work schedule and I think I will drop by as many beginner classes as I can to start getting all the basics. (Still not sure about guard, half-guard, etc.) I also thought I might get an instructional DVD to help get those basics.

    If this isn't the person I met 2 nights ago, sorry for rambling here! And I hope I meet you soon!