As our world continues to become smaller and more accessible thanks to a seriously competitive and doable travel market, it is challenging not to be tempted to go explore. The skills and experience gained from travelling abroad provide life-long personal benefits. The cultural experience and fun of trekking outside home territory combined with practicing and evolving your beloved BJJ and skills on your journey is a recipe made in heaven!
In this installment, we take a look at just a small handful of destinations recommended to get your BJJ on around the globe. With so many incredible gyms and cities to choose from, this installment is merely to give you a taste on what’s on offer abroad. In no particular order, wet your appetite and be infected by the travel bug!
Birthplace of Judo (and some same Jiu-Jitsu) and often acknowledged as the spiritual home of martial arts, Japan offers a distinctive cultural experience. In many ways the Japanese culture reflects the Jiu-Jitsu philosophy; respect and humility are felt on and off the mats. A trip to the country’s bustling capital Tokyo will provide you with a holistic martial arts teaching and infinite culture, dining, entertainment and history options dispersed across the 23 central city wards. Often lighter and very technical, Japans Jiu-Jitsu legends and martial artists provide a unique variation to your usual BJJ training.
Tourists– Tokyo Express (Mt Fuji), Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, Meiji Jingu, Shibuya Crossing, Tsukiji Market, Senso-ji Temple, Sumo Wrestling and Tokyo Sky Tree.
Foodies – Okonomiyaki (simple staple of eggs, flour and cabbage – recommend toppings!) Miso soup (accompanies any meal), Tempura (deep fried seafood or vegetable), Green Tea (done traditionally!) Ramen (more than soup), Sukiyaki (slow cooked staple in winter), Yakiniku/Yakitori (grilled meat/chicken), Wagashi (traditional dessert) and of course the worldwide favorite Sashimi and Sushi.
CAPE TOWN, South Africa
South Africa’s second most populated city (3.7m of 55 million) and arguably its most breathtaking, Cape Town offers a full suite of BJJ lifestyle options. This culturally diverse city is filled with natural beauty, top surf beaches and endless eateries (meat meat meat) and all amidst a good bunch of BJJ Academies. Although there isn’t a huge list of BJJ gyms and academies, there are a few large credible academies that will offer you a top level roll. Like the country, the level of Jiu-Jitsu on offer aligns closely to Australia. The notable difference in the two lands being the ever changing political situation of South Africa, but don’t let this deter you, a little awareness is all you need to enjoy this friendly warm country. A trip to the culturally rich Cape Town will leave you satisfied on all levels.
Tourists – Table Mountain National Park, old Biscuit Mill, The Heart of Cape Town Museum, Clifton Beaches, Cape Point Nature Reserve, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. Shark diving, Beta Beach.
Beaches (surfing) – Muizenberg, Dungeons and Long Beach.
Foodies – Braii (South African style Bbq! Order Monkey Gland sauce as a side…No monkey included), Boerewors (a gigantic sausage), Biltong or Droewars (dried, spiced sausages or strips of beef or game), Bunny Chow (forget rabbits… it’s curry served in carved out bread), Bobotie – (like meatloaf topped with egg custard), Potjiekos (slow cooked meat or vege stew cooked old school!), Konfyt (fruit soaked in lime water, cooked in syrup and spices), Malta Pudding (syrup laden cake) and a Springbok (popular little shot!)
SAN DIEGO, USA
Home of countless Gracies; LA previously held the title for the US epicenter of BJJ, however in recent years California’s coastal gem San Diego has taken the crown. The city’s natural side offers an abundance of activities that pair beautifully with BJJ training and practice; from surfing to rock-climbing the city has a lot on offer for those looking to immerse themselves in the BJJ/Surf lifestyle. There is a plethora of options for high to beginner level gyms catering to all your Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu needs.
Tourists – Balboa Park and Museums, San diego Zoo, Old Town State Historic Park, Point Loma and Cabrillo National Monument, Seaport Village, Legoland
Beaches (surfing) – Trestles, Oceanside and Swami’s
Foodies – Carne Asada Fries (Mexican style fries!), Fish Tacos, Wood fired pizzas, California burritos, beer (America’s craft beer capital!) and all things Seafood.
LONDON, United Kingdom
Europes largest and the worlds most visited city London is the hub for UK tourists and BJJ tourists alike. Geographically closer to Japan than Brazil, the UK BJJ scene feels more heavily influenced by Judo, giving your training a well-rounded challenge. Grab your umbrella, mentally prepare for the daily tube battle and explore the abundance of large academies and underground gyms that the greatly populated and culturally diverse city has to offer. No visit to Europe would be complete without a stopover in this cultural boss filled with history, the arts, politics and finance sprawled throughout.
Tourists– Big Ben, Buckingham Palace (changing of the guards!), Trafalgar Square, St Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, The Gherkin, Hyde Park, Piccadilly Circus, The Tower of London, Camden Markets, The Thames, Richmond Park.
Foodies – Fish & Chips, Sunday Roast with a Yorkshire Pudding (a Sunday staple), Bangers and Mash (sausages, gravy and potatoes), Beef Wellington (a pastry wrapped and baked beef), Eton Mess (strawberry and cream meringue mess!), Afternoon/High Tea (typical royal delight, bite-size cucumber sandwiches and sweet treats), Pimms and Lemonade (summer cocktail consumed in vast quantities at Wimbledon) and English Ales (pick one!).
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil
Brazil’s diamond and second largest city, Rio De Janeiro, is home to beautiful beaches, people (around 6 million), sites and endless BJJ camps, gyms and living BJJ legends. If Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was a religion, this would most certainly be it’s holy land. Granted there is substantial petty crime in this wondrous city, however if you are able to use your common sense and remain street smart this should not deter you from visiting and experiencing the culture of the sport you live and love.
Tourists – Statue of Christ, Steps from Rua Joaquim Silva, Parque Nacional Da Tijuca, Maracana Football Stadium
Beaches – Copacabana and Ipanema
Foodies – Churrascaria (Brazilian style BBQ), Feijoada (a Brazilian staple!), ACAI, Empadas (delicious sweet and savoury pastries), Pão De Quijo (cheese bread!), incredible range of different exotic Fruits (too many to mention), Doce de Leite (a sweet-tooths dream), Brigadero (mouth watering ball of chocolate) Caipirinha (Brazilians spirit in a drink!)
The globe is dotted with incredible BJJ gyms and academies and far too many great cities to mention. With the help of social media, technology, cheap flights and the BJJ spirit, the global BJJ network is easily and readily accessible. Companies like GlobeTrotters offer a one stop shop for mat surfing, proving you with an instant link to your BJJ mates abroad including recommended institutions all over. Throw your Gi in a bag, grab your passport and go explore. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. OSS