By Prof. Martin Guggi
There is a saying that “Traveling is the best Way to discover the World”. During travel you visit unknown places, see foreign cultures, experience different ways of living and meet new people. In the end, it all comes down to being open-minded. We all have our individual roots and homes – but in order to understand our own selves better, it can help to see other lifestyles.
Being open-minded also applies to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The sport of BJJ is growing, the techniques are evolving and new generations are starting to influence the sport. Leaving our home base and training at other places helps us discover new approaches to solving a problem in jiu jitsu. Some solutions will open our eyes because we have never heard about them before, others make sense but maybe are not useful for our own game plan.
If you enjoy Brazilian Jiu Jitsu you probably enjoy traveling, too, because they both share a certain desire for more information. We always say that in BJJ there is no place for your ego. This is true if you want to learn, if you want to evolve and if you want to understand the Art more. I think that if you are a competitor, it is important to show some strong ego. But traveling with your ego is a waste of time. You cannot experience new places while telling yourself “at home it is much nicer” or “at home we have the same” etc. If you cannot free your mind from what you already know it is hard to be open for something new.
Very often our attitude is the key how to see live. It is all about our mind whether we can remove the scales from our eyes for something new or not. Our thoughts are the biggest obstacle regarding how to go through life.
Things that I always enjoyed when I was traveling to improve my BJJ were:
- Learn more about yourself. If you leave your comfort zone you have to be able to handle new situations. You have to discover not only new areas but also have to be able to feel “comfortable in uncomfortable situations” [Rickson Gracie].
How do I react in between new people? Who is the alpha male in this group and how can I approach him? Can I talk to people the same way I talk to my friends at home? Is it okay to ask a black belt to roll with me or not? How do I feel in this new environment? Do I like this group or am I out of place? Do they really want to help me or do they only want to collect my money? Do I enjoy myself around these people?
- If you leave home you have to find your place in a new group. Wherever you are, you play a certain role in your peer group. Are you the funny guy, the alpha male, a nobody, the guy who defines what to do or not?
People are going to treat you different than at home. People are going to roll different with you than at home. Among friends and teammates you do not have to talk about the etiquette of your school. You know the rules and they know the rules, too. But in a new academy there can be a different common sense than you are used to back home.
Ask yourself: Is it easy for me to be part of a new group and accept new rules?
- Am I someone who is able to learn from anybody or not? How do I treat people? If they are better than me do I treat them different then if they have a lower rank? Do I only want to get taught by the main instructor of the new place or do I also accept high or low rank students to teach me their go-to-moves?
- When I come back home, how do I talk about the places I visit? Do I see only what they have what we do not have at our academy or do I just see what I did not like? Am I open-minded and can I see how much effort people put in order to achieve their goals?
Talking to friends you always hear about their techniques. You watch BJJ stars on Youtube and see their technical greatness. They produce world class champions and have the ideal training environment.
During my BJJ journeys, I had the honor to train with an amazing BJJ competition team. When I visited this academy with more than 400 students and most of them were competitors I felt like in BJJ heaven. After training there and observing their daily stresses and strains during practice, I see things different now. Most often they train 3 to 4 times a day and in between they eat, sleep and relax for the next training. And if you want to get gold medals this is what you have to do, right?
But when you meet these champions you realize that most of them do not give their bodies time to recover after a heavy competition or after an injury because they soon have to fight again in order to earn money. What you normally don’t see is that they carry injuries for a long time and suffer pain every day they train. Of course they do what they love but they pay a very high price. Do not get me wrong – these guys are my heroes, my role models but this does not mean anymore that I want to change with them. They are my heros in BJJ, not in live. They are not my heros when I think how to handle a family, they are not my heros in talking care of their bodies but concering bjj and technique – yes they are my heros.
I want to have time with my family every day. I want to have time to be at home or recover when I am injured. I want to keep on training for my whole life without pain! Will I be able to reach the same in BJJ as these champions did? No way! But I also do not want to pay their price for reaching this goal. A friend asked me once: “If you had become a world champion 5 years ago but today you couldn’t move anymore, would this be a price worth paying?”
Getting new motivation is also a great part of traveling. You bring a new drive back to your school where you can also influence your teammates at home. And if they improve you are going to improve, too. Most of us have the possibility to write their own history. But in the end, life has to be an endless learning experience and this is BJJ, too. Traveling and training BJJ are both good ways to improve as a person, as a human being and to discover yourself if you want to. And for me I will never stop doing this – traveling, training BJJ and improving!
If I die one day I do not want to be remembered as someone who did everything to win a gold medal, but I want to be remembered as someone who enjoyed learning, who never stopped evolving and someone who supported other people that set off for making the most out of their lives.
“If you think you are somebody, you stopped becoming somebody” – Sokrates