How to Afford A BJJ Holiday: Jiujitsu in LA - Travel report of my 2018 visit

How can you afford your BJJ trips?!” Is one of the most common questions I get asked, right after “did you train with any big names out there?” and “when and where are you going next?

The reason these questions stuck in my mind and why I am sharing this is because it used to be me asking the questions. Like many Jiujitsu practitioners I used to enviously listen to or read about Jiujitsu vagabonding stories and wonder how the person made it happen, often dismissing it as an anomaly or at least something that I thought was beyond my control: “they have more money / time / connections / luck than I do”.

And who knows. Maybe I was right. Maybe I needed the post Social Media era to finally realise my (fairly modest) travel plans and dreams. All I know is that when I ask my friends about their Jiujitsu travel dreams, they all sound so...achievable.

To start off, let me outline the major obstacles to just picking up your gi or rash guard & shorts and just hitting the proverbial road and then offer a few suggestions as to how you can work around them.
After that I’ll give you my modest advice for travelling for Jiujitsu and I’ll finish with a breakdown of my most recent trip to the Gracie Academy HQ in Torrance, LA (aka Gracie University or Jiujitsu Heaven.)


You need an outline. You need to be good at planning and sticking to the plan. I can give you my numbers and figures, but ultimately you need to plan around your own time and budget and you (have I mentioned this before?) need to stick to your plan. Here are my figures for my experience for a week in a major jiujitsu mecca in California such as San Diego or LA:

Flights: £450 - £800 (cheaper if you don't mind stopping along the way, flying midweek (I did that) or unsociable hours (did that too)

Training: 1 week training will vary but usually one week of unlimited will be the same as the locals pay for 1 month. Example: When I trained at the University of Jiujitsu (Ribeiro association HQ) I paid $120 (£90) for unlimited training which turned out to be the monthly fee there too. Most places I've been to charged a drop in fee or $20-$25 (£15-19). If you're like me (trains like a madman when on holiday!) these weekly costs turn out to be very economical!

Accomodation: £0-£30 per night. I have stayed with jiujitsu hosts through BJJ Globetrotters Matsurfing programme and made a ton of friends that way (check my trip to Sicily last year!) but when I didn't have that option, I chose a cheap hostel and spent the spare money on travelling to and from training, rather than booking an expensive hostel just because it's closed to my training location of choice. This meant, in Los Angeles, that my down-time or rest was at a cheap hostel RIGHT by the ocean! I often had coffee and peanut butter toast on the beach for breakfast!

Taxi / Travel: £0 - £10 per day. I used public transport every now and again (super cheap but slow and infrequent), used Uber and Lyft cab sharing a lot but more than once I'd simply get lifts into town, half way or all the way back to the hostel from people I'd struck up a connection in training.
*Bonus: In warm cities with gorgeous views such as the South Bay of LA, I strongly recommend walking or renting a bike. Most hostels cut you a great deal ($10 per day)

Food: Check what's already included. My hostel in LA for example (Surf City) provided coffee, tea, toast, peanut butter, jam (jelly) and different kinds of cereal and fruit for breakfast (all included in the £30/night!). Otherwise, I used my time there to explore the supermarkets! I love seeing what foreign supermarkets have to offer. I live in London and I am always surrounded by great food. When on a jiujitsu holiday, I'm curious than picky! I'd say I spent £9-£20 / day on food.

Supplements: With this amount of training and restrictions on food, supplements play a major role. I spent approximately £15-20 for the week on vit-c, zinc, protein bars and fish oil and wouldn't have it any other way.

There you have it (kinda!).

You can have a one week intensive jiujitsu holiday in LA (for example) for £180-£440 (+flights)

At the lower end of the scale, that's under £700 pounds all in all. You could save up for that in under 1 year, I reckon.

Well, I know I did.

Catching up on in-flight entertainment.

Tell the crew the purpose of your journey. A stewardess may have a son who
does jiujitsu and suddenly you have business class champagne!

Gracie University:

The facilities themselves are very impressive. Spa-like. But I wasn't here for R & R. I was here learn jiujitsu and learn I did. The level of instruction is so high and detailed. I was making detailed notes on technique, delivery, class structure, on- and off-mat routines and culture and much more.

The ever smiling Mr Sam Fernandez

The lounging area at Gracie University

Just how cool is this poster!

Surf City Hostel

Welcome to Bunk Wandi
My Breakfast View

Mr Guido Jenninges. Uber Technical instructor
with the heart of a lion

Jordan Collins and I were trying to have a "Regular Height"
moment when Ryron decided to crash the party
Speaking of my man Jordan, he was kind enough to summarise one of the Master Cycle sessions for me on the video below. The level of detail that goes into planning and conducting lessons at the Gracie University HQ is nothing short of extraordinary.

Mr Alex Stuart. His instruction on the body-fold
take-down changed my perspective completely

Great technical tips from Mr Reylan Gracie

Master Rorion Gracie's first student in the
US and passionate martial artist, Mr Richard Bresler
Richard, some of you may know, is forever passionate about the power of jiujitsu to transform lives. He used to lead an unhealthy lifestyle in show business when he first encountered Gracie Jiujitsu many, many years ago. Now, a black belt instructor under GM Rorion Gracie himself, he teaches (in fact helped create) the ground defence element at Alliance Krav Maga. Here, he was demonstrating the benefits of a massage therapy machine he was working on.

Me, Richard and Mr Jay Wong. This poster behind us is
made of thousands of images taken at the academy!

A typical session at GU had 65-75 students on the mat

The ever-smiling Rener Gracie

No training on Sundays at Gracie University? 

No problem. I'll just rent a bike from the hostel and go train at Chris & Melissa Haueter's garage.

Chris's a legend in his own right and I really looked forward to learning from and training with him. What I didn't realise was how awesome Melissa and her approach to jiujitsu is. Melissa was the instructor for the session proper and she taught a great session on attacks from the closed guard, followed by rounds of sparring. Sparring with her and with Chris was a very humbling experience, to say the least. Chris' details on Rigan's side-control pressure echoed what I felt from Roger when visited his academy a while back.

At the famous Combat Base garage with Mr Chris Haueter

Finally, Mr Jack Taufer and I meet up face to face.
More details on that in a (near) future post!
After the nth ubercool jiujitsu tip, story or sparring round, I couldn't count my blessings fast enough! My face was on permanent smile-mode.

Saturday Morning session at the garage!

My teacher for the day, the amazing Melissa Haueter
Chris was also kind enough to share a quick tip on how to best tape your fingers for jiujitsu and judo. I thought I'd share this with you here:

More awesomeness (am I overusing this term? I don't care!)

After I had booked my trip, I found out that my own jiujitsu teacher, Mr Eddie Kone, was also flying to LA with our mutual friend and Eddie's business partner Armando. I was convinced that Eddie said he'd be flying to LA on the day AFTER I leave LA and fly back to London.

Suddenly, Ryron comes over to me with his phone in hand:

Ryron: "I thought you said Eddie's not coming till next Thursday?"
Me: "Yeah"
Ryron: "Well he just texted saying see yo tomorrow"

Stars aligned. Plans changed. Eddie's and my visit to LA overlapped!

I cannot describe how great it is to travel with your teacher! Mr Eddie Kone
Suddenly, my jiujitsu holiday was a ton better. Sharing your martial arts trip with your teacher and close friend is an experience I cannot recommend enough! There's something special about sitting poolside discussing weight distribution with Eddie and suddenly he says: "Stand up let me show you".

Eddie, Rener, myself and Armando at the academy on my last training day.
At that point, I had done 21 training hours in total.
As they say, all good things must come to an end. On the last day, I packed all my stuff, went down to the reception and checked out. I had some peanut butter toast and asked if I could leave my stuff at reception while I spent a couple of hours in the ocean. The sensory intake from the sun, the breeze and the salty ocean waves was very powerful and I know it will last with me a long time. At least long enough until my next jiujitsu trip.

Squinting at Hermosa Beach. I will be back. Soon!
ps. There are far more photos from the trip on my Instagram account



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