I can't always train at my own school. When I am on vacation, a business trip, or just visiting a different area, sometimes I try to find a local school where I can get some mat time in. Several guys have asked me questions about etiquette when training away from home and so I thought I would share some things that I do and that have served me well in the past. This is what I do, and I have always had a great experience. Your mileage may vary.
I Call or email ahead of time and let the instructor or school owner know that I would like to come and train with them, and I ask if that is OK. I have never had anyone say no, but it's just courteous to ask first. I also like to give them my instructor's name and contact information so that they can call if they would like.
I arrive at least 30 minutes before class. Arriving early lets me introduce myself to the other students before class starts. Everyone is always curious about who the new guy is and this can be a real disruption if I come barging into class just as it is starting.
I make sure to introduce myself to the instructor before class and thank them for having me. I'm just some guy visiting, not even a prospective student and so they are really doing me a favor by letting me train at their school. I want them to know that I appreciate it.
I pay before class starts. Whatever the mat fee or drop in fee is I make sure to get it taken care of first thing. Believe it or not there are guys out there who try to weasel out of paying a mat fee. I want to make sure there is no question by paying up front. Sometimes the instructor says not to worry about it and won't take money. I make sure to find someway to repay them, like sending them a club tshirt or at least a thank you note.
I keep my shirt or gi top on while hanging around the dojo. This is kind of old school, and if I were training no gi at an MMA style school it might not matter, but in a more traditional setting it can be considered disrespectful to walk around without a top on.
Some schools have rules posted up on the wall about things like conduct, swearing, drinks on the mats, clothing or shoes, or any other local rules. I make sure to do a quick scan and if there are rules posted anywhere I follow them. I also watch what the other students are doing to make sure I am fitting in. When in Rome.
I will be talking about gi colors in a future article, and while there are dozens of colors and all kinds of wacky patterns out there now, when traveling I stick to a basic white gi. A traditional white gi is always safe and some schools are very particular about things like that. I don't want to show up looking like Bozo the Jiu-Jitsu Clown at a school where all the students are required to wear clean white gis!
I roll under control and take care of my training partners. I want to make sure not to give my school a bad reputation by rolling like a meathead or hurting someone. I am always respectful of my training partners at home, but even more so on the road.
After class I thank everyone again and especially the instructor for having me. I also make sure to clean up after myself and pick up anything I might have left behind like tape or water bottles or anything else.
Bu following these simple guidelines I have always had a great time when visiting other schools and have started to build up a network of training partners outside my own local area.
- Richard 'Frape' Webber