If you have been training in the gentle art for while and have been absorbed into the amazing community that is rolling worldwide, you will probably want to start incorporating some training while you travel or even better travel with the specific purpose of training at the Academy and learning from the legends of this fantastic sport.
I’ve been traveling for BJJ since 2007 and have been lucky enough to visit and train with several of the greatest athletes and teachers to ever set foot on the tatami. I have my own version of a bucket list with Academies I’d like to visit… In my opinion, top of that list should be Marcelo Garcia’s Academy in New York City. I tried to record my most recent trip in October to help be a guide for those of you who would like to visit but don’t know what to expect…
Here’s a checklist in no particular order of importance:
1) Pick a Suitable Travel Buddy/Training Partner
This can often be overlooked. Discuss what goals each of you have for the trip BEFORE you sort out the finer details. For example myself and Cian (Conlan) both had similar ideas for the amount of training we wanted to do (and our bodies could handle), whether or not we wanted to sightsee (we didn’t as we’d been to NYC before) and what the plan for downtime was… Eating, eating and more eating, with whatever time leftover to drink coffee/craft beers (although not at the same time) and buy stuff for the wives and children that we left at home. It also helped that we had travelled together before so knew that it would be good craic.
2) Do your homework
Buy a guidebook, talk to people who have been there before, call/email the academy you want to train at and talk to them… Ask lots of questions, wreck their heads so you don’t waste your time farting about when you get there instead of training/relaxing! Questions like: Can you catch public transport to the academy? What train? Do you need to have a car pick you up at the airport? What is the schedule for classes? Do you have formalities… Only wearing white gis/academy gis/gis with no patches etc? Can you do private lessons? How much do they cost? Cheap accommodation options? Does this mean you will be staying in the next state and have to spend hours commuting to class? Is it better to stay in a shoebox near the academy?
3) Take notes dummy
You’ve spent a nice whack of money on your trip and now you get to train with the legends of Jiu-Jitsu… Don’t waste the opportunity to bank what you learn by forgetting it as soon as class ends. Write it down!, not that night or at the end of the week, write down some bullet points at the end of each class and then elaborate with more details that night before bed. Everybody back at your academy at home is probably fairly envious of your trip away as you haven’t shut up about it for months, so you better bring back some pointers on how to finish your new favourite submission or how to play/shutdown that funky guard that every whitebelt with a fauxhawk is playing at the moment.
4) Be a fanboy
Get some obligatory photos/selfies with the people you went to learn from… We do a cool sport with some cool personalities at the top, almost all of them are welcoming, humble and for the most part very approachable so be a dork and get a picture, buy a t-shirt and ask questions while you’re there.
5) Lastly, train nice
I’m not saying roll over and play dead… By all means enjoy your training but don’t go looking for scalps, beating the shit out of the whitebelt roosterweights while hiding from the people at your own level. Keep the insanity to yourself and smile a lot… You’ll get a lot further, make friends, swap techniques and have a much better experience.
If you’d like to experience what goes on in MGANYC and improve no end from the comfort of your living room then just go and click here and enter the promo code “roger dardis” for a free week. Also check out the Academy Website for more details if you want to go train there yourself.
We stayed at “The Bowery House” which was a great location for food options, coffee shops everywhere and a quick subway ride to the academy BUT it was very cramped in the cabins (I’m 5’8″ and my feet were hanging over the end of the bed) and loud at all times so bring the best earplugs you can find if you stay here.
We got around using the Subway… Which was very handy and relatively cheap if you pick up a 7 day card which will cost you $30. We also used the LIRR to get from JFK to Manhattan. Which cost $14.50… Make sure you have cash for this.
Visiting MGA There are many benefits besides Marcelo’s instruction, including:
is an fantastic coach with a tremendous ability to convey the techniques with his use of imagery and mastery of descriptive language. He is, like everyone else at MGA, immediately welcoming and made me feel at home right off the bat. I got to train with him on a few occasions over the week and picked up some valuable tips to improve my game.
Gianni is a seasoned competitor despite his years and teaches privates along with the drilling classes. He is currently very active on the competition circuit so has great details for “modern jiu-jitsu”. He is a big exponent of De La Riva style guard
Bernardo is a multiple time world champion with a highly developed deep-half-guard which he has called “the faria guard”. He’s a huge smiley guy and I was surprised to find out how young he actually is too. Maybe that says more about how auld I’m getting.
Unfortunately Marcelo was injured during my stay so he’s off the mat after knee surgery and was not training himself. What sets MGA apart from most other academies is that the man who’s name is above the door is still on the mats everyday teaching and training with all of his students. It is true that in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu the style of the Professor is usually transmitted to the students, I think this is also true of the attitude… Like the Cobra Kai Dojo in The Karate Kid (the original not the shitty remake), if the “sensei” was an arsehole and a bully which was passed onto Johnny and his bunch of headcases. In the case of MGA, everyone is a smiling killer… Friendly to a fault, helpful, respectful and light hearted… Training there is FUN. But at the same time they fight for every inch, nobody from white belt up will accept a sweep or lay down without putting up a battle. This intensity on the mats coupled with the smiling, joking faces worn by each student elevates this place to among the most enjoyable training facilities you will experience.
Tournaments and Visitors
As one of the most recognisable names in Jiu-Jitsu, Marcelo’s academy understandably attracts lots of visitors so you’ll have new bodies from all over the world to train with practically every session. Some of those visitors will be Jiu-Jitsu Royalty in their own right so you’ll have countless people to ask questions of and learn from.
During our stay we also competed in the New York BJJ Pro… Why not round out your trip with a tournament where you will get to meet some great people and challenge yourself against some different opponents? I was fortunate enough to meet Leandro Lo and Felipe Pena who were also competing and training at MGA while I was there. They are savages on the mats and had some super details to pass on throughout the week
I think I played a small part in earning this 1st place team trophy… Lots of inspiring performances from the heavy-hitters in 2014 to win the Grand Slam of Team Trophies for the New York IBJJF competitions. Some achievement considering there is still only relatively few black belts at the club, something that might have dissuaded people from considering it one of the worlds elite academies.
Eating healthy in New York is easy with Whole Foods Market all over the place… If you’ve never experienced it, it’s like hippy heaven with salad counters, craft beers, organic whatever-you-want, vegan/paleo/macro diet stuff, smoothies, nuts, supplements and a coffee bar .
Don’t worry, you can also eat nothing but rubbish if that’s your thing… Pizza, bagels, mountainous sandwiches, steaks. It would be forgiveable to run riot and just eat, sight-see and while away the afternoon in central park, museums or just floating around.
For more photos from the trip check out @foxbjj on instagram and follow for more from Royal Grappling Academy…