Despite travelling further away from home, and rolling for longer periods in more places than here in Italy, this is the biggest language barrier i’ve encountered.
However, luckily on the mats, we all speak Jiu Jitsu. I see the technique, I point to ask questions, and get by with a Tarzan equivalent of Italian. I can say yes, no and during the rolls I threw in a few ‘Catsos’ (which translates to ‘Dick’ but is used the way we use ‘fuck’ in English). Between this holy trinity of language you have enough to, in my opinion, navigate your way through a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class in Italy.
As well as these ever growing language skills i’m adding to my arsenal, my experience is made easier as most Brazilian Jiu jitsu classes around the world seem to follow a similar (or at least only deviate slightly from the) standard class structure.
Warm up, drill skills, and/ or live drills, trouble shoot, roll.
For better or for worse this is how almost all jiu jitsu classes are structured and clearly the way that’s been passed down. Is it the most effective structure? Danaher’s methods seem to suggest there is a more effective way to approach teaching (but that’s a topic for another time).
In terms of being teachable, the shorter visits to destinations don’t work well for me actually learning new skills. I’ve had to take my Jiu Jitsu development in to my own hands (as we all should really) as my thick skull prevents me from absorbing too much technique from a few sessions. This is part of the reason I prefer to be in countries for more than a few months, I like having the time to develop a routine and actually progress towards my goals. By goals here I don’t just mean improving in jiu jitsu, as romantic and exciting constantly moving around is, the reality is it’s a sure fire way to get very little done.
I’ve found that this kind of ‘travel’ (where you stay somewhere for two months or more) is actually the best balance of what i’m seeking. If I was to just hop from place to place to place then yes I would have a larger photo album of landmarks, and I’d be able to put more pins in the map, but I doubt I would of actually grown in the areas I want to grow in. Would my Jiu Jitsu be better or would it just be on maintenance mode? Would my business be growing and offering a good service to my clients? Would I be able to consistently train and up the weights or would I just be ‘working out’, doing the punch the clock style workouts so I don’t get too fat?
Luckily, all of these considerations have no significance once it’s time to roll…
…Rolling is a universal language…
And what a beautiful language it is. Complete with it’s own difficult sentences, poetry, expert linguists and people who are just starting to speak. All are welcome and looking to get better every time they train.
Despite everything I’ve mentioned in this article, a language barrier, a national barrier, none of this matters when you’re on the mat. It’s your jiu jitsu versus someone elses. If you catch them, great, show them what you did. If they catch you, great, ask them what they did (if you know the words to ask). This is a universal pursuit and even if I don’t understand the words coming out of your mouth I understand what you’re trying to do with your body, as you do with mine. The meeting of that understanding is it’s own form of communication and is amazing to experience in cultures all around the world.
My Italian my of only marginally improved but my Jiu Jitsu is expanding. Right now, that’s more useful.