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BJJ Travel Guide: Top 10 Jiu Jitsu Vacation Cities

BJJ is now a global phenomenon. This guide explains which cities are best for training, having adventures and making new friends.
BJJ Travel Guide: Top 10 Jiu Jitsu Vacation Cities

by JJB Admin

8 years ago

This article was written by Nicolas Gregoriades, who is a 3rd degree Jiu-Jitsu black Belt under Roger Gracie. Nic is an instructor at Subconscious Jiu Jitsu.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is rapidly becoming the global martial art. Add to this the fact that airfares are at their lowest in years and there’s never been a better time to be a BJJ Globetrotter. In this BJJ Travel Guide, I've listed, in no particular order, what I consider to be the best jiu-jitsu cities at the moment.

1. San Diego, USA

The unofficial epicentre of the jiu jitsu revolution, San Diego has taken over from Rio as the place where you go to find the bleeding-edge of the art. With a near-perfect climate and perhaps the best ratio of high-level academies to population-size outside Brazil, this is the destination for many looking to immerse themselves in the jiu jitsu lifestyle. This is an ‘outdoors’ city, so there is a wealth of activities that compliment jiu jitsu, including surfing and rock-climbing.

Best For: Weather, outdoor sports enthusiasts

Budget: Moderate

Overall BJJ Level: Elite

Recommended Academies: Clark Gracie Academy, Studio 540

2. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

No list like this would be complete without Rio. Brazil is the home of the modern game and it’s most famous city hosts some of the oldest and most iconic academies. If jiu-jitsu were a religion, this would be its holy land.

Not a bad place to relax after training... With absolutely stunning beaches, fantastic night-life, and the chance to be taught by living legends, the only major downside is the high-level of crime. This is one of the very few cities I’ve visited where I haven’t felt completely safe. Be alert and you’ll be fine. 

Best For: The jiu jitsu ‘pilgrimage’, BJJ nerds/history buffs

Budget: Moderate

Overall BJJ Level: Elite

Recommended Academies: De la Riva, Gracie Barra

3. New York, USA

Almost as international as London and even more fast paced, New York is home to some of the best academies on the planet. It’s no wonder many of the world’s top grapplers are choosing to base themselves out of the Big Apple or prepare for competitions there. Classes at the big schools are usually massive, so you’ll have a wide variety of sparring partners at all belt levels. You literally cannot get bored in New York, there’s so much to see that you’ll always have something to do between training sessions.

Best For: High-energy individuals, sparring

Budget: Expensive

Overall BJJ Level: Elite

Recommended Academies: Clockwork Jiu Jitsu, Marcelo Garcia Academy

4. London, UK

The UK jiu jitsu scene is booming, and London is at its heart. At many of the large academies you can test your skills against players from literally every corner of the globe. As it’s closer to Europe, there is also a much stronger judo influence than in comparably-sized US cities, which gives the style here a unique flavor. Because it’s a global hub, it’s the perfect ‘2nd city’ to stop off at on your way to or from a jiu jitsu vacation. Keep in mind that the weather is absolutely toilet for most of the year - try to go in summer or late spring. When the sun does shine in London you won’t find anywhere better.

Best for: Culture, onward travel

Budget: Expensive

Overall BJJ Level: Very Good

Recommended Academies: Roger Gracie HQ, Kingston Jiu Jitsu

5. Cape Town, South Africa

(Note - I’m biased because this is my home town!) If you’ve already done Rio and want something fresh yet similar, Cape Town is ideal. It has unmatched natural beauty including some of the best beaches in the world. Keep in mind that summer in Cape Town begins in November and lasts until February. During the summer months especially, there’s world-class kite surfing competitions, wind sailing, surfing, diving with Great White Sharks, hiking, bungee diving, and more. With the recent collapse of the South African currency, it’s also become much more affordable. The level of BJJ is not what you’d find in a major US or European city, but it’s growing fast and the locals are generally a tough roll, regardless of belt level.

Best For: Nature Lovers, extreme sports enthusiasts

Budget: Inexpensive - Moderate

Overall BJJ Level: Average

Recommended Academies: Renzo Gracie Cape Town, Maximilian Academy 

6. Tokyo, Japan

Years ago, before I’d ever been to Asia, a judo-black belt said to me ‘people who train will always be drawn to Japan - it’s the spiritual home of the martial arts.’ Japanese culture embodies the philosophy of jiu jitsu in so many unique aspects. Regardless of whatever anybody tries to tell you, this is where jiu jitsu really comes from - you can literally feel it.

No matter where you're from, Tokyo will impress. Tokyo will blow your mind - as a martial artist you owe it to yourself to see the home of jiu judo at the Kodokan. The Japanese jiu-jitsu players are usually lighter and very technical, which makes it the perfect place for smaller players to get good rolls in.

Best For: Lighter sparring partners, culture-shock, food-lovers

Budget: Moderate - Expensive

Overall BJJ Level: Very Good

Recommended Academies: Carpe Diem, Axis

7. Los Angeles, USA

Besides being the home of the World Championships (in Long Beach), LA also has dozens of quality academies and many of the same draws as San Diego (climate, beaches) but at a faster pace. The place gets a bad rap for being shallow but it’s been my experience that the people are interesting and there is a rich and varied culture. Say what you will about LA, but it tends to draw some very high level competitors, and one of the best bjj instructors I’ve ever met has a gym there (Tim Peterson at Robot Jiu Jitsu). You’ll also find some of the best yoga classes in the world in LA.

Best For: Culture-shock, high-level, instructors, large availability of sparring partners

Budget: Moderate - Expensive

Overall BJJ Level: Elite

Recommended Academies: Robot Jiu Jitsu, 10th Planet HQ

8. Copenhagen, Denmark

Sure, it’s not the cheapest place in the world, but Copenhagen is a beautiful city that is extremely safe and easy to travel around - no need to rent a car to get to training! Scandinavia is producing some of the toughest jiu jitsu fighters in Europe and you can find many of them here - for exceptionally tough training head over to Arte Suave, a mainstay club of the Checkmat competition team. Or if that’s not your vibe BJJ Globetrotters has its ‘headquarters’ here so there’s at least gym full of people who have caught the bug as well as visitors from all over to swap stories and armbars.

Best For: Competitors

Budget: Very Expensive

Overall BJJ Level: Elite

Recommended Academies: Arte Suave,

9. Melbourne, Australia

Although it has fewer academies than it’s bigger brother Sydney, Melbourne has a much more relaxed vibe. Australians are generally relaxed and friendly and I’ve never felt more welcome than when visiting new dojos there. I also found that the general level of instruction is excellent, with a lot of progressive training methods utilised during classes. Strangely, Melbourne also has the best coffee shops I’ve ever been to - after tasting some of their stuff you’ll never be happy with Starbucks again.

Best For: Making new friends

Budget: Very Expensive

Overall BJJ Level: Very Good

Recommended Academies: Absolute MMA, Australian Elite Team

10. Phuket, Thailand

The large amount of quality MMA training centres springing up in the area has made Phuket the jiu jitsu capital of southeast Asia. Thailand also has a rich martial arts tradition, and this means it’s the perfect choice for those looking to cross train in other functional martial arts, Muay Thai in particular. There’s a huge party-scene in Phuket, and as a result it can get overly-crowded with drunk, sun-burned tourists. PS - Once you’re tired of the scene in Phuket, it’s worth it to visit Chiang Mai. It’s in northern Thailand (think jungle instead of beach), but it's also a personal favourite and has some fresh jiu jitsu academies. You can find more information on BJJ gyms in Thailand at Jiu Jitsu Asia

Best For: Cross-training, value for money, party/social scene

Budget: Inexpensive

BJJ Level: Good (No Gi Very Good)

Recommended Academies: Tiger Muay Thai, Phuket Top Team

Know a great BJJ city that’s been left off the list? Tell us about it in the comment section below.

1 comment

  • Nice article, thx!

    SIebe on

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