The question is not necessarily whether cross-training in itself is good or bad, the question is moreso, how can I cross-train respectfully?
There is nothing inherently wrong with cross-training. It can be beneficial to you as a student if you want to get to know other jiu jitsu students in the community and diversify your training.
That being said, if you are going to cross train, you want to make sure that you are respectful to your home gym, your visiting gym, and to all of the members that you meet in the process.
Here are 5 Rules for Cross Training that will help ensure that it is a positive experience for all parties involved:
1. Let your home gym and the visiting gym know that you are cross-training
Inform the head instructors at both gyms that you are cross-training. This shows courtesy and respect to both gym owners, and makes the intention for cross-training very clear. When you make it clear that you are cross-training, the instructor at the visiting gym knows that you are not their student, meaning they are not going to promote you, and you are also not a potential member. By being open and honest about your cross-training, you avoid any confusion about your intention at each gym.
2. Always offer to pay a mat fee
More often than not, a mat fee will be required. However, some gyms will not require a mat fee when you visit them, but I always suggest to my students to at least offer to pay something. By paying a mat fee, you show that you value the training, the facility, and the instruction. You are also showing respect to the members of that gym who are paying monthly dues to train there. If they do not accept your offer, then buy merchandise, help to sweep the mats, or offer to pay for a meal after training. You can get creative, but the point is to always show that you value the school that you are visiting and the training that they offer.
3. Understand what techniques are allowed
If you are going to visit another gym, it is extremely important that you know what techniques are allowed, and for which belts.
At our gym, for example, we do not allow white belts to do heel hooks. This is to avoid unnecessary injury. We will train heel hooks amongst colored belts, but only as long as it is agreed between sparring partners. It is important that all students visiting our school are also aware of this rule.
Always ask the head professor or fellow students if there are any specific rules in regards to which techniques are allowed for which belts.
4. Learn the rules of the school
Different schools have different rules and requirements for training. Always be aware of these rules, including what gis are allowed, or if you are allowed to wear another school’s patch. If the school you are visiting requires a specific gi, and you do not have that gi, rent or buy the gi that they request. Always be respectful of the rules in place. If you do not agree with the rules, then don’t train at that gym.
5. Be aware of poachers, and don’t poach another school’s students
Poaching is unnecessary and disrespectful. The quality of jiu jitsu at a school should speak for itself. If a school owner is trying to get you to leave your school and join theirs, what does that say about their jiu jitsu?
Be aware of students and coaches trying to get you to join their school, and never encourage other students to leave their school and come join yours. The purpose behind cross-training is to enhance your training, never to poach.
When a student from another school visits, I make it very clear that I am not their instructor, they are not my student, and I will not promote them. Students have asked me before if they should train at another school or my school, and I make it clear that that is not my decision. I have also experienced other schools poaching my own students, so I know what that is like, and will never do that to another coach.
My last and final suggestion is to always open a dialogue with your professor if you do decide to leave the gym. Take the time to talk to them, and let them know why you are leaving. Even if it is because you have a problem with your current school, be honest about the issues that are driving you away. This will always be more appreciated than an excuse.
I hope that these rules are helpful to you as you consider cross-training. As always, I would be interested to hear your thoughts on cross-training. Let me know what you think in the comments section of our Youtube Video.