This is a cross post from the Aristos Blog. I also run Camp Aristos, which is why I have spent a fair bit of time thinking about camps.
BJJ training camps, like the sport in general, are becoming more popular. In this post I’ll cover the different types of camp available. There are four types of camp; Team camp, Superstar camp, Allstars camp, Social camp. I’ll explain what each camp is, and assess each against some criteria.
How easy it is to attend the camp? Of course anyone can attend most camps, apart from a Team camp for a team you’re not a part of, but what I am assessing is whether you might have any doubts about going to the camp (you shouldn’t).
2) Learning outcomes
How likely the camp is to improve your jiu-jitsu? One week of full time Jiu-jitsu will always improve your jiu-jitsu, so the assessment is in comparison to training full time at your current gym.
How fun will the camp be? This is of course is a very subjective assessment criteria. But as a fun person, you can trust my judgement.
As you can see all of the assessment criteria are quite subjective so I will give a loose rating of low, medium or high for each. In reality I’m giving you my opinion and hopefully bringing up some information that you hadn’t considered order to help you make up your mind which type of camp would be best for you. You might also have noticed that I didn’t assess against value for money. This is because prices are vastly different, and usually include different things, e.g. accommodation, food, activities etc. Without further ado, to the camps!
This is the most common type of camp. A lot of schools will run a camp, either for one school if it’s big enough, or for all the schools under one affiliation in one area. It’s most likely to be the first camp you consider going on.
I would say the accessibility is high on this one. Your instructor will be actively encouraging you to go, you won’t have the prospect of going alone, you’ll be surrounded by your team.
For learning outcomes, as with everything it’s camp dependent, but I would rate it as low. You will be learning from the same instructor as you would be at home. So why not just turn up twice a day at your academy and get a similar amount of Jiu-jitsu? Also there may be guest instructors, but these tend to be other school instructors, rather than the affiliations superstars. It could be that you train at an ATOS affiliated gym and that you will have Andre Galvao teaching at your camp, in which case you shouldn’t score this criteria as low. The point is that in general, the instruction will not be as good as some of the other camps.
Will the team camp be fun? I bloody hope so. This is definitely a high rating. You’re going on holiday with your team mates, who presumably you like, otherwise you shouldn’t go on camp with them, and maybe consider switching gyms.
This is a camp with one superstar teaching the whole camp. For example Laclan Giles does these quite regularly.
The accessibility for these camps is medium. In fact no jiu-jitsu camp will have low accessibility. While it might be daunting to fly alone to a different country for what your Mum thinks is a Karate camp, when you get there it will turn out that all the other people also like rolling around on the floor rather a lot and that shared interest makes it very easy to get on with them. If you don’t believe me, try it.
If you want to go on a camp specifically to improve your jiu-jitsu, I would say this is hands down your best choice. You should pick a superstar who’s game you already attempt to emulate in training. This means they’ll be furnishing you with specific details to improve your current game, and you’ll get continuous regular teaching and access to them during the camp. That’s high for learning outcome.
Whether you’ll have fun on this camp, depends on the camp. I’ll rate it as medium because it’s hard not to have fun doing jiu-jitsu. However if you’re doing a camp in Russia with Gianni Grippo, you’ve got a camp in a cold and worrying location, with a guy that used to carry around business cards to give to his training partners during drilling.
Maybe you love cold places, societies with a dubious stance on democracy, and hate people who talk during drilling… sociability high for you!
Accessibility is exactly the same as for the superstar camp. (Medium)
Learning outcomes are medium. If you’re smart, you’ll know some of the instructors on the camp are people you really want to learn from, and you can learn from more than one of the people who influence your game. One potential issue with allstar camps is that the line up can change. This is normally for reasons out of the control of the organisers, visa issues, injuries, Brazilians being Brazilian. However it’s not an issue for the Superstar camp, the superstar usually will make time for their own camp. Be careful if you’re going for just one or two of the instructors, they might no show. The other downside of the allstar camp is that you will get less mat time with the instructors, and the camp won’t keep a continuous theme or thread with the instruction, as the instructors will jump around techniques. Note this is an issue for any camp that has more than 1 instructor.
If I can also sneak in some promotion for Camp Aristos (why do you think I’m writing this?), by making our camp only open to blue belts upwards it means the instructors can focus on high level details of for example the omoplata, and not dumb down the techniques so that people who are unfamiliar or unconfident with the position can also follow along. Self promotion over 🙏.
Sociability is another example of, ‘it depends’. As with the superstar camp I’ll give it a medium. Aristos is run in Portugal by the beach. Royal camp is run in Amsterdam. If you like busy capital cities with partying and legalized cannabis, you'll find Royal camp more fun than Aristos. If you prefer warm weather and a slow pace for holidays, then it's Aristos for you.
We can't leave the allstars section without mentioning the uber allstar camp with Buchecha, Leandro Lo and Fillipe Pena. Get your new insta profile pic for only $5,000.
This camp is fully geared towards having fun on holiday and meeting other people who also do jiu-jitsu. The only place I know doing this is Globetrotters. I have never attended a Globetrotters camp, my information comes from friends that have been, and from researching their website. I am a fan of their camps, even though I will criticise some aspects. If you’re looking to have a good time on a jiu-jitsu holiday these are the camps for you.
Accessibility is between medium and high. You don’t know who’s going to be there, but the aim of the camp is for people to make friends, so you would imagine, and it’s been reported to me, that the organisers are good at making this happen.
For learning outcomes, I’m about to excite the Globetrotter collective, I’d give this type of camp a low score. The reason I would give it low is that in general the instructors are mostly unknown black belts. I say in general, knowing that they sometimes have instructors like Keenan Cornelius and Gunnar Nelson. In general the camps don’t advertise with the names of their instructors, because they are unknown, and that’s because the aim of the camp isn’t really to improve your jiu-jitsu, it’s to have fun, while doing jiu-jits. Improvement in your jiu-jitsu might take place as a pleasant by product.
Most of the instructors are not paid much to be there, if anything, they’re probably getting travel and expenses. They tend not to be successful high level competitors or coaches. Be wary as a white/blue belt that not all black belts will show you useful/valid techniques. Something Jon Thomas said at Aristos this year makes my point particularly eloquently. If you are trying a technique that the top competitors are using, and you can’t make it work, stick at it, it’s probably not the technique, it’s probably you missing some key detail. In this case the opposite is true, if someone who isn’t a high level competitor shows you something that doesn’t seem to be working for you, it might not be you, it might be that technique.
Bro Globetrotters camps are mad fun. Lots of extra curricular activities like surfing, lots of beer fuelled open mats.
There is no one camp that’s better than others. Which one you choose depends on what your goals are for a camp. I hope the information here has been helpful.