How I decide on camp locations for BJJ Globetrotters

I get requests every week from people who hope we’ll set up a camp some place in the world they like (or live). But USA Camp is really the season for me where I’m answering the same question on an almost daily basis:

“So, when are you doing a camp on the West Coast?”

I understand the thought process of this. There are places in the world that have no BJJ Globetrotters camps but that doesn’t mean there’ll ever be one. In reality, the approach I have to eventually making a camp happen somewhere, is probably different from what you’d expect.

Out in the countryside of Sardinia, Italy

First, I don’t sit and look at a world map on my wall and try to figure out what areas there could be a market for setting up a camp. The way I approach the camps is that I make them for myself, first and foremost. Every single camp is basically just me trying to design the most amazing, dream holiday I can possible imagine for myself and then invite a few hundred friends along to join. Even if no one signed up for a camp, I would still go and probably have a great time on my own. Ok, I’d need one volunteer for the Jiu Jitsu training part of it at least, but you get the point!

I believe that for the camps to really work, I must be 100% passionate about going there myself. Every. Single. Time. For me to sit down and think “ok, what would be the absolutely most amazing trip I can think about for myself here”, I must have a genuine interest in taking part of it.

Deep in the forests of Maine, United States

This is why I have no plans of franchising or outsourcing the camps. I will never do camps every week around the world where I send someone else to run it and just put my BJJ Globetrotters stamp on them. If I’m not a genuine part of the social- and training aspect of a camp, it would not a BJJ Globetrotters camp anymore. It would just be a business. Fair enough, maybe one day, I’ll have enough stripes on my black belt to become old and greedy and just do it for the money, but who knows.

In the amazing Austrian alps

Back to people asking me about doing camps in certain places. There are a lot of factors that play in:

  • First and foremost, when I consider it, I must feel excitement. I must get a bit of butterflies in my stomach by the thought of going. I don’t care about how many potential participants we could sell tickets to, how much other people wanna go there or how unexplored the market is for a camp there. I must personally want to do it. Considering that a new camp usually takes 6-10 months of hard work to set up from scratch and I’ve been traveling a bit in my life, I’m getting increasingly more difficult to excite with potential new locations. This is a (beyond luxury) problem I’m struggling with a bit.
  • Finding enough matspace for a hundred or more people is extremely difficult. If they’re not there in the first place, I’m already moving on to the next camp idea on the list. It’s most often just way too much work to even try and begin to look for mats of the right quality and quantity – not to mention reliable transportation, insurance, set up and so on.
  • There are physical and calendar limits to how many camps I can squeeze into a year and into my life. The puzzle of booking 10 camps this year has been incredibly complex already and often I have to skip great camp ideas because I simply have enough on my plate. It also seems to be the exact amount of camps I can barely do without completely burning out.
  • I try to make each camp different. I like the contrast of traveling and I’m sure that if I did 10 surf themed camps a year, I would end up finding it tremendously boring. A new camp must be something that isn’t already on the schedule or I don’t bother doing it. Did anyone say Antarctica?
  • I want the camp to be part training and part adventure. Adventure defined by a travel experience that would be very difficult to do on your own. If traveling is easy, it’s usually not memorable for me. It must be a place that’s somewhat challenging to get to. This is why I’ll never do camps in any mainstream travel destinations that you’ll likely visit anyway some day. New York, San Diego, Rio de Janeiro, Ibiza, Amsterdam, Cancun. Any resorts with a buffet and evening entertainment shows. Not happening.
  • It has to beat all the other camp ideas that fit the schedule for the season. My checklist for running a camp currently has a whopping 800+ items and there are way more tiny things that has to work than you can probably imagine. Logistics of transportation, accommodation, distances, food delivery, cleaning, shipping etc. is complicated and if any one of these things look like they’re too much work, the camp will be bumped down the list. When I have 50 or more great camp ideas for one season, I’m only gonna invest my time and money in the absolute best ones only.

On the Caribbean island of Saint Barthélemy

And as for the #1 question in my inbox: Why don’t I do a camp on the west coast of the United States? No one has pointed my attention to any potential camp ideas that fulfill all points above. I’m already going to the U.S. once a year for our camp out in the forest and I’m getting my annual quota of Walmart and beef jerky covered for now. But who knows, maybe I’ll randomly find a place there on day and go for it. Nine out of ten camps have happened because someone at a camp has come up to me and told me about a place they know of, which I always think is interesting to listen to.

In the beautiful medieval town of Leuven, Belgium

Setting up a camp is complicated. It has to be perfect and it has to fit my personal schedule and willingness to risk my money if it fails. With that said, I really love the process of spending months and months grinding through hundreds of logistical details, emails and phone calls for each potential location and finally end up with a full year’s schedule of perfectly planned, exciting adventures for myself and everyone else who decides to join. It’s a lot of work but I do enjoy every minute of it. I often say I’m like the Miyao brothers of Jiu Jitsu camps; I’m on the mats with this more hours than anyone else in the world. I don’t take steroids though (or should I say I’VE NEVER FAILED A TEST). But apart from that, we’re pretty much identical. Ok, I don’t have a twin.

Therefore, if you’re ever at a camp, remember you’re pretty much just crashing my holiday, so if I leave a towel on that beach chair in the morning, that means I have reserved it for the day. Thank you.

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