It is almost hard to remember the carefree era before COVID-19 roared into our lives, forcing us into countless Zoom meetings and shutting down gyms around the world. If you squint really hard and focus, you might be able to recall that we once were allowed to travel freely, training BJJ in far flung and exotic places.
As recently as 2019 all you had to do was book a flight and a ticket to one of dozens of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu camps and you could count on having an amazing vacation. After international travel restrictions were imposed in March 2020 this became just a nostalgic memory.
The Rise and (temporary) Fall of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Camps
It’s hard to believe, but my Jiu Jitsu career started 17 years ago. Back then it was a big deal to travel to another state to attend a 2-hour seminar. Even to find out about these seminars involved being lucky enough to know the right person!
Social media was in its infancy – there was no Facebook nor Instagram for coaches to post about their upcoming events on, and MySpace was mostly used for posting angsty status updates or for telling the world about your favorite Greenday song.
But as the twenty-oughts gave way to the twenty-teens a marvelous new type of training emerged. Driven partially by BJJ’s meteoric growth and partially by the efforts of motivated individuals like Christian Graugart of BJJGlobetrotters, BJJ training camps slowly became an important fixture of Jiu Jitsu culture.
Prior to COVID-19 coming onto the scene, 2020 looked set to be the biggest year yet for BJJ camps. Ranging in size from just a few dozen to several hundred attendees, these camps were poised to offer the opportunity for a BJJ vacation to nearly anyone. You could plan on training in Brazil, Italy, Germany, Thailand, Poland, Portugal, Costa Rica, or Mexico – just to name a few!
However, 2020 was a year that failed to live up to its potential. Camps were cancelled around the world as a result of both social distancing requirements and travel restrictions.
The European Union Reopens Its Border
Camp organizers and attendees alike can breathe a sigh of relief as the European Union has just ruled that it will allow visitors from abroad to enter the bloc without quarantine or testing requirements.
Visitors from seven countries, including the United Kingdom, are now allowed to enter the EU at will. For everyone else, unrestricted travel is permitted for vaccinated individuals. This means that 124 million Americans are now eligible to travel to the EU and take part in BJJ camps! I suppose there are other things worth doing in Europe too… but we’ve got to keep our priorities in line!
Prior to 2020 it was easy to take Brazilian Jiu Jitsu camps for granted. Travel was just a normal part of modern life and it didn’t seem like anything could change that. However, a microscopic enemy was all it took to change all of that for what felt like an eternity.
Thankfully, that eternity is coming to an end. The EU allowing international travel to resume is a great sign and is a huge step towards a return to pre-COVID life. If you’ve been thinking about attending a BJJ camp abroad, your opportunity has arrived. Carpe diem!
Evan is nomadic brown belt, currently traveling through Mexico. He enjoys pressure passes and tacos.