My Neck, My Back, This Quarantine is Whack

The times are unprecedented and the phrase 'the new normal' is being tossed around quite a bit as of late.

One-way courses being implemented in grocery stores, mandatory requirements on facial coverings and masks when out in public, all businesses deemed nonessential shut down for the foreseeable future. The economy is crippling, people are dying, mental health is plummeting, stress and anxiety are skyrocketing, and life as we know it has been irrevocably altered and decimated.

As a professional athlete, I am fortunate in the aspect that my coach is my partner, we have a dedicated space in a house large enough for a mat room, and plenty of equipment to still get in some training. But it's not the same. Not being able to train with a core group of people to further my career and improve my capabilities is definitely a hindering factor. I'm the type of person that thrives on structure and rigidity, and with this whole quarantine in effect, I can feel myself faltering in areas of which I normally breeze right through (cough cough, my nutrition has been slightly less than stellar and I am walking around approximately 5 pounds heavier than normal). I'm trying to alleviate some of that anxiety because I tend to inundate myself with tremendous amounts of stress, so throwing myself into new physical challenges has helped to dissipate some of that tension. And my body still aches and pains me as I am utilizing certain muscle groups in ways that I haven't before, so no, this has not been the time to rest and heal various nagging injuries as all the optimists of the world would have you believe. 

I'm sure I sound like an incredibly spoiled 'woe is me' bag of bones and misery right now, but I miss fighting and I miss competing. It's just not the same getting tossed around by a black belt man twice your size when you are trying your absolute hardest to prevail (and definitely is a hard blow to your feelings, of which I have too many, when the ass kickings come from the one you love). I miss being able to head up to the gym, shoot the shit, and lift some weights. And I miss being able to run into the store to quickly grab something I need without facilitating the need to organize the entirety of a shopping trip around a singular pack of paper plates or the like. It used to feel like such a hassle to show up to a restaurant and hear that there would be a 45 minute wait for a table, and now, what a privilege hearing those words would be! I think I'm at that lull during this phase of social isolation where I severely miss human interaction and contact with my peers outside of a zoom class or computer screen. I miss hearing the sounds of bodies hitting the floor as we drill takedowns and throws, or the sweet, sweet gurgling sounds of a grown man clamoring for a breath of air, or the rambunctious sounds of children learning controlled violence and self-defense as I help teach the next generation of Jiu Jiteros.

I wonder how the history books are going to dictate this time in our lives and what kind of spin will be jotted down on paper to either increase the severity or minimize the horrors wreaking havoc across the world. I wonder how other countries will construe all that has occurred and the ramifications of the actions of various government officials across the land. And I wonder how we will rise as a nation in the forthcoming months or if we will allow what is occurring to squander our humanity.

Fortunately, this has been a time for me to get my creative juices flowing, and I don't just mean in an X-rated fashion. I've been doing yoga every single day, coming up with creative new recipes to test out in the kitchen, and I've even picked up painting as a side hobby. It's currently filling the void of me wanting to paint the canvas in the cage with the blood of my foes, but right now cartoon llamas are going to have to suffice. I tried getting into Tik Tok as well, but turns out I'm too technologically illiterate to figure out how to work the videos and algorithms. I've been able to focus on building some muscle and was even able to deadlift three times my fight weight at 315 lbs. Yet again, I'd still rather lift a body to catapult through the air than a lowly set of weights. I'm sure I sound like a ridiculously privileged individual when others have lost and sacrificed so much during this pandemic, but I think we are all allowed to grieve a past, present, and future in which the course of our unique paths and journeys has been altered forevermore.

I am trying to occupy my time with little things here and there and even did a full face of makeup just the other day, which is a rare occurrence to someone as devoted to the mats as I am (can't get mascara on a gi!) I snapped a few pics for the limited amount of time I was caked up like Betty Crocker, and as I washed it off, loudly proclaimed that you can wash the hoe off my face, but never the hoe out my soul. Some people use self-deprecating humor as a coping mechanism during high stress situations. It's me. I'm those people.

One of the hardest things for me to deal with during this whole quarantine and lifestyle change, has been the worry and anxiety I have been harboring in regards to others. While I know it is not my job nor responsibility to fix every little thing, I'm a remarkably empathetic individual and hate seeing those I care about suffering or in pain. I know that right now especially, those battling with inner demons and struggling with their mental health are having a bit of a tough time dealing with the sudden and abrupt changes in their life. This isolation can't be beneficial to the people of the world who crave closeness and proximity in order to feel mentally satiated. I don't want anyone to be confronted with the harsh repercussions of an isolated lifestyle and I know that for many of these people, their former outlets and means of cathartic release are now deemed 'temporarily outlawed.'

For those in Jiu Jitsu who are active competitors, we are now faced with the harsh reality that even when gyms do eventually open back up, it may be quite some time until competitions resume. I don't know about anyone else, but I feel like my skin is having a rough time without the constant mat exfoliation and all of my joints seemed to have stiffened up like a body in rigor mortis without the frequent training schedule it was so accustomed to. I'm hoping my mind learns to stay somewhat more lubricated (like a KY Jelly packet) with Jiu Jitsu knowledge as I have used this time to watch and study more videos on fights and techniques. I guess we shall see.

Overall, while I deem this quarantine to be thoroughly whack, I am trying to make the most of it. I have definitely benefitted from the more time to sleep and get things done around the house as one upside. Furniture has been built and stained, a garden has been planted and the crops are now flourishing, and the OCD levels of cleanliness and organization in my home have reached new heights. But I'd trade all of it in to have someone wrap my gi around my throat and squeeze until the little sugar plum fairies start circulating in my skull.

I know when I take that walk down to the octagon again, I will cherish every single moment, anticipating the lead up to that very first punch once again. I'm hoping to come out on the other side of this pandemic mentally and physically stronger, with a renewed appreciation of all the little things in life we may have taken for granted, and hopefully a few new valuable skillsets along the way. Also hoping my flexibility improves with my daily stretching and yoga tutorials, but alas, I'm still tighter than a clam's ass at high tide. I know that one day, I will look back on this time in quarantine and be grateful for all I was able to educate myself on and facilitate the growth and expansion of broadening my horizons. For now, I'm just lamenting over the missed hours training Jiu Jitsu and MMA and counting the seconds until I can work towards having my hand raised again. And trust me when I say, it will be washed thoroughly with antibacterial soap before then anyways. 


Submitted and written by Samantha Seff.

Samantha Seff is a Brown Belt out of Schell Shock BJJ in North Carolina with an amateur MMA record of (7-4)