The BJJ Comeback Will Be Greater Than The Setback
BJJ Life After Quarantine
The gym represents so much more than a place to train for a vast number of individuals involved in the sport of Jiu Jitsu. A lot of people utilize their dojos as a sanctuary and mental reprieve from the stressors of their everyday life, or they implement it as a tool to engage in social interaction with likeminded peers, or as methods of physical activity, self-defense, and exercise.
With the current state of affairs in the world in what is now deemed ‘the new normal’ with this ongoing pandemic, the question of what the atmosphere of gyms be like as the pandemic slows down is at the forefront of many of our minds. We are inundated with a plethora of quotes, facts, opinions, and information in regard to COVID-19 that it is exceptionally easy to begin to feel overwhelmed. I know there are some people out there who are hesitant to return to their gyms once they reopen out of fear of the inherent risks associated with such a close contact sport. As someone who has spent a multitude of years competing in a number of tournaments, training in various gyms, and being dripped on by every conceivable bodily fluid you can think of, I’m sure my body has built up quite the immune-progressive defenses from a number of physical and epidemiological illnesses, sicknesses, and diseases, from those on the surface of the epidermis to those that infiltrate the organs and systems. Hell, I’m sure there were times I left the wrestling room where if you had taken a black light to my body, I would have been almost an identical replica to a Jackson Pollock painting. Mia Khalifa would have had nothing on me.
I completely understand and empathize on those with compromised immune systems or who are surrounded by those who are immunosuppressed that may want to distance themselves further and wait an even longer amount of time before returning to their respective dojos. For the average individual, I know that most gyms take health and hygiene incredibly seriously and the cleanliness of the locker rooms and mats are on par of those in a cleanroom facility that would have microbial germs fleeing in terror. I scrub every single inch of our facility daily and dare any lingering virus to try and penetrate my walls. My gym is less infallible than a properly fitted condom, and it is my life’s mission to keep it as pristine and healthy as possible.
It saddens me to think that fear of the unknown and ramifications of these actions may keep people from being as eager to delve back into training as soon as the quarantine is lifted, but whether I agree with it or not, I certainly understand it. Life is full of uncertainties, and sometimes there are risks people are unwilling to chance, but there also is a lack of fulfilment that comes with doing so. To the people counting down the moments until the government allows them back in their gyms, I stand with you in solidarity. The moment will be sweeter than any delicacy that Will Wonka could ever fathom in his factory of wonders.
My mental health and sanity become cluttered without an outlet or a release. Consider it a ‘blue balls’ type of situation with mental clarity and happiness. The gym is where I can congregate with the only friends I’ve managed to accrue as an adult and where I can sharpen the skills and tool sets I need in order to make monetary gain. As an aspiring professional fighter, I need to constantly work on my training in order to be successful in this sport, and while there are many occupations where working from home simply doesn’t cut it, I can vouch that fighting can definitely be counted amongst them. I worry about the things that happen to my brain when I have too much idle time on my hands. My sleep schedule becomes erratic with even more of an insomniac issue, my skin breaks out from the stress of not being able to participate in my version of therapy, and I begin to drown under waves of depressive thoughts and moods. I know, how incredibly privileged of me to complain about not being able to joint lock, choke, and punch people when there are those out there dealing with serious repercussions from this virus, but just because you can’t always see the physical manifestations associated with being mentally sick, doesn’t mean that this illness isn’t just as valid as an influenza. Mental illness takes far too many lives a year, and I harbor a large amount of worry for those who have yet to find the balance of methods to help alleviate their pains.
Will the culture in the martial arts community and gyms be forever altered in a way that will hurt us all? I certainly hope that this is something we will be able to grow and find strength from rather than weaken us and cause a greater divide. During these times, I have seen a vast number of people come together to help and assist their fellow man in more ways than one, but I have also seen some downright bitter ugliness, hypocrisy and jealousy, amongst my peers and strangers. I know that it will undoubtedly be quite some time until Jiu Jitsu competitions resume and there will a void in our hearts where competing used to be. In the grand scheme of things, BJJ competitions probably rank quite low on the list of priorities, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel partially useless without having goals and a competitive mindset to work toward. It’s probably why I throw myself into everything at such an exorbitant rate and take on a million tasks at once between redoing the entire house, homeschooling the kids, organizing absolutely every single item in my closets, pantries, and cabinets, starting a garden, undertaking a yoga routine, cooking as many new recipes as possible, cleaning everything top to bottom until even Lysol wants to sponsor me, continuously training at home, and setting new fitness goals for myself on the regular. Sometimes I think I’m an absolute nutcase with all the tasks I try to endure, but I just don’t think I can be the type of person complacent with ‘time off.’ There’s probably some deep-rooted issue causing all of this, but without the cathartic release of knuckles meeting faces, I’m unwilling to confront those demons in my current state.
I am hoping beyond hope that the comeback to the BJJ gyms will be a thousand times stronger than any setback that tried to impede our journey and hinder our paths. The day I step foot in the gym to either teach or participate in a Jiu Jitsu class once again will be akin to the way I felt when I set eyes upon my partner for the very first time. I want to be consumed with the warmth and joy stepping into my own little fortress of solitude brings me so I can start feeling like Superman again. Turns out social isolation can be loads of people’s kryptonite and make the ‘S’ on our chest falter and fail. One day, we will look back on this time in our lives and really relish over everything that occurred. Right now, the only thing I want to ponder is when my fists can connect with flesh once more. Me without Jiu Jitsu is reminiscent of a PB&J sandwich without the jelly. I’m just nuts and hard to swallow. I need that fruity spread to complete me and make me whole again. (Except grape, because f#ck grape jelly. Use strawberry or blackberry like a freaking adult). The BJJ community will return to their gyms in droves, and I for one welcome the moment like a person opening their arms to prepare for the wide embrace of a hug, with double under-hooks, naturally.