Saturday, March 14, 2020

Jiu Jitsu in the Time of Coronavirus

"We won't shake hands anymore," my coach instructed. "And we won't tap hands before rolling."
     "But then we're going to roll, right?" someone asked.

This exchange happened after reminders to wash our gis after every class. This is jiu jitsu in the time of coronavirus.
But they look so cute! Like Frankenberries!

I was not sure whether to go to class on Thursday night. All around me are recommendations of social distancing. Jiu jitsu is the opposite of that. You get in close, you hug your partner, your gi soaks up the sweat beading off your partner's forehead. . . . I know. When I put it like that, it's a wonder everyone doesn't want to do jiu jitsu!

If I don't go tonight, I thought, then I really shouldn't go until all of this blows over. That could be weeks. Months. Am I prepared to go without jiu jitsu for that long? 

The answer was no. I am focusing on new grips. I want to try them out. I have been working hard lately, acclimatizing to a new gym, trying to legitimize myself and my brown belt. I feel like I can't spare a minute, never mind a quarantine.

So, with Husband looking at me sidewise, Shark Girl went off to class and heard words like, "As always, if you have any cold symptoms, stay off the mats."

I mean let's face it, I've been rolling around in these guys' sweat for months now. If one of us has it, we've surely passed it on. We know that carriers can be asymptomatic, I justified to myself.

Middle School Son wears shorts to school every day. In the middle of winter. Unless Husband forces him to wear "sweatpants at least." We've given up on the winter coat that he insists he does not have but has been hanging in our coat closet gathering dust and growing too small for about a year. Middle School Son has seen this coat. He knows it exists. Yet he refuses to acknowledge it.

One day I asked High School Son (who always wore pants but lived through this strange shorts fad a few years ago) why middle school boys did this. "Its a game of chicken," he said. "No one wants to be the first to wear pants and admit that they're too cold."

If I'm being honest with myself, part of my decision to go to jiu jitsu was like that. I don't want to be the first one to cave in to the virus. Especially as the token female. They are going to have to make me not go, in spite of the fact that I have a son who is at high risk if he develops the virus. (Yes, Shark Girl is crazy. But you knew that already.)

I also wondered if I was contemplating skipping jiu jitsu to wimp out on my feelings of inadequacy. Who knew that deciding whether or not to go to class was going to tap into all of my psychological issues?

When I got home Thursday night, I washed my belt along with my gi. I know that's sacrilege. But the belt was sweaty, too. What good is it to wash the coronavirus off your gi only to have it fester unchallenged on your belt?

Just today another gym I am connected with announced they would be closing for a period of two weeks, like our local schools. What a relief it would be if mine did that, too. Then I would not have to make the decision. Then I would not have to search my psyche to figure out why I should or should not go to class. Won't someone else please wear their pants first? You would make it a hell of a lot easier for me.

I really like Stephan Kesting's resource on COVID-19 and BJJ. I haven't read it all yet, but it looks pretty comprehensive. If I find anymore resources I find helpful, I will update this post. Please feel free to comment with any resources that have helped you, too.

Stay Healthy,
Shark Girl


  1. Hi! I recently put together an article on the affects COVID-19 is having on jiu jitsu in general. Hope you find it interesting!

  2. Yeah, it's a difficult time for everybody, but the BJJ industry is definitely one of the ones hit hardest by this, from a business perspective (obviously as there are lots of people dying, it's not the most serious issue right now, but still, people's livelihoods are being crushed).

    I shut down all my classes on 20th March, so I've just been teaching online via Zoom since then. That's worked ok so far, a month down the line. Hopefully things will open back up in the next month or two, but it's very hard to predict. Given how it is impossible to social distance in BJJ, it's entirely possible that (in the UK at least), there will be no BJJ in person until next year. Scary thought, but I'm working under that assumption at the mo.

    Hope all is ok with you, since you wrote this post! Ha - and I totally didn't realise you got promoted to brown, that's awesome: big congrats! I'll go comment on the earlier post too. This is why it's a shame I don't have you on Facebook, I miss big stuff like this. ;D

    1. I am so sorry about your school. Will you weather the coronavirus storm? I know many that have/will not. This time off has given me a lot to reflect on.

    2. Thanks, though yeah, I should be fine. I've always kept the overheads low and most of my members have kept paying, so financially things may be tighter, but they're still ok. :D

      I'm planning to reopen to whatever degree I'm allowed next month, currently prepping stuff like new ventilation to make sure everything is as safe as possible. :)

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