There is comfort in the return to routine: the rash guard in my bag, the braids in my hair. There is joy in the dull ache in my arms and in the sweat dripping off of my face. There is joy in all of it, from fist bump to laundry basket. However, it is also hard, and in a different way than it used to be.
Fear of illness still lingers even though my training partners get tested often, we are all healthy and strong, and class is limited to small pods of the same training partners. The laziness of too many days spent watching Netflix tries to hold on. There is also the simple loss of momentum that comes when you aren’t working on something daily, or when there is not an obvious goal like a new belt or an upcoming tournament.
The return to BJJ post lockdown is a tricky thing. Some haven’t returned yet, while others are back out on the competition mats. Others may have never even stopped, either because their schools didn’t ever have to close, or because they were lucky enough to have a close friend with mats in their garage or basement. Many of us have recently begun the slow return to training. If you are like me you might be struggling with how to reconnect with this thing you once were so passionate about.
I am still working on it myself, but here are some things I have figured out so far:
Do not make too much of your lack of enthusiasm. It does not necessarily mean you don’t still love jiu-jitsu. I still adore heel hooking people! It is just a little strange right now, and that is ok. This is not my first rodeo when it comes to losing momentum. There was that neck injury a few years ago, not to mention all 3 years of blue belt! Give it time.
Rework your goals for the present. Maybe it’s a move you are trying to perfect or a concept you want to improve upon. Are you small and always getting tossed off of the mount? Work on that for a few weeks. Start learning leg locks. Get better at standup, or go even more narrow. Spend a month just working on grips. Having a specific focus for each training session will give you something to look forward to every week.
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you still feel a little, or a lot, scared about Covid. Whether you are training with a full team right now or just your spouse in the living room, it is normal to still worry about your health. BJJ is really close contact and it can be hard to be totally comfortable with that closeness right now. That’s ok. Figure out what your comfortable level of safety is. It could be a small pod of training partners, one on one rolling, using a grappling dummy in your house, etc. Then just let it be. Take things one day at a time.
Finally, enjoy BJJ for what it is right now. Even though you may not wake up thinking about arm bars like you used to, the training you have at this moment is awesome! Appreciate the little moments of movement and joy whenever and whatever they are.
Overall, be patient with yourself and with your training. We will all get back to whatever our normal is soon if you haven’t already. But remember, for most of us this grappling thing we do is for life. It is going to evolve as we do, and as the world around us does. Just try your best to accept wherever you are right now, and grab your bag and go …or your laptop and Zoom.
I will try my best to do the same
Jennifer Fremon is a sixth degree black belt in Kenshikai Karate and a brown belt in BJJ. She and her husband run UWS Kenshikai Karate & BJJ in Manhattan, where she teaches karate to children ages 3 and up. When she isn’t attempting to heel hook giants, Jennifer enjoys drinking coffee, walking her dog, making doodle art, and watching the sun set over NYC. She currently lives in Brooklyn with her husband and her fierce 12 year old daughter, and thinks there is no greater joy than seeing a child accomplish something new.