The sisterhood. The brotherhood. Our mat family. Any way you put it, jiu jitsu is all about community. Sure, we talk about armbars and triangles and that sick takedown that our professor taught us last week. But when you ask your average jiu jitsu athlete what keeps her coming back for more, the answer is not usually something technical or physical. It is a loud and proud “the people!” Submissions are not forever, and so many techniques are forgotten, but the friendships and the people you line up beside every night are steadfast.
Humans are pack animals; we need to belong. Belonging gives us identity and a sense of comfort. With jiu jitsu, the highs are exhilarating, and the lows are crushing. Celebrating the new stripe or finally landing a perfect omoplata would not be the same if you had to do it alone. Those crushing lows would feel insurmountable without teammates to help you understand that everyone goes through this. Similarly, we have all had life events that knock the wind out of us, but when we show up to practice, our problems melt away because we are with our people. In jiu jitsu and life, community has the power to pull you through.
In 2018, I was forced to take six months off because of an injury on the mats. It could have easily been the end of my jiu jitsu career. Thanks to my incredible group of training partners, it was not. When I showed up to watch practice, they made me feel like I was still part of the team even though I was warming the bench. That support kept me pushing towards my goal of returning.
When I finally got back to the mats, I had a hard time (and truthfully, still have a hard time) with things like takedowns because of fear of reinjury. Once again, that amazing group of stranglers not only helped me feel confident enough to keep trying, but made me want to keep coming back. My BJJ community kept me motivated.
In these times of pandemic, community is even more important. Being off the mats is hard enough for any reason. In some areas, there is no timeline for return and gym owners face an uncertain future. Many are relying on their communities to keep them going by continuing to pay memberships. Some are offering Zoom classes while others are hosting outdoor training. The gym owners who have opened their doors face tough decisions around restructuring schedules, shrinking classes. and strenuous cleaning schedules just to stay legal. Luckily, they are not alone. There are so many stories of people coming together and making it work, because we are all on the same team when it comes to jiu jitsu.
Community goes beyond the borders of our local mats. Everyone who rolls is a part of it, no matter age, gender, body type, experience, whether serious competitor or weekend warrior. The people we train with, compete against, admire on the internet and social media along with whose instructional we study hoping to learn as much as possible are all part of this. You can show up in a new city and instantly have a group of friends to roll with. Girls in Gis is just one organization that is dedicated to bringing people together. It is part of what makes our sport so special. People come from all walks of life and put themselves in incredibly vulnerable situations, They battle fiercely, shake hands afterwards, and leave as friends.. We are all in this together, all for the love of the game.
Carly Gauthier is a relative newcomer to jiu jitsu, after starting in 2017. She signed up despite knowing nothing about the sport and it was love at first training. Since then, she has earned her blue belt, tried her hand at competing and recently started teaching. Her goal when jiu jitsu returns is to finally learn how triangle choke efficiently. Her proudest moment in BJJ was stepping back on the mats after a serious injury in 2018. Previously she has been a runner and triathlete. In between training sessions, she loves spending time with family, being outdoors, exploring new places and things and training as much as possible. IG: @truthandgrit_