The COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak is starting to affect the jiu-jitsu community, with multiple large tournaments — including the UAEJJF Abu Dhabi World Pro and IBJJF Pans — being canceled or postponed. Many academies, especially those in areas in which person-to-person transmission has been confirmed, are temporarily closing as a precaution.
Regardless of whether you’re terrified or unbothered by all the coronavirus news, the fact remains that a jiu-jitsu gym is like a giant petri dish. We breathe, sweat, and high-five our germs all over everyone else we train with, and if one person carrying any contagious illness comes in to train, everyone else at the gym runs the risk of also contracting it. Even if you believe that temporarily closing the academy is an extreme measure, your gym owner is doing it for the right reasons. The last thing they want is to shut down their source of income, and of course, they may fear that they’ll lose members by the time they open up again.
When there’s a disease outbreak (or impending snowstorm, or any reason to buy a lot of toilet paper, really), people tend to zero in on an “everyone for themselves” mentality. You are within your right to freeze your membership during the closure to avoid spending money on a service you’re not receiving. The problem, though, is that the expenses the gym incurs — electricity, water, rent — aren’t going to freeze just because people aren’t walking through the doors. With or without members, the gym will need to pay bills, and if everyone freezes their account for a whole month, it could have disastrous effects on the academy.
If you can, keep paying your membership during the time your gym is closed. It’s not a “waste of money” — it’s an investment to help your mat space stay alive. If you absolutely can’t justify paying your membership fee in exchange for nothing, try reaching a deal with your coach. Maybe they can offer you a private lesson in return, or perhaps a friend of yours could have a month-long free trial when the gym is open again.
When the gym does open again, make sure you promote the heck out of it. Share it on social media, invite people who have never tried jiu-jitsu to come train with you, and invite people from other academies to your open mats to bring the community together again. Reach out to newer members who might not yet have the emotional connection to the gym that you do and encourage them to come back. A (valid) fear many instructors have when they have to temporarily close the academy is that people won’t return, and if you can do your part to minimize that departure rate, you’ll help your academy owner and your team.
Above all, don’t be a jerk about the gym’s closure. No one wants their training environment to suddenly become unavailable, and that includes your academy owner. This is a last resort taken out of genuine concern, and whether or not you agree with the decision, exercise compassion when communicating with the stakeholders at your academy.