By now, many of us are getting used to a world without jiu-jitsu. For most of us, it’s been at least a few weeks since gyms everywhere closed their doors, leaving us to either come up with ways to train at home or find another way to occupy the time slot normally dedicated to jiu-jitsu. We’re all adjusting to a new, temporary normal, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been and won’t continue to be a bumpy ride.
One of the most valuable things that jiu-jitsu brings to our lives is socialization and physical contact. We are lucky to participate in an activity that allows us to closely connect with people who aren’t our significant others or coworkers. And of course, jiu-jitsu has incredible value as a stress outlet, as anyone with kids or a hectic job can attest to.
Now, here we are in a highly stressful time, but socializing is dramatically limited, and our outlet is suddenly no longer available. If you live with people you’re close with and can release your pent-up negative energy through other means, that’s great. But not every one of your teammates, coaches, or students will have those resources. Think about the newer students who had finally found a form of exercise they liked right before the gym closed. Think about the teammate who’s suggested that their spouse may be abusive or the coach who is recently divorced and was already struggling with loneliness before social distancing began.
Jiu-jitsu can be a huge tool in maintaining mental health, and without it, the people you train with may not be doing so well. Take a couple of minutes and shoot a few teammates a message just to check in. You may receive an easy “I’m all good! Thanks!” or you may provide the opportunity that person has needed in order to open up about the challenges they’re going through at home.
It’s not your responsibility to hold your teammates’ mental health together, now or when jiu-jitsu is still in session. But, to use a phrase I’ve heard or read from 90 percent of the people I’ve spoken to over the past few weeks, we’re living in “crazy times.” Therapists and sobriety programs are moving their services to digital platforms, if they’re even hosting sessions at all. People have no escape from bad marriages, and many are falling back — heavily — on bad habits and addictions. We have no way of knowing if anyone else is making sure our teammates are ok, so if we can be what reminds our training partners that there are people out there who care about them, why wouldn’t we want to do that?
This is not the end of jiu-jitsu, even though it sometimes feels like we’ll never attend an open mat again. If we want to make sure that all of the people we train with maintain the mental health and motivation needed to make it through the other side of this pandemic and keep coming back to the gym, we can all do our small part to lift their spirits and be a team even while we’re away from the mats.