For many jiu-jitsu athletes, one of the most coveted items during the pandemic isn’t toilet paper — it’s mats. With countless BJJ instructors putting out instructionals or hosting live remote classes, jiu-jitsu practitioners have plenty of options to continue training even when their gyms are closed. Many of them, however, may be limited in the techniques they can drill if they don’t have their own set of mats at home.
One gym has come up with a generous and creative solution to help their students get the most out of their online coaching. Victorum Athletics in Lancaster, CA, has started loaning out their mats to their students, and many in the BJJ community have praised their efforts.
Frank Balcorta, who is in charge of the program, said that the idea came after seeing how his students reacted to the academy’s online classes. The gym is hosting the classes on Zoom to try to make them more social and interactive.
“We realized that given the new norm of training at home comes with obstacles, self-motivation, not being able to interact with your professor, hard surfaces, etc.,” he said. “As we thought about how much our members are supporting us, we felt that we should go above and beyond and giving them support when it comes to training. So we decided to keep the regular scheduled class times, but use interactive teachings and lessons through the zoom software. By doing this, we see that our members can ask us questions when it comes to techniques, as well as having real-time interaction with other members through their laptops or phone.”
“We do not want to rely on pre-recorded lessons, and we feel that we need to justify our members paying their membership dues,” he continued. “Being available to answer questions and checking technique via real-time virtual classes shows our members that we are not at home eating popcorn waiting for this stuff to be over.”
While the innovative remote class idea helped students get motivated again, the floor made the experience uncomfortable for some, and they weren’t able to afford mats of their own. “We decided that since our members were not using the mats at our gym, we would issue to 3 × 6ft mats to each household that way they can comfortably train in the leisure of their living space. We also felt that this would limit injuries of our members by training on a softer surface. They are the rectangular Zebra Mats and are issued at no charge to our members,” said Balcorta.
The gym has released about 30 mats for checkout so far, and the gym has set up ten-minute time increments to schedule the pre-sanitized mats for pickup so that students don’t have to come into contact with each other when collecting their mats.
The great ideas coming from the gym are a smart way to give back to students so that they can keep training even in the craziest of times.