By: Parker Zink
Friday morning, I received a notification on my phone. Looking down, I see it is an email from my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu school titled URGENT in all capital letters. This is unusual and grabs my attention. I opened the message and the email informs me that effective immediately, all classes will be canceled for one week due to the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the United States. There have been a number of cases in my own community over the past few days and they feel it’s best to close down the school for everyone's safety. Realizing how other countries have been affected by the virus so far, I can’t help but ask myself, will the gym really be closed only one week? What does this mean for the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu community?
I quickly get on social media to see if any of my other affiliate schools will still be open (Maybe others are still finding ways to train during my gym's closure). I’m also curious to talk to my training partners and see how they will be handling the next few weeks. I log onto my Facebook account and am overwhelmed by all the posts I find about this issue. As I start reading, I see a pattern, and it dawns on me. There is a potential disaster about to hit the BJJ community, and I’m not talking about the coronavirus.
A common theme I’m reading are posts from gym owners in various states reporting their students are freezing, or canceling memberships completely in response to gym closures. Being a small business owner, myself, I realize immediately the consequences of this. Do people not understand what will happen if they cancel their memberships? I notice there's seemingly novels worth of comments on all of these posts. I click to enter the comments section hoping to see the community coming together to resolve this problem. After reading most of the comments however, I am quickly discouraged to see what we as a community are letting this virus do to us.
I’m seeing people be less than sympathetic to the gym owners essentially saying “Sucks for you, but why should we pay for no class?”, (I’m paraphrasing). I realize I don’t personally know a lot of these instructors, but as a student of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu I am sad to see they are having a hard time right now. What I also see is people attacking each other, drawing lines in the sand over the response, they feel, is most appropriate in dealing with the outbreak of this virus. “You’re and idiot if you go and train what is wrong with you? Do you want people to die?”, “Anybody who doesn’t train right now is just scared and sucks at Jiu-Jitsu, quit being such a baby”, (Again, I’m paraphrasing). Every response I read I become more discouraged about the current and future of our community.
One thing I've always loved about the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu community is the comradery. If you yell OSSSS into a crowded room you’ll most likely get one yelled back. Or at the very least a “hang loose” sign (i’m guilty of this).
What is disappointing to see, is the hard sides being taken, and the blatant disrespect being shown. The hysteria from this virus has spilled uncontrollably into our community and we need to nip this in the bud.
As the world deals with this virus in the coming months to years ahead, it is important now more than ever to stick together. The most important action we can do to protect our community is to keep paying our gym dues if we are financially able to do so. Please remember, our professors are not only our mentors and friends, but they are small business owners. This is how they make their living. If enough of us stop paying membership fees, schools could shut down leaving some of us with no schools to come back to.
However, I also realize there are some people whose ability to pay membership fees are being strained economically as their own jobs are affected by the virus. I do not blame you for these reasons if you cancel your memberships, and I hope for all of you as well, that this is all temporary.
I understand this is all a “worst case scenario”. I’m not trying to be alarmist, or sensationalist. I just see the actions of the community in these early stages as we are only one month into the virus being here in the United States. To keep things from escalating we all need to come together and weather the storm. We need to protect our community that we all love. By the end of the year 2020 there will be one of two outcomes. We either have a stronger community, or a weaker one. I personally, will do everything I can to protect it and I hope you all do the same.