How do we go about introducing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to people after all this Covbid-19 madness dies down? For now, we’re all too focused on getting back to training and getting our fix, so most of us are not really thinking about the future of academies. When I say most of us, of course, I don’t mean the people that actually make a living from coaching. That said, think about it – how would you approach an intro to BJJ for folks that have never trained, after months of lockdowns and al governments suggesting that people stay several feet apart and wear face masks? How do you get people to engage in the closest contact sport there is?
Getting people to train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu seemed to become easier and easier, right before the pandemic hit. The Academy I currently teach at was on a real rise, with new members coming in almost daily, and staying, which is the most important part. I guess having an intro to BJJ class set up really makes the difference, as I wrote in a previous article. However, in the aftermath of the virus, I doubt it will be as easy for both people to come and try things out, and us to welcome them without a grain of suspicion. Sure, there will be crazy measures for some time, but the fact remains that we might just need to figure out different ways to start people off in grappling.
How Covid-19 Changed Everything
To be honest, as a medical professional with experience in epidemiology, I did not take Covid-19 lightly, especially from the standpoint of re-0opening the Academy. That still hasn’t happened but it is not more than a couple of weeks away now. Apart from setting up classes for groups that are already full (which is a nightmare in itself in the new normal), there is the subject of organizing intro to BJJ for anyone interested. It just so happens that I have about a dozen new people on a “waiting list”, waiting for the gym to re-open so they have their first class.
Before the pandemic, I had everyone come for an intro to BJJ class. In other words, it is a private class with up to three new students and one or two coaches. This is a great way to ease people into everything, explaining how classes work, some positions, having them do some movement, and try stuff out while having your full attention and the option to ask anything. It is a great way of introducing people to the class, so that they don’t’ feel as lost in a regular class that has 30-40 people already training. In fact, after talking to several esteemed black belt coaches out there I also started thinking about doing an intro course that lasts a few weeks.
Covid-19 sure managed to throw a wrench into everything. As lockdowns and restrictions loosen up, people are still afraid. And they have every right o be The virus is no joke, and despite note begin overly dangerous to most athletes it does present a danger to people with other conditions. And, if there was ever a sport where everyone could train together, from high school kids to 60+ folks, it was BJJ. Sadly, I do think the Covid-19 pandemic will change that, which also means we need to change our approach to how we organize classes, both regular and introductory ones. But that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.
An Intro To BJJ In The New Normal
So, how would an intro to BJJ look in the new normal? More importantly, will it work? Let’s try and go through an intro class with all the Covid-19 preventative measures and see if it make sense.
Someone calls in to schedule an intro class. You set the time (outside of regular class, of course). Now, measures and guidelines for safety different from state to state and country to country. However, if we take the safest route, it would be something like this. Before a potential new member even comes they have to fulfill an online survey that deducts whether or not they were at risk of contracting the virus. When all goes well, they arrive at the second barrier – someone standing outside a gym with an infrared thermometer to take their temperature.
A couple of disinfection barriers and hand sanitizing stations later, they enter a dressing room that’s as sterile as a hospital floor. A quick change into whatever they’re wearing for training (providing them with a Gi is still out of the question) and they’re ready for class. Both the new student and instructor stand with face masks on, which makes communication difficult, to begin with.
During class, there’s no contact, and you try to demonstrate things on another coach. The only thing left for a student to try out are some movements, along the lines of hip escapes and technical standups. Not really the intro to BJJ class both they or you would’ve hoped for.
While installing measures like this for people that already train is no problem, given that everyone is addicted to Jiu-Jitsu, introducing the sport to new members is definitely going to become a chore. However, we don’t really have to use such a model, do we?
The Positive Side Of Things
There’s light at the end of the tunnel though. Personally, I see organizing Into to BJJ for new students as a challenge now. And, like with every challenge we face win Jiu-Jitsu, there has to be a solution. In fact, there are probably several. If nothing else, figuring out how to organize classes will evolve BJJ further, even if it is by force rather than our own choice.
Some of the ideas I’m having are grappling games. Everyone loves to play a game, even if contact is down to a minimum. And that is quite possible to pull off, providing people with some fun, laughter, and a sense of how rolling feels like, without having them be in extremely close proximity. Moreover, tying them together with a very specific demonstration of the fun side of training done by the coaches is also bound to represent your classes and teaching style much better than just going through motions with a face mask on.
My own approach will definitely be to get folks that come in for an intro to BJJ class to also stat in a group of their own. There, they’ll focus on learning some basic movement and a few basic submissions. Now rolling, no extremely close contact or anything of the sort. Paired with the regular temperature readings and lack of symptoms, and the inevitable weakening and hopefully, the disappearance of the virus, we might just have a solid model there.
Oh, and you can even have them participate more in the intro class if you want to, but make sure people sign a legal waiver (which you should already have anyway).
These are just some random ideas from my brain that I’m trying to sound off. Obviously, we’re in a situation where nobody knows the logical next step. The trick is figuring things out without endangering the health of people. Intro to BJ is definitely going to change, but that doesn’t mean that people won’t be interested in training, nor that we can’t provide a safe environment for them to do it in. We just need to be creative and smart about it. What are your thoughts?