My Experience Returning To Jiu-Jitsu For the First Time Since COVID-19 Began

Flickr/Creative Commons: Sylvain

Pre-COVID-19, my longest jiu-jitsu hiatus was about three weeks, and when I returned I got winded faster and was very sore. I’ve been looking forward to and yearning for the end of this six month jiu-jitsu break, but I’ve also been subconsciously dreading it.

Throughout quarantine, I made a conscious effort to stay active. At-home workouts, going on walks, and running were just some methods I employed to fight the urge to embrace my increasingly sedentary lifestyle. However, throughout my years of jiu-jitsu, there’s been one belief that proves true time and time again, and that is that for me, there is just no workout quite like it. I woke up the next day after my first ever class feeling sore in muscles that I didn’t even know were there. From warm-ups to physically sparring with someone, jiu-jitsu challenges my body in ways that are hard for me to replicate in an at-home workout, especially when my at-home gym consisted of 3 lb dumbbells and a jump rope.

Aside from worrying my gi pants would be too tight, I was dreading that I might not remember the basics, let alone the more complex moves I’m expected to know as a blue belt. Six months off made me worry I would basically be starting over, but I didn’t want to become part of the statistic of blue belts who quit jiu-jitsu. After weeks of putting it off, I ran out of excuses, folded up my gi and belt, and headed to the nearest gym. I was visiting, so I introduced myself to everyone, being sure to add “but I haven’t trained since COVID started,” and “I’m very out of shape,” hoping they would have mercy on me despite my blue belt that suddenly felt out of place against my gi that probably had dust on it.

The first thing I forgot about was warm-ups. I didn’t forget how to shrimp or forward roll, but I forgot how hard they were. Were they always this difficult? It certainly didn’t seem like it when I trained five days a week. I was catching my breath after one round of shrimping down the mat, and when the professor yelled “bear crawls,” I contemplated faking a shoulder injury. After (barely) getting through the warm-ups, and realizing I was much sweatier than everyone in the room I was eager and excited to get into techniques. We drilled a takedown that seemed familiar, but I still found myself asking to see it one more time before breaking into pairs. Still trying to catch my breath, I drilled the takedown, and it felt natural. I did things like break my fall and hook the ankle without thinking. As I breathed a sigh of relief that things were coming back to me, it was time to roll.

I wanted to roll because I was eager to get a good workout in and let’s be honest, it’s what I missed the most. Again, I was sure to preface our sparring with a warning that I was very rusty. My mind knew what I wanted to do, but my body was about five steps behind. As we sparred and my partner set up submissions, I knew my counter-attack and remembered the moves but simply didn’t have the energy or stamina to maneuver my body like I used to. It was frustrating recognizing opportunities to set up a submission but not having the energy to execute them. It felt like I had the mind of a blue belt but the body of a first-timer. My partner and I rolled for several minutes before I opted to sit out on the remaining rounds and retreated to sit against the wall that I relied on to hold me up as I caught my breath. I woke up the next day with soreness that brought back sweet memories of my first days and weeks of training. I welcomed the nostalgic pain, and am happy to embrace the opportunity to rediscover jiu-jitsu. The techniques and aspects of jiu-jitsu that I spent years learning are quite intact, but I’m not in the same shape nor am I the same person I was pre-quarantine. I’m not quite starting over, but I’m starting where I am, and it feels great.


  1. It’s great that you returned to jiu jitsu. Covid ripped many away from the activity we all love, and every person who returns is a victory. Keep at it, and OSS!!


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