This past year has been a trying one for school owners. Many academies have been forced to downsize and lay off staff, while others have been forced to shut their doors completely. In the midst of the public health debate, lost in the weeds is the fact that many gym owners such as Richie Martinez pay their bills and feed their families with their gyms.
As vaccinations are being rolled out across the country, certain states have begun lifting their restrictions, and many jiu-jitsu practitioners are coming back out from their self-imposed quarantines. However, there has been a sect of the population that has trained all throughout, many of them being coaches and academy owners for whom jiu-jitsu is an occupation, not just a hobby.
Early in the pandemic, Martinez was faced with a fine from the local police for operating during a public health closure for running a virtual Zoom class for his students. Despite explaining that he was not running any public classes, the series of events prompted Boogey to take his work in the dark, similar to how many schools have operated during this pandemic. Anecdotal evidence exists of highly reputable academies being forced to hold secret ‘fight-club’ sessions where the use of social media is banned.
There are varying perspectives amongst the jiu-jitsu community with regards as to what capacity we should be allowed to train. Nothing replaces the safety of your own family, at the same time providing safety to your family may mean keeping your doors open to be able to put food on the table. As the worldwide number COVID-19 cases decrease, we can hope that there will be a re-sprouting of academy activity without the need to hide it as nationwide restrictions slowly become lifted.
In this time-capsuled never-before-seen edition of “Non-Essential” taped in May 2020, watch as Martinez discusses unique challenges that his gym has had to face as he maneuvers through the height of the pandemic.