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Surviving the Jiu Jitsu Hiatus

I felt hopelessly stuck when my life’s circumstances piled on to the point where responsibilities took over all recreation, aside from some precious minutes between commutes. I had seen jiu jitsu practitioners ‘make it all work’ among school, full-time jobs, families to support; still making time for hitting the mats.

Well, not me. If I wasn’t at work or in the classroom, I was either studying or asleep. Even my social life was put on hold, let alone my favorite weekly escape of wrestling with my friends. This lasted for over six months.

I was apprehensive about this necessary hiatus, feeling guilty knowing that I could somehow find a solution–wake up at the crack of dawn? Study techniques on my own at home? But I forced myself to accept the only reality with the knowledge that jiu jitsu would still be there for me, even if it was after months off the mats. Sure, I felt a sting in my heart seeing the people that were promoted to blue belt with me receive their purples, knowing it would be a long road for me to just get back to where I was before, let alone make progress in my skills. I craved it when I needed emotional release and of course, the social connections of being at the gym.

No one wants to give up the pastimes that we feel most passionate about and that give us a sense of satisfaction, empowerment, and community. But the knowledge that I could return to that safe haven was a comfort all on its own. Accepting my jiu jitsu hiatus revealed a lot about my relationship with the sport, as well as how I could approach it upon my return. I thought about other circumstances which require time off… injury, illness, lack of access. During the most harsh times of the pandemic, many of us bent over backwards to find ways to engage in the sport; buying roll-out mats for our homes, studying instructional videos, and creating little training pods so we wouldn’t miss a beat. However, when the world began to return to a new sense of normalcy, opening the doors of our gyms again–the biggest surprise was how little the forced time-off impacted me.

When I finally could return to my training, I was shocked, and delighted to learn how at-peace I felt again. My body remembered how to move, and working together with my partners to drill and spar felt natural. The hours I spent thinking about jiu jitsu from a conceptual standpoint even seemed to even improve my abilities on the mat. This affirmed that a temporary layoff wouldn’t be a death sentence for my jiu jitsu journey. It was like I hadn’t been away at all–except for the notable decline in cardio fitness and of course… everyone else had been improving while I wasn’t watching.

Having been in the sport for several years, I have seen many students come and go, leaving the sport for a variety of personal reasons, seemingly never to return. Careers change, schooling takes priority, babies are born, life throws curve balls. My heart hopes these people may come to recognize that this sport is still waiting for them, should they feel they are missing a cherished aspect of their life. I suppose the opposite is fine as well. Great experiences can leave a positive mark on our lives for just a short slice of our time.

As for me, I feel that I’m in this for the long haul. I am willing to bet this won’t be the only time that I will have to put jiu jitsu on the back burner. But it doesn’t really matter, so long as I’m still wearing my pink gi while I’m old and grey.

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