Probably the question I get most often these days is, “Is it safe to train BJJ during pandemic?”
People ask me this question because I’ve been a black belt for a long time (got promoted in 2006), have been training in the martial arts for 40 years, acquired a Masters of Biology at the University of British Columbia, and have worked as a firefighter specialising in hazardous materials response for 20 years .
I wish it were a simple yes or no answer, but as I discuss in the video below (and on episode 292 of The Strenuous Life Podcast) it depends on a number of factors including…
- Your age, health, pre-existing conditions
- Your tolerance to personal risk
- The age and health status of your family
- Your present and future health insurance situation
- Your willingness to put other people in society at risk
- Whether you’re taking precautions in the rest of your life
- What the local Covid test positivity rates are
- The precautions your club is taking
- Whether you’re in a training pod
- The precautions (or lack thereof) that your training partners are taking
- And more.
Is it Safe to Train BJJ – the Video
Here’s my perspective on what you might want to take into consideration before you train and what precautions to take if you decide to train…
Is it Safe to Train BJJ – the Podcast
1) I’ve released the audio from this video as episode 292 on my podcast (The Strenuous Life Podcast) as episode 292 which you can listen to on all podcast players, including the following popular platforms and apps…
2) If you don’t have a preferred podcast player you can can listen on the Grapplearts BJJ Master App which you can download for free for iPhone and iPad in the Apple App Store here or for Android devices in the Google Play Store here.
3) Or you can stream the audio right here without leaving the page by clicking play below…
A Note About Taking and Accepting Risk
When I share my views about Covid-19 and BJJ online lot of people immediately say something like, “The risk is mine to take: train if you want to, and don’t train if you’re scared.” Sometimes the way they say this is considerably less polite…
Here’s the thing… I’m a big defender of the right to take risks.
I have deliberately taken many risks that other people were insane: I’ve trained in combat sports for 4 decades, I’ve been a full time firefighter for 21 years, and have undertaken multiple canoe trips into the Canadian Arctic completely on my own (e.g. the 1000 Mile Solo).
The critical difference is that if I break my neck sparring, die trying to put out a house fire, or get eaten by a polar bear in the arctic, then the consequences of my action fall mostly on my own shoulders.
I am against taking risks on behalf of other people who did not consent to take those risks.
If we spread this virus through society willy nilly – even if we ourselves are willing to bear the personal risk – then we are still downloading the risk onto the rest of society.
Another analogy is drinking and driving. If the thing that gives you most pleasure in life is to get drunk and drive your truck around your own fenced in back 40 then that’s cool. I support you risking your own life like that. But it’s an entirely different story if you take that vehicle out onto the public roads, because now you’re endangering other people who didn’t agree to be part of that drunk driving experiment.
Every area is different, but in general responsible training probably includes some form of training pods, enhanced ventilation contact tracing, maximum occupancy rules, no open mats, etc. That way if there is spread at the club at least it hopefully doesn’t become a super spreader event.
There’s a now famous example of a Spin studio in Hamilton where one infected person led to 74 new cases that affected 15 households, 8 schools, 6 health care facilities, and 22 other workplaces. How many of the elderly or immunocompromised people in those households, schools, health care facilities and workplaces consented to the risk that the people in spin studio decided to accept?
A similar argument can be made for protecting the sport of BJJ.
Presumably some bar and nightclub owners were doing things responsibly, but when they shut down the bars because of repeated superspreader events they shut down ALL the bars. And I know there are some BJJ club owners who are doing things responsibly, but if the BJJ clubs run by covid-deniers and bro-economists keep on having outbreaks then the authoritites are going to shut down ALL the clubs.
Bottom line: in a pandemic personal decisions have especially far reaching ramifications out into society.
In a pandemic other people end up bearing the risks of your decisions.
Additional Resources and References
If you’re interested in one way to train more safely check out What is a BJJ Training Pod.
If you want to see some evidence that masks help prevent transmission of Covid-19 please read this summary of the science behind masks that I put together a little while ago.
If you want to find Covid-safeish training partners check out DownToRoll.com – they try to match up small groups and training partners who are all taking precautions.
And check out the latest iteration of Dr Chris Moriarty’s recommendations for for reopening BJJ schools.
Stay safe and, almost more importantly, please give a crap about other people!