Written by Casey Oxendine, 3rd degree BJJ black belt & instructor at TeamOxendine,
With the Covid-19 Coronavirus currently impacting virtually every portion of the globe, I have paid close attention for the emergence of a major outbreak within the worldwide BJJ community. Within my thousands of very diverse social media contacts, I read daily reports from practitioners throughout the world. This includes posts from friends in Europe, Asia, and throughout the United States. I regularly observe memorials and testimonials from people in academies, paying homage to lost friends and training partners. These deaths occur due to any number of reasons, from car accidents to unfortunate bouts of cancer. With that said, I have yet to see any reports from those severely sickened or deceased due to the Coronavirus outbreak. That is not to say that it has not occurred, but it is most certainly not vastly widespread at this point.
My 20 years of experience on the mats has led me to the general understanding that the close quarters training in Jiu Jitsu, undoubtedly improves immune response. In addition to the elevated fitness levels derived from the workouts themselves, consistent exposure to vast and multiple strains of bacteria undoubtedly familiarizes ones body with how to deal better with illness. While I have experienced some bouts of sickness through the years, I have paid close attention to note that this was often during periods of overtraining and/or excess stress. More often I have bypassed seasons of cold and flu all together, while others around me fell ill.
While the long term effect and potential for future mutation from this virus is still unknown, the paramount concern has been in the ease of community transmission. However, on the Jiu Jitsu mats, the spread of all viruses and bacteria are virtually equal. We regularly sweat, breathe, cough, and sometimes bleed on our training parters. If the pathogen is communicable our actions provide the means for transmission. Therefore for us, the severity of the illness presents a greater concern than likelihood or general communicability. Could it be that our lifestyle of mat training has enacted a strong resistance to serious illness from this particular virus as well? It may be too early to tell, but is definitely something to observe.
Of course we are all potential carriers of this illness whom need to enact every precaution to protect ourselves and those around us. So I implore that you not take my words as a call back to the mats, with reckless disregard to this rising epidemic. Rather accept this as a potential beacon of hope that our lifestyle may one day emerge as a true weapon against future epidemics that befall us. It’s merely an idea (and honestly a sincere hope) that perhaps our training in this art has created an underlying strength. And with this strength, perhaps the future development of a stronger population through Jiu Jitsu.