It’s been a while.

It’s weird. I used to see you almost every day. I used to put on my gi in a rush. I used to put on my belt, looping it around my back, and tightening it firmly around my waist in front of me. I thought about my stripes, and what they meant. I would think about how far I have come in my jiu jitsu journey, and how far I still have to go. I would tell myself, “do your best”. I used to stand proudly in line by rank beside my jiu jitsu brothers and sisters. I used to face my professors, waiting with expectation for the lessons and challenges that were about to begin. All that has ended for now.

I want to ask you, how have you been? How are you doing?

This time away from the mats hasn’t been easy for me. It has given me a lot to think about. It’s not always pretty when we look deeply at our own reflection, I mean really look at it. We usually only notice the things we like, and we try not to look too closely at the things we don’t like. It’s easier that way. But when we have time to keep looking, when we have no choice but to keep looking, then we are confronted with the reality of our whole selves. You know, the good, the bad, and the hidden.

I want to say I’m sorry. I know I let you down sometimes. Those times I didn’t show up for practice, even though I could have. Those times I showed up for practice late, or with the wrong mindset. Those times I didn’t pay close enough attention, or didn’t put enough effort in. Didn’t take things seriously enough. I know I tried. I know I could have done better sometimes too. I could have appreciated my professors more. I could have appreciated my jiu jitsu brothers and sisters more. I could have appreciated the opportunity to just train, to learn, to roll, to test myself.  I’m sorry I was not better.

I want to say thank you. No matter how many times I fell off or didn’t appreciate you the right way, you always stood by me. You always welcomed me back to the mats with the promise that if I kept on showing up and just trying, I would reach my potential. You taught me a lot. You gave me a greater ability to learn. You forced me to always keep learning every single day: a new submission, a new defence, a new escape, a new position, a new sequence, a new detail. Jiu jitsu you are truly infinite, trying to get to know you has been a worthy challenge. You made me love learning, you made me love growth. You didn’t make it easy, but you made it worth it. You made it fun. Painful at times, fun always. So thank you.

I also want to say I love you. It might seem strange, but it’s true. I know tough times are ahead. When this is over, if this is ever over, things won’t be the same as they were before. I’m not going to pretend they are going to be. Some of us who come back to the mats will have lost a parent or both parents. We will all know someone who has lost someone. Some of us who come back to train will have survived Covid-19, but it will have left psychological or physical scars. Maybe some of us will not come back. Maybe some academies will close. Maybe some people will have damaged lungs or be too broke or broken to train. It is going to be tough times. Even through the tough times ahead I will continue to love you. You have earned my steadfast love.

Jiu jitsu, I hope you’re doing alright. I’m doing alright. More than anything, you are the one that made me ready to face this struggle. Social distancing and the sirens wailing is not nice. Hearing the death numbers go up daily is not nice. Being out of work or thinking you can breathe in this deadly virus any second is not nice. Thinking about getting intubated is not nice. Dying alone in a hospital in front of doctors covered in masks and plastic is not nice. But I know you were not preparing me for nice. Training and the hard lessons you taught me were not always nice. You were preparing me for this, or something like this. You were preparing me for anything. You did a good job. I feel ready to face this. So I want to tell you I believe in you. Just like you believed in me, on good days and bad days. I know you’re going to be ok. Just like you always knew I would be ok too.

Those of us that are able to are going to be back training as soon as we can. We are going to support each other and help each other, through the struggle and after the struggle. We will all go through our own individual struggles, but we will understand what we have all gone through. We will come  back better, stronger, tougher, and kinder. We will be united. We will overcome. Our generation will the one that could not train, so when we return we will train like never before. We will never take you for granted again. In the end, we will achieve greatness.

Just like you always knew we could.

We will do it for the ones who came before us.

We will do it for ourselves and each other.

We will do it for those who will come after us.

And most of all, we will do it for you.

Yours always,

A student