First off, I would like to thank Moya Brand for giving me the opportunity to address such an important issue that is currently affecting the jiu jitsu community and the world. I would like to point out that even though I'm an MD and a black belt, my recommendations are somewhat limited in that they are solely based off of what I have personally seen/experienced while practicing medicine during the coronavirus pandemic in the state of South Carolina. It is important to note that each state is different in regards to the sheer number of cases and risk factors, and for this reason anyone reading this blog should base their ultimate decisions on their respective state's health department mandates/recommendations.
Now in order to address the issue, I think it is important to first and foremost remind ourselves what the main purpose of jiu jitsu is in our life. Even if you are making a living off of jiu jitsu, such as an academy owner or a full-time competitor, jiu jitsu came into our life in order to benefit us and our community in the form of a healthy lifestyle. The current pandemic has made our beloved healthy lifestyle a challenge, as the close quarters nature of jiu jitsu training can potentially increase the rate of infection within our community and in the population as a whole. For this reason, I can proudly say that pretty much all jiu jitsu academies across the country have made the responsible decision of temporarily suspending training. This indeed was the difficult, yet correct decision that needed to be made at that time.
Even though my ability to work was not affected by the pandemic, I do have a significant amount of sympathy for many of my friends in the jiu jitsu community who have temporarily lost their source of livelihood. And for this reason, I do understand the strong desire to reopen when appropriate. As the curve flattens and healthcare's ability to handle the burden brought on by coronavirus strengthens, I do think that plans to reopen jiu jitsu academies in the somewhat near future are indeed reasonable. However, this must be done with an appreciation for the situation. I say this because as a healthcare provider I can verify that coronavirus is very much real and is indeed as scary as we thought it might be. And although there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel, it is important that we continue to move forward and not regress in our fight against coronavirus.
For this reason, I would like to urge my friends in the jiu jitsu community to only open their schools when allowed and preferably recommended by their respective state health department. Once their respective health department grants them clearance for this action, I would still like to urge academy owners to implement practices that would help continue to prevent the spread of coronavirus while still allowing us to get back to our beloved martial arts/way of life. These practices should include but not be limited to small classes, limiting training to 1-2 drilling/sparring partners, 6 foot distance between a maximum group of 2-3 people, sanitizing hands and feet before and after class, wearing a rash guard, and a significant amount of time dedicated to sanitizing that area after each class. Other obvious measures include not allowing people who have a fever or any other symptoms to attend class. I ask that if you start to experience any symptoms, coronavirus related or not, you make the responsible choice of letting your academy owner know and refrain from training until you are completely symptom free for 48 hrs. These measures should be continued until we can safely say that coronavirus is a concern of the past. I am aware that following these practices may seem cumbersome; however, I feel that they are well-intentioned and could make a difference long-term in your students' lives and in our community's future as a whole. I appreciate everyone who took the time to read this blog and thank you for allowing me to weigh in on this very important issue.
Dr. Muttalib (Rehan)
Tidelands Health Family Medicine