BJJ Black Belt Devhonte Johnson Opens Up On The COVID Quarantine Life in New Jersey

My quarantine life has been an adjustment to say the least. I went from maybe spending 5 hours in my home – to pretty much sleep – to now being confined 24/7. As some of you guys know, I train at both Unity Jiu-jitsu in New York with Murillo Santana and at my own academy, Bones BJJ (located in Clifton, NJ). I wanted to give some insight to how different my life was before the shutdown compared to now during this quarantine.

Depending on the day, I’m awake by 5:15 for the 6 AM classes at my gym Bones BJJ. I immediately lead competition class for my students at 9, which lasts for about 2 hours. Then the real fun begins! I book it to the Secaucus junction Station to catch the 11:30 AM ride to Penn Station. When I arrive, I speed walk to the subway to make it on time for training at Unity NYC where my friends and I kill each other for 2.5 hours. Training ends at around 2:30-3 PM. I shower, grab some lunch, then catch the 3:50 PM train back to New Jersey. I teach kids classes starting at 5:30, but if there is no kids class for the day, I lift instead and head back to teach adult class at 8 PM. After cleaning and locking up, the team likes to hang out and grab dinner, so I don’t head home until around 12 AM. By the time I get home, I watch some jiu-jitsu matches, plan my curriculum for the upcoming days, and think about what each student could improve on until I fall asleep. This was my life, 7 days a week.

It was really weird to go from that hectic, yet manageable routine to now staying at home all day. My body was not used to not feeling exhausted and refused to fall asleep at a “normal” time. Luckily for me, I was able to get some lifting equipment before things got really bad. I probably would have gone crazy if I didn’t have anything. I found that maintaining a schedule, setting goals, and keep in contact with people are so important during this time. I have a circle of friends and we hold each other accountable, which I’m very thankful for. My goals were to get HUGE, recover any lingering injuries, and keep in contact with my friends and family. I now lift 6 days a week, stretch a lot, and hold zoom classes for my adults and kids classes. I also drill with my girlfriend. For fun I watch anime and FaceTime my mom, grandfather, 7 siblings, and my niece. I also like to play 2K with my little brothers (a humbling experience) and recently started playing Skyrim. Although it is a one-player game, my training partners/students (my brothers) and I will care always trying to beat one another to get to the next level or to beat the game, to keep things fun and competitive. They definitely take advantage of this opportunity to school the professor. My white belt is a black belt when it comes to Skyrim. But it is all in good fun and it’s our way to stay connected to one another. I’m patiently waiting to open the gym and call on them for rounds for payback.

On a serious note, keeping the gym afloat is a major concern, especially for a new business to close its doors for an unprecedented amount of time. My business partner and I sat down and planned out how to keep things moving during this shutdown. We understood that people were going to freeze their accounts as there are no classes during this time. It’s been a challenge, but we know that our academy is in this together and we need each other now more than ever. There are so many people being laid off or getting half their normal income – if they’re lucky. 

For the most part, the majority of students are doing what they can to keep supporting the gym. My students are my family and it’s not just about jiu-jitsu. I genuinely miss seeing my jiu-jitsu family every day. Jiu-jitsu, for me, is about a community of people who support and positively impact one another. I’m so happy that this translated to my students and that is exactly what we are doing. Our constant calls about anime, what shows they’re currently binging, the books they’re now reading, or just a simple update make my day! I am so proud of my students who contribute to this environment and who made this such a rewarding experience instead of what could easily be a bad one.

Quite frankly, it’s difficult to see big gyms around you crumble. This is my life-long dream in its infant stages. To think of it perishing is hard sometimes. But we are surviving on the strength of our family and I’m so proud to know every single one of them. Not only my students, but also my training partners at Unity, my sponsors who have been doing everything they can for me, my family, and childhood friends. This is a difficult time, but what I continue to tell myself is this: “Tough times don’t last but tough people do.” We are all stronger than we think and being in this together only makes us stronger. We will always find a way. With that being said, I cannot wait to get back to training and competing.