West Idaho BJJ - Open for Biz!

Team Yemaso of West Idaho BJJ officially opened for business on June 2019. They’re located in the small rural town of Star, Idaho. Prior to COVID-19, their academy was growing steadily as they were the only martial arts academy in town. They felt as though they introduced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to so many people and a lot of their members have been waiting to train for years, but have just been waiting for an academy to open up nearby.

Tom Steele, the owner of West Idaho BJJ, closed the academy’s doors in early March just before the IBJJF Pan Americans. Upon realizing that this pandemic wouldn’t disappear any time soon, he made the ultimate decision to stop charging his students in April. Favorably, some students insisted on continuing to pay while others donated extra money or signed up for year-long memberships. Tom said, “We are very thankful for their support. They have been a huge help.” The academy’s landlord was also a source of support by not charging them April’s rent. However, a handful of parents decided to freeze their accounts for the foreseeable future. This is something Tom said he feared would continue to happen. “We put our heart and soul into this,” he shared, “I will welcome everyone back with open arms.”

Unfortunately, government aide did not come through for this academy. Some of their ongoing costs were paid out of pocket and they have used up all of the academy’s cash earnings. Luckily for Tom, this is not his only source of income so he was hopeful that the academy would stay afloat. Still, the decision to use up his family’s savings to keep the gym open weighed on him heavily. To relieve some of this stress, he was forced to discuss with his team about a possible closure or to open by September. Tom stated, “I love Jiu-Jitsu and I consider the benefits it brings to people and myself essential. I sincerely hope this does not happen.”

His prayers were answered on May 15 when the state of Idaho entered stage 2 of the reopening phase. West Idaho BJJ officially opened its doors on May 16, 2020. The academy is still taking some extra precautions to protect their students. For now, these are their implemented regulations:

- Offering more classes to spread out attendance

- Maintaining a rigorous cleaning and disinfection schedule

- Students are not allowed to gather in the academy prior to class

- Maintain a 15-minute window between kids and adults’ classes

- No spectators allowed

- People who have traveled the past 2 weeks are not allowed inside

- Asking any members with symptoms to stay at home

Tom Steele and the academy leaders want to reassure their community that they respect everyone’s opinions, interpretations, concerns, and circumstances. Besides not charging those who froze their accounts, they are also not charging members who have been economically impacted by this pandemic. “We have never denied someone Jiu-Jitsu because they could not afford to train,” Tom said. They also want the community to know that they are offering memberships to women for donation only, meaning that women can train for free. West Idaho BJJ would like to extend this message: “Thank you to all our members who continue to support us through this time! Thank you also to the Jiu-Jitsu community! Stay positive and stay healthy. We will be back.”