Dec 31st 2019. “2020 is going to be a great year,” I thought. As one of my New Year’s resolutions, I had signed up for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu classes in an ambitious attempt to lose weight and reconnect with my Brazilian heritage.
It was going to be a big year for me, the one where I turn 30 so I thought I had better get in shape to start this new miraculous milestone in my life.
But after the first few months of the year, something surprisingly unexpected hit us all, something that if it wasn’t this tragic, it would have been a great excuse to skip leg-day at the gym.
Many of us may have felt that not much has been accomplished this year but that’s okay. Just to help you out, and if it makes you feel better, here’s what I have not accomplished this year.
Well, first thing, I’m not going back to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu classes. Covid spreads faster than fake news on Twitter, especially in closed environments. How is one supposed to practice Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at a distance? Or alone by themselves? I tried it with my dog but she’s not into it. Maybe she knows now what her toys feel like when they are squeezed and tossed around.
While the gym has been working on creative ways to keep the activities going, I have been working on creative ways to keep away from Covid. I just don’t feel comfortable with the idea of going back at the moment.
I came across Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu thanks to a coworker who approached me before Covid days, asking me if I knew anything about it. He was taking classes and was really enjoying it. I knew something, not a whole lot, and after he mentioned it I felt inclined to do some more research.
I always thought paying for self-defense classes was like paying to be beaten up, so I felt extra anxious upon signing up for the classes. To my surprise, I felt like I had found a physical activity for the first time ever that brought me joy.
The petite teacher Glaucia, who could easily fold you into origami, was from Rio; for some context, in Brazil, there’s this big fight between people from Rio and São Paulo (where I’m from) over who has the most authentic Portuguese accent so she was able to immediately tell where I was from by the way I would say ‘por favor não me bate muito forte’ (please don’t hit me too hard). My Portuguese was really rusty, so were my muscles, but it felt good to work on both at once.
But let’s take a quick break here and let me tell you a little bit about how we ended up with Brazilian and Jiu-Jitsu in the same sentence.
In the 1900s, there was substantial japanese immigration to Brazil, which actually formed the largest Japanese population outside Japan. According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), as of 2014, there were approximately 1.5 million people of Japanese descent in Brazil.
Around 1920, one of these immigrants, the judoka Mitsuyo Maeda, taught Carlos and Hélio Gracie, the traditional Kodokan Judo. Later they would go on to develop their own successful self-defense system named Gracie Jiu-Jitsu; popularly known now as, you guessed it right, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. There’s a whole wordy Wikipedia article about it worth reading.
It was unfortunate that during the year where I found an activity that I could really connect to, a global pandemic decided to break out. While practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu I learned more about my culture, and on top of that, I learned about discipline, persistence and practice that makes perfect.
Looking back, these skills were essential to get through this year when my motivation was lacking, but with discipline and persistence I was able to stay afloat.
I really hope that we have a vaccine soon and I can once again sign up to get-beat-up-classes while I work to lose my 2020’s 20 pounds.