Jiu jitsu practice is defined by its reliance on and respect for training partners. We are only ever as proficient as our training partners allow. Likewise, a ‘rising tide lifts all boats’. Typically this arrangement develops not only our craft but also our empathy and tolerance through fellowship, however it does not play well with social distancing. Moreover, those of us on this path often ‘need’ jiu jitsu to keep us happy/sane/functional. So, when forces beyond our control cut off our access to training partners, we’ve got to adapt, lest our spirits die.

Pandemic kettlebell training
You can do a lot with a 1/4 bodyweight and a 1/2 bodyweight kettlebell, though they are as common as rocking horse poo at the moment.

Building a pandemic training routine

My family has been in lockdown for 10 weeks. During that time I’ve had some success building a home-based training routine. Firstly, my partner and I are both home-based workers, so while the longer-term economic disruption of the pandemic is worrisome, transitioning to a ‘quarantine lifestyle’ wasn’t a big change for us. While adding homeschool to the mix has been challenging, again our burden isn’t too heavy as we only have to manage one first grader. In fact, the boy and I have built a good working routine. We set up a desk for him in my office and we do our work together in the morning. By early afternoon I finish too and we head down to the playroom/gym in the basement.

Shelter-in-place jiu jitsu

I’ve had the opportunity to really get to know my grappling dummy. While ‘he’ can be boring, I am grateful for the mats I hauled to the US from London and his presence on them. Initially, I aimed for an hour at a time with him. That got old real fast. So, I modified my expectations and have gone for a little-and-often approach. Instead of a couple 1 hour sessions per week, I aim for 5, 15 minute sessions a week. In this way, I make sure I get regular jiu jitsu movement during the week. Moreover, I revise Gracie University lessons and train Jr Combatives with my son, every week. While clearly not where I’d like to be with my training – none of the current situation is about what we want – it is much better than sitting on my hands. Not to mention, it serves as a great warm-up for my strength & conditioning work.

‘His’ enthusiasm is infectious…

Strength & conditioning

While jiu jitsu training has taken a serious hit, I have been able to significantly increase my strength & conditioning work to 5 times a week. Since I relocated to my home-town of Rochester NY, I’ve been training with Wolf Brigade gym. I’ve already discussed the benefits of their strength & conditioning program for BJJ, and it has certainly been essential to maintaining the stability of my post-ACL-op knee. In short, I have been younger; I have been leaner; but I have never been stronger. That’s 100% due to Wolf Brigade.

Though a local brick-and-mortar business, Wolf Brigade’s programming is available to everyone. One the one hand, there are 5 years of detailed training days on their website, free for all to use. Have limited access to equipment? No worries, the Wolf Brigade Public Assistance Project is a comprehensive training program that uses everyday objects as equipment. Finally, more recently, the gym launched its online training program at subversivefitness.com. Offering both a thorough video movement library and access to instructor feedback, individuals can practice Wolf Brigade’s instruction and programming from home. So, if you’re looking for a great, effective and safe training program to take you through the pandemic and beyond, consider Subversive Fitness.

My Phase #01:01 Assessment for Subversive Fitness


Finally, I’ve started integrating mobility into my routine. My jiu jitsu instructor at Gracie Jiu Jitsu Victor, John Ingallina, is providing a lot of remote learning content from GJJ sessions on Zoom and Facebook Live to mobility tutorials on YouTube. While there’s lots of stuff you can’t do without a training partner, there’s many things you can, and working on your mobility and smoothness of motion are some of them. For me, John’s mobility sessions help keep me moving around on the mats, while also offering age-appropriate material when ‘playing Legos’ with my son 😉

Final thoughts

To sum up, this is a really tough time. The full effects of this disruption are not yet known, even as the ripples are already seriously affecting peoples’ businesses and livelihoods. Indeed, our jiu jitsu and strength & conditioning communities are on the front-line of feeling the immediate economic effects. As a web developer for small businesses I’ve seen first hand how these past few weeks have negatively impacted hard-working people, as trusted clients can’t pay invoices, stop projects and – in some sad cases – have already started closing. I don’t have any answers. I hope you all stay well, protect the humans around you and come out the other side relatively unscathed. Jiu jitsu will be waiting for us. Let’s make sure we stay ready too.