While the chaos of the world hurtles around them, for many martial artists, their mat are their epicentre. The proverbial eye of the storm so to speak, their centred calmness while the storm rages around them. But as the storm rages on around them, people get blinded by the clouds. Myself included.
Writing this blog I’ve always tried to create a resource for grapplers and martial artists while being as impartial as I can be, but the recent events of the Coronavirus and the death of George Floyd, I have noticed that the outside world has “invaded our safe space”, so to speak. Well, guess what people, it was here all along.
The COVID Trap
When the UK went into lockdown, my connection to my friends, my hobby and lifestyle was severed, along with everyone else’s, myself have been lucky that my work hasn’t decreased but has increased, so my stress has been much less than people who have lost their jobs or have been furloughed.
But over the last few months, I have noticed one key thing in this sport, which I have not noticed in other sports, just because you have a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu does not make you a good person.
A lot of figureheads in the sport have rallied against the idea of the lockdown and nationwide quarantines issued by the governments, a lot of them being American, infact, off the top of my head I can think of one American grappler who was spearheading the idea of the lockdown and he ultimately received a lot of backlash for it, for a number of other key figureheads.
But as the lockdown loomed, the adaptability of the Jiu-Jitsu instructors came into play. A sport which is designed to instil resistance gave way to the birth of new teaching methods and potentially new monetisation areas for a lot of people. In a sport where the average student is the higher-earning threshold, the community banded together to keep their gyms alive.
Now we are headed out of the lockdown and more gyms around Europe, America and Aisa are being opened up, they face a new threat to their mat, politics.
Martial Arts and the World of Politics
Now I know what you’re saying as you read this “Keep politics off the mats”, but if you’ve been around martial arts as long as I have, you’ll already know that politics are the heart of all martial arts, possibly all sports.
Karate has fascist origins dating back to prewar Japan, and it set a tone for all martial arts. While the fascism has long since disappeared from the sport, it laid the groundwork for the familiar structured classes, authoritative leanings and uniforms that appeal to that “right-wing mentality”. Something which is familiar in almost every martial art we see, apart from maybe Sambo.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and MMA are sports and training hobbies which have been aligned with the “socially liberal and fiscally conservative”, in Brazil BJJ was considered to be a martial for the richer parts of society while the poorer parts would lean more towards Luta Libre.
Capoeria was designed as a “dance” martial art and was first created during the 16th century when slaves from West Africa were brought to Brazil by Portuguese colonists.
So to say that politics doesn’t have a place in the sport is ignorant but also wrong.
Becoming More Inclusive
I’m not trying to force my opinion on you about the world around us, but what I want to say is that we shouldn’t be afraid to discuss these social issues on the mats. The mode wonderful thing for me about this sport is that I have become friends with so many walks of life, many of whom I probably wouldn’t have, had I not started this sport.
When you put the gi on, everyone is the same, who they are or where they come from doesn’t really seem to matter, in fact, I often have to do a double-take when I see a training partner outside of the gym because it’s such an unusual sight.
The mats should be used to create conversations with people with all walks of life, not to hide from the outside world. Conversations about yesterday, today and tomorrow should be had and with this, maybe we can not just leave this world with a black belt around our waste but with a more open opinion about the world.