Fear of forgetting (When we return to BJJ)

‘Will I remember,’ I wondered in the middle of a butterfly sweep, legs lifting an invisible partner, ‘Will I remember what to do when we’re all back on the mat?’


2020 was supposed to be a big year. I had gotten promoted near the end of 2019 and the tug of competition had grown more insistent at the turn of the decade.

Injury kept me from the first competition of 2020. Part of me regrets not participating in spite of it.

Who knows when the next one will be now.


Just like regular class, our virtual sessions have featured a move of the day, though the technique is done alone. In the place of rolling is “porrada calisthenics,” bodyweight exercises that start out relatively easy but leave us gasping by the time the two minute timer chimes.

It’s not the same as training at the gym. But it feels good to push nonetheless.


It wasn’t until the second week of quarantine that I finally had to admit that “training at home” wasn’t working.

Yes, there was a plethora of online resources that I could study and solo drills upon solo drills that I could use for warm-ups. But how was any of that going to help me with the goals I had for this year? How was I supposed to compete, to teach, to drill?

How was I supposed to train at like I used to?


Before my most recent injury, which ironically had begun to heal right before quarantine, I had been filming myself with an old GoPro gifted to me by my dad. The footage was hit or miss. Some evenings, I’d be able to rewatch every roll from that class; sometimes I’d end up only seeing a foot that may or may not have been mine appear at the edge of the frame every couple of minutes.

Usually when I watch, I have a notebook in hand, pencil at the ready to scribble admonitions, praise, questions. But over time, I learned to not solely focus on myself, especially when I was rolling with a higher belt. In fact, I felt like I learned even more by watching my partner more than me. Why didn’t that sweep work? Oh, they shifted their hips last minute. Wow, they had set up those grips that early? No wonder I couldn’t get out of that submission.

It’s hard to watch that footage now. Who knows when I’ll be able to step back onto the mats. Who knows if those teammates, those mats will even be there when all this is over.


I’ve learned that I hate mountain climbers the most, with push ups and planks tied for second. But at least I’m not the only one. Every now and then, someone will break the silence over Zoom to ask desperately for the remaining time, followed almost always by an accusation of the timer of being broken.

Last 30 seconds, push through. Sip of water. Next exercise. Push through again. Again.


One of the last rolls I had with my professor before getting injured ended with a mini lesson. His voice was too muffled on the video, but I could see him gesturing, pointing out how I’d been so focused on fighting for a pass that I had been blind to a loop choke that had been there all along. ‘Use what’s being given to you,’ I remember him saying.

The me in the video brought palm to forehead.

The me watching the video brought pencil to paper. Then paused.

I flipped back to the list of goals for this year.  Crossed them out.

Underneath, I began writing a new list.


Two minutes of dreaded mountain climbers and doubts. ‘Is this really going to help my BJJ?’ Yes, you’re building your cardio, building your strength.

‘Shouldn’t I be studying instead of this? What about all of the techniques I feel like I’m already forgetting?’ Some things you’ll remember. Some things you’ll forget. Your game will change and improve, like it has many times before.

‘Will I get to the same level I was at before all this happened?’ Maybe, maybe not. The whole world will likely not be the same as it was before. That goes for BJJ, and for you.


30 more seconds, push through. Make yourself strong now. Your body, your mind, your heart.

Challenge yourself in a new way. Reach out to others. Fumble with the technology. Try things that don’t work. Try again until one thing does. Do it again.

Stay connected. Keep each other accountable. Keep each other strong.

Because when we all get back on the mats, it’s not going to be easy. Some of it will come back. Most of it won’t.

We’ll have to start from the beginning all over again.

Push through now so you’ll be ready to learn again, train again, roll and compete again.

Push through now, so you’ll be ready to begin the journey again.

Push through now, so you can rebuild yourself anew.

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