For almost a year now, my 9-year-old son Benjamin and I have been attending virtual Jiu Jitsu with Elite MMA. I still remember our last pre-pandemic class rolls which were not long after our first in-house tournament at Elite MMA in Baytown. Luckily, I had already doubled the padding under our living room rug and set up our incognito dojo. It was impressive how fast Hai and his team set up the virtual classes. It was the only Zoom meeting I looked forward to and was thankful to keep some degree of normalcy and exercise during the initial panic of the pandemic. An unexpected bonus was meeting coaches from all over Houston. We are virtual regulars at coach Austin’s class up in Kingwood on Mondays.
Rolling with a 9-year-old is like a bear rolling with a chimpanzee. It is fun, occasionally frustrating and someone occasionally gets hurt. Usually, it is the chimpanzee. Over time, I had to learn how to have fun and be silly but also get through the class feeling that we learned something. Bears and chimpanzees have different perspectives of fun and productivity, so a Bear must get creative to keep things going. Wet Willies tended to be, by far, the most fun and effective tool in my virtual Jiu Jitsu toolbelt. Sloppy armbar? Wobbly guard pass? Clumsy back escape? The WW Punishment was dealt.
Over time, Benjamin earned his yellow and then orange striped belts. A masked Jose happily showed up at our house each time to wrap the new belts around his waist. After rolling and getting hurt by a bear in his own house, he earned it. Benjamin was happy to out rank his white belt Dad too. We both still attend virtual Jiu Jitsu class and, since September, I have started rolling once a week at Elite MMA with Ron Oran– another pandemic Jiu Jitsu Dad from Greenway. Coach Jose took the time to match us up and monitor our rolls as we got our mind and body back into the game. Just recently we were both awarded with our blue belts…and sore backs.
Elite MMA has done a great job at being consistent during an unpredictable and disorienting time. It goes without saying that virtual Jiu Jitsu is not easy nor is it the same as being on the mat. However, with a beginner’s mind, we can all find familiar lessons in anything. Relearning patience and even relearning how to learn in an unfamiliar situation are life skills that require constant refinement. It all requires perseverance and the most important skill of all – showing up. Thanks to the virtual classes, we were able to do that.