Hygiene in Jiu Jitsu
Jiu Jiteros are hygiene nuts. It comes with the territory. Every athlete of every rank understands the risk of staph, ringworm, folliculitis, and the common cold on the mat. We’ve all stood at attention after rolling, receiving the daily announcements from our professors, and at least once in all our histories we’ve been warned about the risk of infection and disease.
We are told to clip our nails, wash our gis, and shower within an hour of rolling. A dirty Kimono left on the floor is a petri dish of bacteria. These concepts are basic, but occasionally in our journeys something new and scary will arise. This “something” might be Wuhan Corona Virus.
Corona Virus and Jiu Jitsu
Over the last week Jiu Jitsu academies across Asia have seen students expressing concern about “Wuhan Virus”; their student’s reactions have ranged between sensationalist panic to nonchalance. Understanding this outbreak, and the associated risks is the best way to prepare ourselves and our community. Here’s what you need to know:
Corona Viruses are a type of virus effecting mammals and birds. They are zoonotic, spreading from animals to people, meaning even the largest blue belt gorilla on the mat is at risk. Corona virus causes illnesses ranging from common colds to Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome And SARS. The strain that is coming out of Wu Han China, and dominating our headlines, is a Novel Corona Virus.
What you need to know about the Wuhan Virus?
Wuhan Virus is both deadly and infectious. Wuhan Corona Virus has a reproduction rate estimated at between 1.4 and 3.8; implying that an infected athlete can infect between 1 and 4 people if untreated. So far there have been over 4,000 reported cases with 102 deaths (none of these have been Jiu Jitsu practitioners).
The virus is spread through close personal contact with infected individuals by coughing and sneezing, therefore it is perfectly reasonable to assume that infections can occur while grappling. Corona virus also has a long incubation period of fourteen days. This means that should an athlete, or an athlete’s loved ones carry the virus, they will not show symptoms for up to two weeks. This combination of circumstances makes it clear that Corona virus is a risk that should not be taken lightly.
All things considered; the actual risk of infection remains small. China has 1.4 billion people, and around 4,000 of them are presently infected. On average the common Flu infects and kills more people a year than corona virus (as of 1/2020). Likewise, the virus, while popping up in places like Australia and Vietnam, is still largely contained in China. Therefore, the average Jiu Jitero has little to fear from infection. This being said, there are a few measures that can be taken in the prevention of this (and really any) virus while on the mat.
First, pay attention to the news. While not being as exciting as the UFC or Jiujitsulegacy.com, keeping an eye on the progress of this disease is key to keeping yourself and your teammates safe and healthy. Ask yourself the following questions: Has the virus entered my region? How quickly does it seem to be spreading? Do I trust my local medical and government services to identify and handle an outbreak effectively? Understanding the answers to these questions will better prepare you for our next step: prevention.
Corona Virus is avoidable. If living in a region with outbreaks, athletes should avoid people who are sick or areas where sick people congregate. Wash your hands frequently and wear a surgical mask while flying or entering busy areas.
Be a responsible teammate. If you are sick, feeling sick, or coughing and sneezing: stay home. While we do not want to give you yet another excuse to skip practice, training while ill under normal circumstances is irresponsible and selfish. This rule applies to all illnesses and cannot be overstated. If you are sick, stay home and do pushups.
Take care of your health and your body. Avoid overtraining and excessive weight cutting as these activities can lower your immune system. Maintaining a healthy diet and rest regimen is your best defense against every illness, be it Wuhan Virus or the common cold.
Finally, do not panic. Wuhan virus is not a justification for avoiding athletes visiting your academy on drop in; and it is certainly not an excuse to discriminate against Chinese athletes. As with all infections in Jiu Jitsu, a policy of hiding outbreaks is the surest way to guarantee their spread. As with a case of ringworm, infected athletes should tell their instructors, who in turn, should take measures to manage the illness accordingly. Understanding and discussing the risks associated with Wuhan Virus is essential to maintaining a healthy team.
Thus far, the Jiu Jitsu community has avoided Wuhan Virus. As of January, 2020 there has not been a single reported case involving Jiu Jiteros in any country. For the time being, athletes should stick to the basics and monitor the situation. Wash your Gis, clip your nails, don’t train when you are sick, protect your neck, and maintain a good base: the basics.
This article was written by Bryn Thomas.
Bryn is an American Purple Belt dividing his time between rainy Taipei, Taiwan and sunny Hochiminh City, Vietnam. He holds a master’s in Asian studies and is fluent in Chinese. He enjoys photography, writing, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Check out more of his photography on IG @High_Mountain_Green