Welcoming Back Those Who Have Been Away
For one reason or another, you might have had an extended hiatus from training. With protocols and safety measures finally nearing their targets, people who were away are starting to trickle back into the gym. It’s good to see old faces and friends walk through the door for the first time in a while. However, one common thread amongst them is the anxiety and fear of returning.
This is totally understandable. I get those feelings when I’m off the mats for any period of time. I fear that I’ve lost the muscle memory and timings (even from my not-good-at-all game). The gravity of being away from training for over a year can probably feel crushing. Not to mention the inevitable taps that are sure to pile up.
It’s important from both ends that you have reasonable expectations. From the perspective of one returning after a long break, there has to be a certain amount of level-setting. The cardio is going to burn and the pressure is going to feel twice as heavy. But it will come back to you. The higher your base was, the quicker you should return.
Don’t let the anxiety smother you. Your training partners will be stoked to see you walk through the door. Of course you will be a bit slower, but you will be open to so many more things, I guarantee it. The jiu-jitsu world will feel like a buffet of options. A mental reset will freshen up your perspective on your game. Your training and rolling will soon feel back to normal.
Personally when I roll with someone who just came back, I treat it like a fresh white belt. That is not to say that they are now suddenly unskilled, but I let them totally dictate the pace. If they want to flow, we can flow. If they say they want me to give them more back, I do. What is important is that you - as the person welcoming someone back to the mats - are just as responsible to welcome them back as you are a fresh white belt.
Imagine all the things they’ve been wanting to try and drill. I think it’s pretty important they have a chance to do so. Let them work! I could not imagine the negativity they must have laid on themselves. If they were to return and get smashed and gassed, that could crush them. There are times for “iron sharpens iron” thinking, but just be mindful.
And that leads to the biggest problem I’ve seen. So many people who have been away think that those who have been training look down at them. They think we fault them or their dedication. To me, that’s not how I have ever felt. I’ve been fortunate enough to train while others couldn’t and I have actually missed them and their advice. I’m so glad they're back and shouldn’t use the opportunity to smash a friend who’s taken time away from something they love. Granted, some of my closer friends might get some fun ribbing about their cardio.
Welcoming people back into the gym should be a celebration. Don’t take this time to further alienate people who were already on the cusp of giving up. Jiu-jitsu is about so much more than submissions and pressure. It’s about a community and camaraderie. As you see some familiar faces show back up, try to be the one that welcomes them back.