Jiu-Jitsu Coach In China Shares Harsh Reality Of Coronavirus Experience

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Matt Huttner is a first-degree black belt instructor at Absolute MMA in Shanghai, and saw firsthand the effect the coronavirus outbreak had on day-to-day life. 

When the coronavirus pandemic started spreading beyond China to the rest of the world, we began tracking how it was affecting the global grappling community. Matt reached out to us to share his experiences of living under extended quarantine. 

All gyms in mainland China were ordered to closed at the end of January, with only some being allowed to open recently (as long as they follow strict hygiene protocols). Matt’s gym in Shanghai is still closed, marking almost two months since they had to stop offering jiu-jitsu training. 

What has been the direct effect on you and the gym that you teach out of? 

Our gym Absolute MMA and all gyms in China across the country have been closed since the end of January. You can imagine the effect on a community of people used to training four, five, or six times a week being now forced to stay off the mats; in fact, all public areas including bars, parks, schools, museums, etc. have been closed for the vast majority of this time, although some restaurants and businesses have begun to open back up in the last week or so. 

Members of Absolute MMA Shanghai with Lachlan Giles 

People are stir-crazy, stressed, unhappy, and worried. Many of us rely on BJJ and the BJJ community for not just exercise but also for support and stress relief, and it has been a critical pillar that has been removed at a difficult time.

Do you personally know anybody, for example students, that have been infected?

No students in the BJJ community in Shanghai or anywhere that I know of have been infected. That being said, I personally have close friends who were infected and it was very scary. 

My friend and his wife in Shanghai are from Wuhan, and he had both sets of grandparents visit for the Chinese New Year holiday. This resulted in both sets of grandparents and his wife being hospitalized with the coronavirus, and he himself being left to care for his 18-month-old son by himself for several weeks. He was very worried that if he himself got sick, he would also be hospitalized and there would be no one to care for his child. Even after all family members recovered, they faced quarantine procedures that prevented them from all returning to the same home and other difficulties. 

What’s the effect on your day-to-day life during this time? 

Daily life has been very difficult. All schools are closed, and so for those of us with children childcare and entertaining the children all day is an issue. Because the entire city has been shut down, there are very few places to go. Residential compounds also require registration at the gate, and many have taken the step that non-residents are not allowed in. 

Although this is now starting to change, many cities were entirely locked down, meaning no non-residents in or out or in some cases no people in or out, which has led to many people being separated from their families for an extended period of time. Businesses are also suffering due to factory closures, supply chain disruptions, and massive drops in consumer spending.

Have you been given any idea when things may return to normal?

All things considered, China has done an excellent job controlling the epidemic and the number of new cases in China continues to fall. The government now seems to have turned a lot of attention towards getting the economy and daily life back up and running, and so more and more businesses and parts of the city open up every day. 

That being said, for more sensitive populations (school-age children) or higher risk activities (gyms, as the virus can be transferred via sweat), we don't yet have a date for reopening. Many are thinking that it could be as late as late April or early May. 


Follow all of the FloGrappling Coronavirus COVID-19 coverage here

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