5 Ways to Avoid Injury in BJJ

The last couple of months have seen me receive several injuries in my BJJ training.  I`m sure you`re tired of reading about them.  I`ve probably made mention of them a dozen times or so. In an attempt to avoid further destruction to an already crumbling temple, I`ve been doing a little reading on ideas and theories on avoiding injuries.  I came across this little article on “Lex’s BJJ and Judo Blog“.

Give it a read.  I removed all the videos and pictures that are included, so if you want to see them, go to“Lex’s BJJ and Judo Blog“. Do you agree with his theories? Is staying injury free on your mind when you train or compete?  Let me know.

5 Ways to Avoid Injury in BJJ

Posted on November 17, 2013 by Lex

I have had the good fortune so far to avoid major injury while still training hard every day and competing frequently. Let me dive right in, without warming up, into the list of things I do to avoid injury.

1. Warm up and stretch

I’ll start with one that seems to be a point of disagreement for people. I’d like to underline the fact that this list is what works for me, and not for anyone else. So take it with a grain of salt. I experiment with different approaches to training all the time and am always open to trying a new system. But since after high school, I’ve noticed that warming up and stretching has been a huge part of me remaining injury free. There is a lot of stuff out there that says stretches actually increasing chance of injury. For me, that’s not true. I ultimately need a good 20 minute warm up and stretch routine. And not just ANY routine. It’s important to warm up personal “problem areas” like shoulders, neck, hips, back, groin, etc. I just recently started doing yoga, thanks to the advice of a great competitor Sebastian Brosche and my instructor Phil Migliarese. I highly recommend Sebastian’s website, it has a lot of cool stuff for jiu jitsu guys.

This is especially important to me.  In a couple of months I will be 40.  I can tell you with all honesty, my body doesn’t move as easily as it did when I was in my 20s.  I know, right?  I am amazed how the youngsters can just hop on the mat and go.  I would have been one of those guys.  Warming up/stretching was never a big thing for me in athletics.  I’m at the point now, where I almost need a light sweat going before I feel confident that my muscles are loose.

2. Drill to build up muscles you actually need for your jiu jitsu

I think there’s a belief out there that you have to do strength training of some kind outside of jiu jitsu to building up the support muscles that help avoid injury. This is true conceptually, but often what happens is when you start strength training, you lose focus on jiu jitsu, and start strength training for the sake of itself, and so you build up certain muscles, neglecting ones that you might actually need for your particular style of jiu jitsu. For me, the most important way to build up the right kind of muscle is drilling, usually the fast paced kind. Depending on the technique, I prefer to do it on a dummy vs a real person, because a dummy doesn’t complain and I don’t need to split time with a dummy. You have to be creative. I don’t usually drill sweeps on a dummy, but it is very much possible. For example, here’s a guy drilling berimbolo:

There’s no way I could avoid the weight lifting or time in the gym.  I will admit that in the last couple of years, I have greatly modified my routines to be more beneficial to my BJJ.  I haven’t ever drilled with a dummy…  I don’t know…

3. Good technique

The best and highly unreasonable advice to avoid injury is: get good fast While you can’t magically attain black-belt-level skill in a week, sticking to fundamental principles of good technique is probably the best practical way to avoid injury. What do I mean by fundamental principles? Things like: elbow discipline, good posture, bent knees when standing, good base, good head position, don’t post your hands on the mat, etc. There are exceptions and variations to some of these, as you probably know. In fact, most of us know the good fundamentals, but we get lazy, and there’s nothing worse for injury than “lazy”. Note: there’s a huge difference between lazy and relaxed/chilling/efficient. You want to be the latter and not the former.

Sounds about right to me.  Part of avoiding the injuries is not over straining the muscles or avoiding/defending submissions.  This makes perfect sense to me.  Fundamentals are what’s going to keep you out of those compromising positions.  Or at least, minimize them.

4. See positions in terms of injury potential

Your body bends and moves comfortable only in a small number of ways (relatively speaking). You need to understand these ranges of movement, and learn proper technique to avoid crossing to the line outside your comfortable range of movement. This is very much connected to the previous point of “good technique”. This means different things in different positions, or even for different body types and jiu jitsu styles. For me, I learn way to maintain a strong structure in most positions. You need to utilize the natural “frames” of your body (formed by using your arms and legs).

But, of course, unless you are perfect every second of every roll, you will be put in positions that place your body outside its naturally strong structural positions. This is where you have to be careful to allocate an especially large part of your thoughts to avoiding injury. That sometimes means telling your ego to shut up.

Hmmm…  I need to think on that…

5. Don’t try crazy stuff with the wrong people

A big part of jiu jitsu is exploring new techniques, positions, and transitions. Obviously, that kind of exploration can put you in compromising positions. That’s good as long as both people are paying attention to #4 above. And that’s just it, when you are trying crazy stuff, pick your partners wisely. With some people you are safe to explore as much as you want, and with others, the combination of explosive power and ego can lead to serious injury in the compromising positions.

Yup.  There are people who I know I will not get hurt whilst rolling with, and people who I know are NOT looking out for me.  I feel, as a BJJ team member, we should be working together to avoid injury.  I constantly tell new club members (if they as for my help), we’re not here to hurt each other.  We’re here to learn from each other.  If you know your partner is stuck in a submission but won’t tap, I think you should have the responsibility to release and let them know you let go.  A couple of years ago I was rolling with a blue belt from a nother school.  I caught him in a tight knee bar.  He wouldn’t tap.  I didn’t apply as much force on that knee as I could have.  I applied gradual pressure.  Finally, I heard a crack and the joint let go.  There was a howl/scream and a bit of profanity.  I felt absolutely terrible.  Whose fault was it?  I told myself that it was his fault.  he should have tapped.  Now looking back, I should have let go.  I knew he wasn’t getting out.  I didn’t have anything to prove.  We were training together.  I feel like such a dick for that.  Sorry whatever your name was.

Bonus! 6. Avoid taking any risks in life.

Remember, that injury and pain are a part of life. So toughen the fuck up. You’ll be dead soon enough. None of this lasts forever, so it’s best to go out doing what makes you happy, and for me that means taking risks and challenging myself.

I think that these points can be applied to the other areas of my athletic life.  From being in the gym, to Muay Thai training, to big mountain skiing.  I’m really glad I happened to come across this article.

P.S. I’m not proof reading this.  If there are lots of grammatical errors or run on sentences, deal with it!!!


I Think I’m Cursed

Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!

Nice wy to start a post, right? Sorry, I just had to get that out of my system. So, let’s see… Where to start? Remember that time that I was working all summer so that I could pay off my debt and have a little breathing g room financially for the winter? Well firstly, my boat suddenly developed an oil leak. It had to be fixed. Not only would an oil leak turn in to major engine damage over time, but I couldn’t in good conscious have my boat in the water knowing I was causing damage to the environment (more than I usually do). $1400 for the fix.

Secondly my basement started leaking. No major river, but any leak is a bad thing. So I’ve torn out the drywall, vapor barrier, and insulation exposing the foundation. It’s a bit of a mystery. No cracks… I’ve spent hours contemplating what the problem could be. Now I need a major rain storm to see if I’ve fixed it. I lie in bed at night thinking about how much it’s going to cost to dig up the back yard and water proof if my “fix” wasn’t the issue.

Thirdly, I got in shit at work from management for expressing an opinion. An opinion people. Not breaking the rules or policy, but saying what I think. I’m in no danger of getting fired (I’m an unionized public servant, good luck), but it really bothers me. What the fuck is this world coming to when you can’t express yourself? I’d tell you more about it, but section 107 of the particular government act I enforce, prohibits it. Trust me, you’d shake your head if you knew…

Fourthly, my leg injury doesn’t seem to be improving. It pains me constantly. Plus, after checking out my knee X-rays this week, the doctor has ordered MRI on both of them. To top it all off, I’m sick as fuck!!! ARGHHHHHJH!!!! I can’t train for the Ontario BJJ provincial championships which is fast approaching.

I’m very frustrated with everything. I don’t deal with stress well. It all bottles up inside me and I end up in a depression which affects my sleep and general mood. Of course this affects my family. It’s hard to look on the bright side, you know?

That’s all.