Injuries: The Jiu-Jitsu Plague
Injury is the biggest annoyance in jiu-jitsu, even more so than something like skin infections that can usually be treated a lot easier than most injuries. It’s all too often that people get injured in sports in general, but it’s especially annoying in BJJ because we utilize our entire body. Even the smallest joint injury, like a finger, will cause you pain and discomfort during class. So for example, soccer players would not really feel the effects of finger injuries or even an elbow injury.
Injuries also cumulate over the years. Depending on how old and cautious you are, they may never really go away. A small wrist sprain that was not properly tended to could become a heavy mental burden every time you roll. Not only is there pain, but you will also have to change your jiu-jitsu game every time you have an injury to help protect it.
There is some silver lining in injury, because if it’s not super severe, and you can still train lightly, you can work on new techniques so that your body can adapt to the conditions. This is how the half-guard was ‘invented’ and popularized by Gordo from Gracie Barra. Gordo had an injured leg but continued to train. Since the bottom leg in the half-guard is more idle than the other, it wasn’t a problem for him to continue training and develop that position. Perhaps you can invent some new positions yourself!
One of the keys to keeping this jiu-jitsu plague at bay is learning how to minimize the risk of injury and also how to properly recover if you are injured. There are many people who do not take their injuries seriously. They continue to train even after a doctor tells them they should take a break and it only worsens the problem. Eventually, either the pain becomes unbearable and the practitioner can no longer train because they just don’t enjoy it anymore, or their body becomes so weak that progress stops and their jiu-jitsu just fizzles.
To minimize your injury rate, it’s best to avoid partners much larger than you and also to always tap when submitted. Although many larger partners may roll gently, sometimes their size alone could be an issue for injury prevention. If they slip by mistake, the consequences will be much more severe than if they were your size.
You would think that tapping is something that everyone understands, but we must all be guilty at one point or another of delaying the tap because of either pride or we thought we could still get out. That’s why you have to leave your ego at the door - it’s okay to get tapped and it’s also a boatload better than getting injured in training. The regret you will have from not tapping will outweigh the shame of getting tapped.
The most painful thing about stopping jiu-jitsu training because of injury is that it’s something you can control to some extent. How injured you get is up to you, most of the time. You can avoid those stupid instances where injuries happen. So if a dumb injury does happen and you can’t train, you have only yourself to blame (which can be quite harsh, mentally). The major lesson here is to really be mindful of situations where injury can occur so you can keep yourself in the sport as long as you can. Jiu-Jitsu is a marathon, not a sprint.