Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Why You Should Take Jiu-Jitsu Injuries Seriously

I may finally be able to get my MRI! I went in to see my primary doctor this morning and she is going to set me up with one. She is in agreement with my chiropractor friend and thinks it sounds like a disc issue, but won't be able to tell for sure until the MRI. She also said there are several options for physical therapy.

Hearing about physical therapy and all of that and possibly having to miss out on more training makes me want to just ignore it. I know that makes no logical sense. If there is a problem, it won't go away. It will get worse if I don't do something about it. But I hate being patient.

All of this has made me view BJJ in a different way. I think, without realizing it, I was looking at BJJ as a sprint when really it is a marathon. When I talked to people, I would always say I was in no hurry. But when I was forced to start taking some time off for one thing or another, it really bothered me. And not just because I love the sport.

Here's the honest truth about what was going through my mind. I share this because I know there are a lot of people out there like me who will go through something similar. It makes me look bad when I type it out bluntly, but whatever. It's what I was really thinking and I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that I'm not the only one who has ever thought this way.

I started BJJ and fell in love instantly. Because of my level of obsession and because I have great instructors and training partners, I got my blue belt relatively quickly. The whole time up to that point, I was getting stripes and the people that had started training with me were getting stripes too. I knew BJJ wasn't about the belt, but it felt great to get confirmation that I was actually doing well at the sport I love.

When I hit blue belt, my desire for that feeling didn't abate. It became more intense. I was worried I wouldn't keep advancing at the rate that I had before, that I would start hitting a plateau or something. It wasn't so much that I wanted more stripes. I just wanted to keep being a "quick learner".

Then Summerlin, a shoot off school of Fabio's where I had trained twice a week on top of my other training, closed. I was down two classes. Then some responsibilities at my church made me start missing more training time. And then this injury came along and made me take it easy even during the classes I was able to make it to. Finally, I had to stop rolling completely for a while and I may have to do that again before this is all over.

At first, I didn't take my neck injury all that seriously. But after talking to a few people in my gym who have had serious neck injuries and ignored them--and are suffering now because of it--and after hearing even more stories from some of you fellow bloggers who have had to go through surgery, I realized I was playing with fire.

It forced me to examine the reasons why I was so hell bent on continuing training when I knew I needed a break. I started asking myself why it was so important to me that I be a "quick learner" and that I didn't "fall behind". What did it matter if I got stripes quickly or if it took me months or years? Who was I trying to keep up with? What reason did I have for rushing through training?

I am doing BJJ for fun. Whether or not I advance quickly will have no impact on my livelihood or my family. It will just keep my ego happy. It's just stupid.

I realized I needed to stop acting like a stubborn child that wanted to get her way regardless of what reason and reality said to the contrary. It's time for me to realize that me trying to force myself to train hard all the time so that I could get better faster will end up hurting me long term.

I want to do this sport for years. I want to be able to keep rolling for as long as I can. And that means respecting my body's limitations. If I am injured, I need to take it seriously. What is a few weeks off in comparison to having to quit forever because I pushed an injury into something really serious?

Even as I type this, I know I will have to fight against that stubborn, impatient side of me that wants to just bulldoze ahead and keep rolling like normal.

Yesterday, it took almost all the self control I had not to do the inverted moves I normally do. It irked me that when I was being muscled by a guy and I knew I could simply go inverted and return to my guard, that I had to find another way. I had other ideas, but I had to stop and think and I couldn't do that fast enough, so he passed my guard. I hated that. Because of my own stupid pride.

But I preserved my neck from getting re-strained. Which is more important than keeping someone from passing my guard in a class grapple that doesn't count for anything outside of my head.

I just have to keep perspective. What is more important: A couple of months of taking it slow? Or a life long ability to keep grappling? What is more important: some dude passing my guard or being able to grapple well into my fifties?

It's great that I want to get better at a sport that I love. But I have to be smart about it. Or else I'll end up cutting short my journey and regretting my stubbornness in the long run.


Georgette said...

You are brave to put your "stuff" out there-- good for you! I have the same perspective: promoted quickly, got a rep for being a quick learner, and thereafter have put incredible pressure on myself to keep up. I just happen to have failed on a talent level before I failed on an injury level... so I have been forced to accept that I am a nonprodigy. I'm so glad you're focusing on resisting that internal pressure to train and instead on healing and recuperating :)

BJJ Judo said...

The higher you go in rank the harder the internal conflict becomes. If you can make peace with a simple fact it will make dealing with injuries and off nights easier. The fact is you are not invinsible. You can get tapped by someone that is a lower rank and you dont have to hang you head in shame. Maybe you were injuried, maybe you were trying something new, maybe you just got caught. It really does not matter, the important thing is that you live to fight another day. It is a tuff struggle, that everyone deals with and I imagine it is hardest wen you reach the highest levels.

Dev said...


Common sense prevails. :) Good for you, Allie. Welcome to the self-deprecating and self-flagellating world of the injured blogger. :)

Liam H Wandi said...

Echoing Georgette's words Allie: You're writing is very honest and very brave.

You say you fell in love with BJJ.

You say you've discovered it's not a sprint, but more a marathon.

Put the two together and you'll realise that even a marathon has a pace and a finish line.

Put the two together and you'll realise that it's a slow, wonderful leisurly walk in the forrest with a loved one. No pace. No finish line. Just love and walking.

Best of luck with your neck hun.

Anonymous said...

I understand what you are going through. I started grappling in 2004 (if you don't count my year of Judo in 1999) and I've had stretches of time where I trained continuously for months and then periods of--- not so much.

Over the years I have realized that BJJ will always be here and if I take it easy I will be able to practice for a long time. When I had a 275 lb guy put pressure on my knee while playing open guard I ended up being out for months. As a result I stopped folding my leg in to block people from passing. I ended up being passed quite often for a while and felt like a scrub until I re-developed my closed guard and starting to work the spider guard instead.

Everyone has an Achilles heel that they have to be careful of when training. It's good that you are giving yourself time to heal and not giving yourself too hard of a time for it.

John Logan said...

That was a great post and hit home on some of the issues I have with training especially the "fall behind" aspect.

Megan said...

Allie, thank you for this post. Admitting things like that is so hard...not so much because other people know it, but because once it's written, it's real.

I've been thinking of starting a post based on something I heard my beginners instructor whisper to the head instructor a few classes after I started. It stuck in my mind as "my identity" on the mats. Three little words. Anytime I'm not "living" one of those three, I feel like a looser.

A few months back, after seeing other areas of my life slipping, I put myself on BJJ rations. Set days I train, no matter how much people beg me to come extra days and stay extra late. It still hurts, but it's helped me chill. I have boundaries now, and it's easier for me to manage my never-say-die, bulldog tenacity and just...relax.

Take care of that neck, watch some videos, read some theory or work on flexibility or strength in other areas. We gotta keep you around!

slideyfoot said...

Good post: very, very much agree with the 'marathon, not sprint' comment. I've been trying to develop a game that will still work when I'm ten, twenty, thirty years older.

However, it is difficult to stop yourself spinning and squeezing into positions that your body is definitely going to complain about as those joints stiffen up and the muscles stop being so loose. ;)