Injuries: Learning Your Personal Hierarchy

There seems to be no way to avoid injuries in pursuit of becoming a high level Jiu Jitsu practitioner. Though I believe most practitioners can train on a consistent basis in a traditional class setting without major injury, those aspiring toward the upper echelon of the sport seem destined for physiological breakdown. I am not claiming to have achieved such skill, but I have certainly attempted to cultivate it, at the cost of countless injuries over the last decade.

We have discussed navigating injuries in the context of understanding your time horizon in the a previous post. If your goal is to train Jiu Jitsu for the rest of your life, your training must starkly contrast that of the competitive elite. For most of us, training with that intensity and volume is not feasible or even possible.

My goal is to train Jiu Jitsu for the rest of my life while maintaining and improving my health, which brings us to a major concept regarding navigating injuries.

The traditional hierarchy of positional Jiu Jitsu and submissions applies to the general practitioner most of the time, but not all of the time.

Two years ago, I tore part of my pec. It was a wake up call I desperately needed. As Alan Watts said,

“When you get the message, hang up the phone.”

I have since adjusted my lifestyle accordingly.

Well, the day before Matakas BJJ opened, the remainder of the damaged part of my pec tore completely. The deadwood simply burned off. I actually feel a little better than I did before the reinjury and should be able to to train for the rest of my life, without impediment, so long as I keep my elbow close to my body and do not allow the injured area to be compromised.

Which brings me to my point.

For my particular situation, the most paramount concern for my health is protecting my arm. In a roll, it is more worthwhile for me to give up my back and get choked than to risk my pec being injured. If I get choked, I tap and reset. If my pec tears completely, I miss out on an extended period of teaching and training.

I will still perform Jiu Jitsu to the best of my abilities and understanding, but will no longer risk my health in exchange for success in a single training session. For me, my hierarchy of positions and vulnerabilities has changed, and so I will adjust my training accordingly.

This is an important distinction that must be made in protecting acute and chronic injuries. Some of us have different structural weaknesses and thus must practice Jiu Jitsu in very different ways. We should have a good education of our own bodies and know how we wish to implement them in the pursuit of our goals.

I am not trying to win this roll. I am not trying to establish dominance over another. I am trying to enjoy Jiu Jitsu as a tool for personal development for the rest of my life, and if that means giving up a guard pass or exposing my neck so as to protect an injury, than that is the trade I will make happily.

Jiu Jitsu is something different for all of us. Make sure you are using it in a way that serves you.

Want to read more about Jiu Jitsu? Check out Chris’s new book, On Jiu Jitsu. Want to try Jiu Jitsu for yourself in the Florence/Burlington, NJ area? Sign up for our Introductory Special now!
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