I received a message recently from Ricardo asking for motivational tips to roll again after being off with a number of injuries. I understand how difficult it is to feel motivated to train BJJ when we have been injured as I have been there myself on a number of occasions. I cannot give you guaranteed tips but I can give you some tips that have helped me.
I honestly believe the biggest motivating factor is pretty simple. For me, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the most fantastic, awesome, effective and rewarding combat sport there is. Without it, my life would feel empty. That for me is motivation enough to keep training.
However, I appreciate it may not be enough for everybody so here is Ricardo’s question and my response.
May I ask you for some advice how to kick-start my motivation to roll again? Taking away the fear of getting injured again after of two consecutive injuries: ac shoulder joint luxation followed by an elbow bursitis, the very same arm…I am a multi sport enthusiast (fitness, kick Boxing, swimming and running), the injuries prevented me from doing alternative training. So I really felt unhappy and disappointed in jits.
I am reluctant to step on the mat again after 7 months of off-time, afraid of injuries and seeing how others have progressed, whereas my overall state has declined. Being almost 45 years old does not help either.
Hope you have some tips and tricks to help me.
Ricardo Ho Sam Sooi
Thanks for your message I’ll do my best to give you some advice but it really does come down to you, nothing I or anybody else can say can take away your fear of injury.
As much as we love BJJ, we all know how incredibly tough it can be on our bodies. I can count on one hand the number of people at my gym who don’t current have any injuries, admittedly most of these are niggles but they can still be very uncomfortable to train through.
But serious injuries can and do happen and a lot more regularly than in other sports. Just Monday this week one of our beginner members had his fibular broken whilst fighting for a takedown, he now has his leg in a cast and will be out of training for a minimum of 8 weeks. On a personal level, I am still recovering from a torn ATFL in my left foot after an Achilles lock went bad. I had to avoid training for almost 6 weeks and even now I have problems with my foot and I am absolutely terrified of further injury the minute somebody puts their hand on my ankle or foot.
Coming back from a serious injury can really prey on our minds, especially when we have been off for a long time and even more so when we are advancing in years. The younger people in the gym cannot identify with this but for most people there is a direct correlation between getting older and losing confidence, not necessarily confidence in our technical abilities or skills but confidence in our bodies, confidence in our resilience and confidence in our mental strength to deal with pain.
So what can we do to overcome this fear? Well we should try to remember that although accidents can and do happen, they can be avoided. How can they be avoided? by being smart and intelligent about training.
Here are a few tips to help you ease your way back into your training
Speak with your coach – Let him or her know about your injuries and be honest about how it has affected your confidence. A good coach will understand and won’t force you to do anything that you are uncomfortable with, if they do, find another gym.
Start off slowly – Perhaps one or two intro classes per week, nothing more, no rolling or sparring, whatsoever. It would be foolish to come back to the gym after a long lay-off and jump right back in to heavy training and not expect to get injured again.
Find a safe training partner – Somebody of a similar age, size, build and skill level or somebody of a much higher skill level who will use their experience over strength.
Inform your training partner – you should tell your training partner about any injuries as soon as you start training with them and if need be reiterate as often as required.
If it hurts, stop doing it – no matter what it is, if your body is feeling any form of physical pain or discomfort then stop doing what you are doing and let your coach know immediately.
Tap and tap early – Do not under any circumstances try to fight out of a submission that is clearly locked on. We are training for fun and fitness not competing in the mundials, if your opponent has locked on a submission, let him know and tap right away, either by physically tapping or verbally tapping.
Rehabilitate your injuries – any serious injury you have sustained should have been looked at by a trained medical professional and in almost all cases you should have been given exercises to perform to rehabilitate the injury. Make sure you stick to them.
Stretch, stretch and stretch again – Stretching should be done before and after a session and also as much as possible between sessions.
Bonus Tip – Stick tape in a cross formation on the location of any injury. Insulation tape works best and a bright colour such as red is ideal. This can be applied directly to your gi or any wraps you have on an injury. Most people will know that this means you have an injury in that location but if they don’t they will usually ask what the tape if for and you can then tell them.
Finally do not ever feel pressured or obliged to do anything you are not comfortable with. At the end of the day, you are paying to be a part of a community, it is not compulsory. Only you know your body and only you can decide if what you are doing is good for your health and well-being or bad for it.
Take your time and do not rush. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can be tough and it can be dangerous but it should also be fun, if you’re no longer having fun then you’re doing something wrong. Use your own judgement and common sense and you can train forever.