Jiu Jitsu Times posted an article by Emil Fischer on Wednesday about the fear of injuries in people thinking about starting jiu jitsu. As a person recovering from a pretty serious jiu jitsu injury, this article caught my eye.
When I saw this I immediately wanted to send it to my friend who I’m trying to convert to the cult of bjj.
I agree with Emil Fischer; training jiu jitsu does not automatically mean you will get hurt any more than any other physical activity. But training environment, training habits, and goals matter.
At my first bjj school, we primarily chose our training partners. So I usually chose blue belts or higher and, because I was a teenage girl, almost everyone at the school was larger than me. My coach emphasized “keep your muscle in your back pocket” and made it clear that using muscle when rolling with me was contrary to their bjj goals. So sure, some training partners rag dolled, some slammed me, but most treated me with respect, focused on technique, and flow rolled.
My current school is more competition oriented. Explosiveness is encouraged and techniques that only work on people around your same size are accepted because they will work in your weight class. The instructor chooses who each person rolls with during class so I have rolled with people who have not respected the fact that I’m a smaller person.
But I don’t think this means that training necessarily leads to injury or that one school (or school of thought) is better. I believe remaining calm, being humble, and expressing your needs/goals to your coach and training partners is important. (I may have learned this lesson a little late.)
I’m not advocating whining or hiding behind injuries or physical disadvantages. But I am advocating speaking up for yourself. Saying “please, don’t slam me” or “I don’t think either of us is learning anything by you bench pressing me off of sidebody and bicep curling out of my armbars…” when appropriate.
One of Emil’s points I do not entirely agree with is that actionable self-defense skills cannot be learned without increasing the chance of injury. Confidence and not appearing to be an easy target can prevent physical confrontations. And avoiding physical confrontation is a form of self-defense. Being tossed around by the new white belt, who does not know technique so relies on muscle and weighs 50% more than you, is a good way to test your skill and learn where you need to improve for self defense. But being injured by that training partner decreases your ability to defend yourself.
So you have to balance your goals. Sometimes I like to train hard and risk injury but usually I respect my body and its needs by rolling with people who aren’t going to hurt me. Some people may choose to improve their self-defense by getting into better shape or gaining confidence through jiu jitsu without increasing their chance of injury and that’s good too.
So I want to send this article to my friend and tell her: “See you can train jiu jitsu without getting hurt! Just be choosy, have the right attitude, and treat your partners how you want to be treated!” But I know she’s tired of me trying to convert her.