Train Forever: Taking Care of your Body

Jiu-jitsu translates to “soft art.”  I think my muscles and joints are the soft part, constantly at risk of being crushed by the art.

So, the trick is to be soft like the willow, bending without breaking.  Or some other metaphor that basically means you have to stretch, avoid overtraining and training while injured, rest, and eat well!


Have you ever walked onto the mat before class and seen people sitting around stretching? 

Those people, you think to yourself, must really know what they’re doing.  Except that stretching before exercise doesn’t prevent injury.  Stretching feels like it prevents injury because it increases range of motion and decreases pain sensitivity in muscles, but pulled muscles happen inside of your normal range of motion and decreased pain simply means decreased warning.

My preferred way to warm up is to just roll lightly with a trusted training partner.  This way I can move through all of the motions that are a part of jiu-jitsu but at a relaxed pace.

So, is this great news for those of you who hate stretching?  Well, no.  It just means you shouldn’t hop on the mat and start stretching.  General flexibility will help you in BJJ as well as in life.

Stretching doesn’t require a huge time commitment, just spending a few minutes each day on your problem areas can make a huge difference in the long run.  Important areas for BJJ players to focus on are:





This is super simple.  If you are training 6 days a week and your joints hurt, maybe you’re training too much.  Listen to your body!

Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t train 6 days a week.  If it fits in your schedule go for it!  But, if you feel like you’re beginning to hurt more and more week after week its probably because you aren’t allowing yourself enough time to recover from training sessions.

This can be solved either by training less or by training less intensely.  Less intensely might mean that you’ll drill instead of rolling.  Can’t stand the idea of not rolling?  See if your partner will do a positional roll with you.

If your neck hurts because people keep stacking you when they pass your guard have them start in side control and attempt to mount.  If they submit you or successfully mount you start again in side control.  If you escape you start again in side control.”

It isn’t supposed to be easy, its just supposed to be easy on your neck.

Training while Injured

The jiu-jitsu culture encourages training while injured, or returning to training before you’ve had time to fully heal.

I know that I let myself heal approximately 3 days before training after subluxating my rib-head (also known as ‘popping a rib’).  Was that enough time?  No.  How do I know it wasn’t enough time?  Well, it continued to hurt for two months afterwards.  It only got better after I took 2 weeks off for a vacation.

If you get hurt take time off.  When you come back drill at first, then do positional rolling that protects the injured area, and finally roll with people you trust.  Only after you’ve had a chance to see how the area responds to rolling in a controlled fashion should you even consider returning to your normal routine.

Rest & Diet

The advice listed above isn’t worth the mount defense of a sleeping white belt if you aren’t taking care of your body.

This means getting enough sleep and eating well.

Enough sleep

There isn’t a hard and fast rule to this, but probably more than 7 hours.  Some people say they function fine with a little less, but studies have shown that they actually perform less well on complex mental tasks.

Eating well

I feel like this is a constantly moving target, but if you are surviving off of top ramen and beer you’re probably not getting the nutrition that an intense training regimen demands.

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