There’s no way around it, “The Gentle Art” is rough on the body.
A brief survey of any Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gym will most likely get you a wide range of injuries from most students. Bum knees, bad shoulders, and arthritic fingers are just a sampling of the common ongoing injuries for longtime students of BJJ, and this is not counting the daily bumps and bruises that come and go.
Being a student of combat sports should of course come with some assumed risk, but there is a difference between weekly injuries and the longterm nagging injuries that can plague your Brazilian Jiu Jitsu journey. Getting banged up weekly is something that more or less comes with the territory, but hopefully these tips below will help you avoid the many pitfalls of gym injury that can lead to long term problems.
Tap Early, Tap Often
This is, in my opinion, the best advice for beginning students to get. One of the worst recurring injuries that I personally have is from being caught in a Kimura in someone’s guard as a White Belt, and waiting too long to tap. My shoulder has never been the same since.
Especially at the academy where you train regularly, there is absolutely no reason to allow your pride to get you injured. BJJ is meant to break down the Ego a bit, so don’t fight it. If the submission is coming on already and you aren’t even starting to escape, think about tapping.
Get In Shape, Stay In Shape
We often say that you don’t need to be in shape to learn BJJ, and that is absolutely true. However, to practice consistently, and to roll and spar with students that are at a high level, I recommend getting in the best shape you can. This doesn’t mean doing hill sprints and kettlebell workouts necessarily, but you should be diligent with your warm-up routines and core exercises at a proficient level.
For BJJ you want functional, athletic muscle, not just bulk. Be consistent with your warm-up drills and challenge yourself to build on your foundation during the warm-ups and drilling rather than getting complacent.
Cardio workouts are just as important; so many injuries happen when people are tired and their movements get sloppy. This is when muscles get pulled or torn or strained.
Keeping a good conditioning routine is essential to having your body operate smoothly, and smooth operators get injured much less.
Loosen Up, And Listen to Your Body
Yoga is great, but even a fairly simple but focused stretching routine will do wonders for the body in the morning or after a tough class. I like to do a little limbering up in the mornings to shake out the aches and pains and get a good assessment of my body right when I wake up.
If you are able, getting a massage once a month can be a real game changer, but soaking in a hot tub or Epsom salt bath can provide some relief to your body as well.
Having a foam roller is essential for working on the larger muscle groups, and a lacrosse ball or tennis ball can help break up those small nagging muscle knots and fascia knots that buildup from training.
Stay limber, be like water, and listen to your body. Be aware of small injuries that can evolve into bigger ones. Sprains can lead to partial tears, and then to surgery pretty quickly if you get reckless or don’t heed your body’s warnings.
As you can see, most of these tips are preventative rather than reactive, like much of Jiu Jitsu.