Henry Akins on Injuries
There is a risk of injury when you participate in any sport. In most cases, jiu-jitsu injuries are relatively minor. Following an intense sparring session, you will likely have minor bruises or scrapes. If you are just getting back into sports after years or even decades of living a more sedentary life, you will certainly experience soreness as you get back into shape. Stretching, cardio workouts, and supplemental weight training can help prepare your body for the rigors of jiu-jitsu and increase flexibility, thereby making strains and sprains less likely.
In addition to being in good physical shape, another way to avoid injuries is to train yourself mentally. For starters, this means using the techniques that you learn in class rather than trying to use brute strength to bulldoze or ground and pound your sparring partner. Secondly, it means practicing ego control. Sparring is about learning, developing skills, and refining technique, not winning. If your partner gets the best of you, let it go. Don’t overexert yourself and try to avoid getting tapped, as twisting and wrenching your body as you try to escape may lead to injury.
Third, there is no reason to always go 100%. As Henry Akins of Hidden Jiu-Jitsu notes in the below video, training is only useful when it achieves a certain level of intensity. “We’re training in an art that is designed to prepare us for combat, so there has to be a certain amount of toughness to it to simulate a real fight,” he says. However, redlining for every second of jiu-jitsu class is not efficient nor is it safe.
What Should I Do If I Get Hurt?
If you notice that something doesn’t feel right, get off the mat. Playing through the pain can lead to more serious injuries. It’s not worth it when you’re just training, because it may mean more time on the sidelines. Moreover, staying on the mat and resting is not a great idea because there are people sparring around you and you don’t want them to trip over you.
Once you’re off the mat, take a few minutes to assess how severe the problem is. If the pain quickly goes away and you feel like you can go on, get back on the mat and continue training at a pace with which you feel comfortable. If the pain continues, someone at the gym should assess the issue and administer first aid if necessary. They will also tell you if you’re safe to continue training at your normal level of intensity, if you should take it slow, or if you should stay off the mat for the rest of the day.
If the injury feels more severe than just a bruise or a light sprain, you’ll want to go to a clinic. If you are not a trained medical worker, do not check yourself out on WebMD, ask Dr. Google for an opinion, or get a second opinion from Dr. ChatGPT. Go to an actual doctor and let them assess and treat you. This will ensure that you heal faster and don’t further aggravate the injury.
Can I Come to Class If I’m Hurt?
Yes, you can still come to class. In fact, you can still improve even if you are unable to train. As Henry explains, when you’re sparring, your focus rarely extends beyond you and your partner. This is true for all the other people in the class—they are concerned solely with their sparring partner. However, while this is happening, the instructor is usually walking around telling different people in the gym how to modify their technique to make it better. This is something you’re going to miss because you’re sparring with your partner.
If you’re not in the midst of training, but instead you’re just watching what’s going on in the gym from the sidelines, you’ll get the opportunity to hear what your instructor is saying to all the other students. You get all these pointers you would otherwise miss while participating.
You can also engage in limited training if you have a willing partner. As Henry tells his class in the above video, he tore both of his ACLs during a competition directly after getting his purple belt. While he did have to stop actively training jiu-jitsu for almost an entire year as he went through rehab to regain the ability to walk, he was still able to train around the injury.
For example, since his legs were injured, he would let his partner take his back, and then practice hand fighting from a sitting position. The same principle can be applied should someone have a major injury to their upper body. They may train from open guard and solely use their legs to defend. In addition to keeping your mind devoted to jiu-jitsu during a period of injury, this method will allow you to focus on specific elements of your game and try out new techniques.