“Come on guys, let’s roll!” This is the queue that my teacher Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro uses to let us know it’s time to spar. It all started about 13 months ago, when I first joined his academy in NYC. I was teaching about 30 fitness classes a week and training clients; I felt severely burned out and was looking for a way to gain my mojo back. Just working out in a gym wasn’t doing it anymore. I begun to drift away and didn’t want to do it at all. I needed a performance goal, a challenge that would nurture my soul and help me grow as a person and an athlete., and there it was… Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Putting my Gi and belt for “Arte Suave” gave me back the same feeling I had as a little girl when I put on my ballet slippers.
Unless you’ve been living under a stone, you should know that BJJ is a martial art,combat sport, and self defense system that focuses on grappling and ground fighting. It teaches that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend against a bigger, stronger assailant by using leverage and proper technique — most notably by applying joint locks and choke holds to defeat the other person. It’s an exciting, highly addictive sport that inspires you and motivates you to be the best YOU that can be, but it is also very strenuous and can be risky. Unfortunately, your biggest opponent is the potential of injury. I am not talking about minor ones like bruises and scratches, which by the way, I love to display as my badges of honor. I am talking about the severe ones, such as dislocations, fractures and joint/ ligament tears. The most common injuries are, Neck, elbow, Knee and shoulder. And for me, the Fitness profession all the ones I mentioned above are the Antichrist. It’s beyond not being able to train, it’s my livelihood. So, what’s a girl to do? Sometimes I’m the only girl in class, training with the big dogs. Even though they are careful, they are still crashing me with their weight and throwing me around like a ragdoll. How do I and everyone who is in love with this crazy sport train, while defeating this scary opponent? Well… Even in this case we apply the old adages, “Prevention is the Best Cure” and my personal favorite, “Train Hard, but Train Smart”. We can’t avoid injuries completely, let’s face it, it is a contact sport, but we can minimize the risk by taking certain steps.
When you enter the school, check your ego at the door. You are not there to compete, you are there to study and your teacher is not there to judge, but to teach and help you improve your game. What his means is that, you should not measure your improvement by “tap-outs”, to the point that you are willing to put yourself and others in a position of potential injury, to ensure victory and satisfy your own insecurity. The same goes for getting submitted. Sparring is just practicing the techniques you’ve been learning in each lesson and tapping out is never a defeat.To me, it’s the best way to evaluate the wholes in your game, study the mistakes you make that give your opponent the chance to dominate you and eventually improve. If you get in a compromising position then, do tap out. A bad day for the ego is a good day for the heart and too much ego will kill your talent. You are responsible for your own safety. Watch how people roll. If there is someone in your school who looks and acts like he just came out of Riker’s Island (that’s a prison in NYC) and feels like dumping his frustration about the world on you, avoid them. The same goes for those who look fabulously spastic and the one who are “Tap” deaf. Tell your teacher that you don’t feel comfortable training with that person. Girls; be on the look out for Macho Macho Man. He does exist! He is not an urban myth around the dojos.
Have you heard of football players taking ballet classes? Sound bizarre, but it actually happens. Why? Because cross training is an excellent tool to increase performance,achieve your fitness goals and keep your body healthy. Strength training is essential. Muscle has power and strength and developing it will provide crucial support for the joints. Weak muscles place them under more stress during training and that stress is what leads to injury. Do your best to fit in 2 or 3 weight training sessions a week, targeting the major muscle groups in your legs and upper body. However, avoid doing too much too soon. Build up slowly and don’t expect miracles. It’s impossible to go from being a couch potato to being a competitive fighter. It’s just doesn’t work that way. Your body will tell you that you are overloading too soon and that the aces and pains and soreness you are feeling is flirting with injury. Take small steps and slowly increase the frequency and intensity of your training. Having that said, even if you are in great condition, ground fighting uses muscles that you never though you have and building those will take some time. I couldn’t believe how sore I was after my first session. My whole body was screaming for Mercy.
So what happens if you have a nagging pain that not only gets to your nerves, it also prevents you from training? I believe in healing the body with movement. Luckily, I’m in a profession where I have access to top therapist and doctors to be fixed on call so to speak. Most people don’t have that luxury so to wrap things up, I asked Dr. Perry Nickelston DC, FMS, Doctor of Chiropractic and my Knight in laser armor (instead of a sword, he has a portable laser machine) to give me a few joint mobility exercises that will restore movement, but also be used as preventative tool to keep those joints flexible. Arm yourselves with a stretch band, a tennis ball and a small towel and watch the demo video we have created for you online.
Last but not least, make sure that you get adequate rest and maybe a day off from training to avoid burn out, but also to give time to the muscles to repair and rebuild. A restful field gives a bountiful crop.
See you on the mat!
"Thou shalt stomp on your vanity every day upon awakening. It is the greatest enemy of progress. Fear not defeat, nor grueling training in the academy." -Carlos Gracie
The following videos were produced by Dr. Perry Nickelston for the specific purpose of generating mobility in key areas that affect BJJ athletes:
This article was featured in the Feb/Mar 2012 Issue of the My Mad Methods Magazine. “How to Defend Against Injuries Come on Guys! Let’s Roll!!" was written by Angie Lee. Learn more about the My Mad Methods Magazine by Clicking Here
Angie Lee is the owner of Angie Lee Fit. Born in Athens Greece, Angie Lee's passion for dance took her literally a long way from her home town to London UK, where she studied classical ballet, contemporary dance and musical theatre. Angie dedicates herself to developing signature workouts to help her students get maximum results. Find out more about Angie Lee.
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