I have learned that when you don’t prepare yourself before you get on the mat, like taping your fingers, wearing a cup, taking jewelry off, etc. could result in injury to you or your training partner (s). I have also learned that a lot of injuries in jiu-jitsu happen when the practitioners go too fast and become sloppy with their technique. Unfortunately, in jiu-jitsu, you have to be fast and agile when transitioning between movements in order to get the advantage. But we don’t get there miraculously, we have to practice a lot and most of us are sloppy at the beginning. We have to start somewhere, right? So, how do we prevent injuries in jiu-jitsu? Here are few tips that could help.
Sports Tape—use it
Have you ever been to a BJJ tournament and seen competitors with tape all over their fingers? Well, during Gi training we use lots and lots of grips. We grip each other’s lapels, grip the sleeves, grip the pant legs, our belts, etc. So what happens? Your fingers get raw from the gi material or one of your fingers might get trapped in a gi and…ouch! The tape is used to help alleviate the raw knuckles and able to continue gripping. I have used the tape as well, to remind me not to use the finger that I injured the day prior. When you roll, you will realize how much your adrenaline will pump, and you will not notice things hurt until after you are done. So, prepare before you get on the mat.
Cups – use them
I have been the culprit a few times, of accidentally kneeing, or kicking my training partner in his family jewels. I’m a woman, so I have no clue how bad it hurts, but by the fetal position they curl up in, I am certain it is pretty darn painful. So, if you have a cup, wear it. Not only will you roll more confident especially when we drill things like passing guard or kneebar from open guard, but if you happen to do the north/south position, you might hit your opponent in the forehead with the cup. Ok, that might not get you a tap, but it’s kinda funny and painful—true story.
Mouthguards—get one, or two
Mouthguards can be a bit uncomfortable at first, but let me tell ya, it’s more uncomfortable when you accidentally bite yourself while rolling or get hit on the mouth. Again, like any other sport, accidents happen, so it’s better to be prepared. I have taken a few accidental elbows/knees to the mouth, bitten myself and gotten hit on the jaw. They all hurt. Why? Because I wasn’t wearing a mouthguard! Shame on me! I was told that some dentists actually make custom mouthguards, so I called and asked. Now I have my own custom made mouthguard and it’s not bulky or uncomfortable. If you don’t have insurance or the time to wait on a dentist appointment, you can find all kinds of inexpensive mouthguards at your favorite sports store. They can be molded to your own teeth using hot water. It’s worth the few dollars spent and your dentist will love you for it!
No Jewelry on the mat
Now-a-days, who doesn’t have piercings? Yeah, they look cool and make you look tough, but what if they get caught and ripped off? I bet you will cry like a baby, I would! This is why all body jewelry has to be taken off before getting on the mat. We just don’t want to see a grown adult cry. Piercings include any ear, nose, belly button, face and other piercings or jewelry that is attached to any body part. Same thing with rings, earrings, necklaces, ankle bracelets, toe rings etc. I have heard so many horror stories about wedding rings getting caught and tearing off skin. Don’t be that guy.
Ladies, no metal accessories in your hair
I know we all love to be cute, especially when practicing a man dominated sport like jiu-jitsu, we want to feel pretty, wear cute clothes, nice shoes and do our hair. But on the mat, you only need one thing on your hair, a rubber band or scrunchy to keep your hair off your face. Bobby pins can come off and poke somebody or yourself. We can be cute off the mat, and kick butt on the mat.
Trim those nails
We’ve all been there, you go to grip a lapel and accidentally hit your opponents face, with your claws. And now there’s a scratch on their face, and what’s worse? There’s blood/skin, on you! What if you get scratched by somebody’s toe nail? Gross! Scratches aren’t the only problem with long or untrimmed nails, have you ever bent a nail backwards? Can you say OUCH? You go for a grip, your opponent breaks the grip and as he does, your nail promptly bends backwards also causing a sharp pain to shoot up your arm. Eeeee!! Please trim those nails…all of them, before coming to class.
Calm down, breathe and work the technique properly.
I’ll admit it, I became awesome at defending my neck, my arms etc. That was my BJJ life my first year. I couldn’t get to a submission because I was too busy defending. So when I finally got to an armbar, I got so excited and give it all I got. Unfortunately for my opponent, it wasn’t very pretty. During my excitement, I cranked so hard I overextended their elbow. So the moral of the story is, focus on setting the move first, if you are doing it properly, it will be very difficult for your opponent to move, then go for the submission…crank/pull/extend S-L-O-W-L-Y until you get the tap. There is absolutely not need to crank, especially during drilling! I have a strong belief that getting a tap is not the biggest priority during training if you can’t get there with proper technique. My priority is to set the submission using good technique (distribute your weight properly, position your arms and legs right etc.) and then finish the submission steadily.
So there it is, my take on preventing injuries. You are not limited to this list so please use good judgment and if you are in doubt, ask your coach/professor. See you on the mats!!