How Do You Avoid Injury In Jiu-Jitsu? Here Are 5 Ways To Stay Safer On The Mat

Getting hurt is inevitable for anyone who trains jiu-jitsu seriously, but there are ways to reduce the risk of injury both to yourself and your training partners.  Perhaps the most important aspect of mitigating the risk of injury is doing your best to roll without pride or ego.

Here are five ways to reduce the risk of injury when rolling:

  1. Tap.  This sounds silly. Everyone knows to tap, but it is a memo that many people at all belt levels miss.  If something feels potentially injurious, tap. If a training partner is launching into a submission, don’t wait for them to have the submission applied unless you are confident in your ability to escape, just tap.
  2. Twisting/turning to escape should be a last resort.  Turning out of a submission often makes the submission tighter before relieving the pressure.  On many occasions I’ve had advanced training partners try to spin incorrectly out of heel hooks.  Don’t do it unless you’ve drilled the escape and know its dynamics.  Most injuries I’ve been party to on the mat have been a result of a violent attempt to escape a locked out submission.  Find a way other than spinning, or at least learn how to spin correctly and safely.
  3. Release the submission when you know you’ve got it.  Most of the submissions I catch in training I release before my training partner has time to tap.  There are some training partners with whom I will go full strength into submissions, but the majority aren’t subjected to that risk.  I have nothing to prove to you when I’m training with you; my goal is strictly to improve my jiu-jitsu, and I don’t need to make your joints pop to get better.
  4. Verbally tap.  When I’m training, I try to be super sensitive to the other person’s physical state. If they make any noise with their mouth or tap me with their hand, I release, even if the noise is just a grunt from physical exertion or the tap is them trying to get a hold of me.  In competition, my opponent’s distress isn’t my cue to release, but rather the referee’s acknowledgement of that distress.  I’ve lost matches because I instinctively let up on submissions when my opponent was about to tap, and don’t plan on doing so in the future.  I’m not the only person who operates under this pretext.  A great way to prevent injury is to make a habit of loudly verbally tapping when caught.  This will protect you both in the gym and in competition.
  5. Don’t trust your attributes.  Being strong, being fast, being explosive, and being flexible are great ways to have an edge over an opponent and training partner. They also can greatly shorten your life as a grappler.  I’m not saying to never use your attributes, but the more you explode out of stuff the more wear and tear you put on your own joints.  The more you try to use your flexibility to your advantage the more likely you are to suffer a catastrophic injury.

These are five rules that I’ve found to avoid injury.  I’m not saying I am perfect at following these rules, and when I fail to follow them I find myself being more prone to injury.

What are some ways you’ve found to avoid injury?


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