People have many reasons for not wanting to train jiu-jitsu. Most of these reasons are central to personal finance, time, and fear. Not having money to train is obviously an issue, but for those of us die-hards, we know it’s just an excuse. We can always cut costs in other areas of life to afford a membership. Not having time is just as bogus since there are ways to make time for the things that are important. If jiu-jitsu is important, you will make the time to train.
Fear of injury, however, is a tricky excuse because most fears are irrational, yet paralyzing. Human beings have evolved with an instinct to keep us alive, and fear is part of that evolutionary equation. Therefore, it is natural for us to fear the unknown and jiu-jitsu, for most people is largely unknown.
Injury in jiu-jitsu is one of the biggest reasons people have for avoiding the gentle art. In my experience, I have only had one injury that has rendered me disabled in seven years of training. A few years ago, I broke some ribs and the pain was excruciating. I was, however, back on the mats just two days later teaching using other students as demonstrators while I explained techniques and they moved through them. At the time, I was also waiting tables. This has been the most debilitating injury I’ve had thus far and I was still able to work, albeit painfully. Maybe I have been lucky.
As an instructor, I have also heard from hundreds of people who do not want to train jiu-jitsu because they are afraid of getting hurt. Furthermore, after experiencing even the most minor of injuries, people will quit jiu-jitsu because if they get hurt again, they suggest their lives will be ruined. This is unfortunate because injuries can happen in every walk of life, from driving to work to getting off the couch. Jiu-jitsu injuries are fewer and further between than most people think and rarely as catastrophic. Sure, jiu-jitsu is physical, but if you train correctly, you can mitigate the chances of getting injured.
Here are some ways to reduce the risk of injury in jiu-jitsu.
First and foremost, you should be tapping early and often. If you wait until something hurts, you are going to be setting yourself up for some type of injury. Do not wait for anything to hurt because more often than not, it will be too late.
Be mindful of who you train with.
Choose your training partners wisely. Some people don’t care about your injury. Even after communicating with them, they remain oblivious. These are usually the people that say something like “Let’s go light” and continue the sparring match as if they are training for a world championship. Choose people to train with that you know will take care of your injury. Higher ranked students are usually the best options for this because more often than not, they no longer have anything to prove
Communicate with your training partners and instructor.
Let your training partners know you are injured. Do not have too much pride and lose the ego. If you are indeed injured, your job should be to take care of the injury and that means making sure people are aware of your injuries. Also, talk to your instructor about your concerns so that they can make sure you’re partnered up with the right people.
This one seems to be the hardest for most injured athletes to follow. If you are injured, your number one job is to rehabilitate the injury. If your injury is well enough to train, then train but do it lightly. This can be a big problem especially for white belts that have not developed the skills to protect themselves on the mats. Their only recourse is to use strength and power and this will exacerbate the injury more often than not. Just train light or skip out on the sparring sessions completely until you are 100%.
Now that we’ve discussed the ways to reduce your odds of injury, we can discuss how to get around the fear of getting hurt.
Fear is often a lack of preparation for a supposed “worst case scenario”. We don’t fear situations that we are in total control of. Instead, we fear situations that we may not be able to manage in the event of the worst possible case. If we are afraid of getting injured, we can prepare our bodies by doing “prehab”. Foam rolling, resistance band work on small, stabilizer muscles, as well as stretching are all preventative measures we can take to reduce the risk of injury as well as overcome any fears of potentially getting hurt.
Negative thinking typically begets negative outcomes. If you are concerned all the time with the possibility of negative events, you will more likely experience negative results. Instead, think positively. Instead of thinking “What if I get hurt?” think: “What do I stand to gain from training jiu-jitsu?” If you ask most jiu-jitsu practitioners, no one is ever sorry they began training. Even people that quit will tell you they had a remarkable experience and learned a ton of positive concepts and skills.
Seek professional help
Fear of reinjury, in the event that you are recovering from a preexisting injury, coincides quite often with mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. In the event that you are experiencing any maladaptive thoughts, seek a mental health professional or reach out to friends. Fear of reinjury and mood disorders go hand-in-hand and can spiral downward if they are not taken care of quickly. If you are hurt, your mental health is just as important as your physical health.