"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
It seems to be a fundamental truth: if you are going to achieve a high level of technical competency in Jiu Jitsu, you will accrue injuries along the way. Though this is inevitable, we are not completely at the mercy of chance.
From a pragmatic approach, there is much that we can do to minimize injuries. A good balance of corrective work involving “anti-jiu jitsu” (extension-based) movements seems to alleviate most overuse injuries, and coupling stretches with foam rolling goes a long way to ward off pain and tightness.
While we are injured, assuming we are not debilitated, we can use these injuries as opportunities for education.
Countless times over the last decade, I have trained with only 3 limbs due to injury and found that I progressed faster than when I was healthy. In less drastic cases, minor tweaks force us to play guard on alternative hips or pass toward a different direction, ensuring we develop a more well-rounded game.
Our ability to continually grow through injuries often depends more on our resourcefulness than the injuries themselves.
Inevitably, however, a time will come when an injury puts you on the sidelines. Those couple weeks can feel like months, and if we are not disciplined, we easily return to the mat too soon and injure ourselves further. It’s hard to stay away from something you love so dearly.
I have found that I act most responsibly when I am aware of the time horizon of the game I am playing.
If my goal is immediate progress, I can train all day, every day, ignoring injuries as I acquire as much skill as possible, but the price for such negligence is a sacrifice of future health and training sessions.
My time horizon is my entire life. I want to train and teach Jiu Jitsu for the next 40-50 years, and understanding the length of the game I am playing gives me the maturity to make responsible decisions today.
We tend to greatly devalue the power of incremental gains. We want it all and we want it now. But all great feats are achieved through decades of purposeful struggle.
We have not wings, we cannot soar;
But we have feet to scale and climb
By slow degrees, by more and more,
The cloudy summits of our time. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
By Slow Degrees. When you try to master Jiu Jitsu today, you will be met with great dissatisfaction. But if you recognize the time horizon of the game you are playing, you become free from such myopic thinking.
I know that I want to peak in half a century. I don’t need to train through terrible injuries or lose my mind trying to understand everything today. I just need to make steady, gradual gains, getting a little bit better each day as I slowly accumulate the education which will lead to my most actualized self.
Many injuries can be prevented with proper corrective work. Most injuries can be worked around by playing Jiu Jitsu in alternative ways. But for those which can’t, remember the time horizon of the game you are playing.
A week or two of rest is nothing in comparison to decades of purposeful practice. Viewed in this context, we see time off for what it really is: a part of the training itself. We need to learn to view a lack of rest with the same discernment as we currently view a lack of training.
In the long run, it is just as important.