In 2016 it will be twenty years in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for me. When I think back to when I first started in 1996 things were very different. MMA was called NHB and nobody knew what BJJ was back then. We would regularly reap the knee (mostly on purpose) we would heel-hook with the gi, use the can-opener to open the guard, slam from the guard if that didn’t work and often times we would ‘open hand strike to the head and closed hand to the body’ when we rolled and it was impossible to get anyone to tap! Some would call those the, “good ole days”. I’m not saying they were good or bad… it’s just what it was (well it was kind of cool). Now that I am a handful of years away from 50 my body often reminds me of the hard work I’ve put it through over the past 34 plus years of martial arts. I’ve definitely learned some valuable lessons along the way. So here are my top five tips I wish someone would’ve told me when I started BJJ!
- When you’re Trapped, TAP! When I was coming up there are definitely a few times I wish I had tapped. But it’s not just the ‘not tapping’ that causes injury, it’s the late taps repeatedly that stress your joints. In addition, it never serves you to fight an arm-bar in training to ultimately get tapped or worse injured. Plus, if you waste two minutes fighting an arm-bar…that’s two minutes of wasted time you could have been rolling!
- Train moves to position not to tap! When you drill submissions you don’t want to lock out the joint repeatedly during practice. This repeated jarring over time will cause damage to your joints. If you feel like your partner is locking out your joints be sure to tell them to ease up on the pressure. Otherwise, find a more suitable partner.
- Everyone should compete at least once! The lessons you will learn and the improvements you will make mentally and physically on your way to competing are absolutely invaluable. I feel like the point of martial arts is to test your skills under stressful conditions. A tournament is the safest and best way to do it. If you are doubting yourself or are unsure about competing, then spend some time addressing those challenges within yourself. By competing you will face these ‘fears’ and, regardless of the outcome, come away a better person!
- Stretch – Stretch & STRETCH! As a young martial artist I was terrible at stretching. It was boring and I wanted to get on with the ‘real training’! Almost every time I have been injured during an open mat it was when I didn’t warm-up properly. Now as a 40+ grappler I have a hard and fast rule: No rolling without a five minute warm-up! I really hold myself accountable to this rule. In addition, I like to spend some time every single day stretching. It only requires two things: a little bit of space and a little bit of discipline. You literally have to just sit on the floor and start stretching!
- Have a Recovery Plan! Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a very hard martial art at any age but it’s particularly hard for anyone over 40. For post training I like to do a bunch of different things depending on how sore I am, injury cycles, etc. I like to ice my joints daily as it feels good and gives me relief. In addition, I have found that daily epsom salt baths are great for soreness and comfort. For joint health I use Reaction Nutritions Relflex Joint Formula.
Foam rolling – I have several foam rollers and I use them every day for pain relief, stretching, etc. Epitome Fitness has a great roller at a great price!
Pain relief – For soreness I use ‘Biofreeze’ products. They have a spray that’s perfect for hard to reach areas and is great for sore joints before, during and after training!
Hydration – I use Reaction Nutritions Amino Action product. It tastes really good (I recommend the Glacier Blue – I drink it during open mats and after). I can’t speak highly enough of this product!
“Theracane” Back Massager – I found a cheaper knock off version at target for $25. These things are absolutely amazing for getting out knots!
The most important advice I can offer is to never give up! I know everyone says to never quit… It sort of goes without saying that you shouldn’t quit. But people have challenges and for whatever reason they often deem those challenges to big and they give up. I’ve seen a lot of faces come and go over the years and really at the end of it all it really is true, the best black belt is the white belt who never quits!