I Quit BJJ….For 1 Day

This isn't easy for me to write.

Everyone says that on your journey to black belt you will probably experience at least one major injury. This is the injury that will not only test your body, but will test your spirit. I know that sounds a bit grandiose but I'm realizing how true it is.

Two months ago I had my knee go out during a pretty routine exchange. I had just stood up to avoid my instructor's dangerous butterfly guard when my knee popped 3 times during a knee reap. That's when the opponent, in this case from the ground, whips their leg over yours in order to collapses you back to the ground. This is countered either by removing their reaping leg, spinning out in the direction of their reap, or pointing your knee out and standing strong to avoid the inevitable heel hook opportunity. Well I opted for the 3rd option. Feeling good about the strength of my body, I had been doing P90X and have never felt stronger, I stood my ground and drove my knee outward while driving my foot to the ground insuring he couldn't get a hold of my heel to get the tap, the submission. There was so much force just from the reap that when he was able to rock my foot off the ground my knee (the weakest part of the structure) twisted and I felt 3 pops as I fell to the ground. He immediately released the hold and came to my aid while the sound of my knee made those around us stop their own grappling to see what happened. I felt a cold shiver fill me and strangely a hot flash too as I knew something major had just happened. I leapt up to me feet pretending to be okay, actually I didn't feel much pain since my adrenaline was pumping so much, but I could feel the frightening sensation of instability in my right knee as I struggled to stay upright. I walked it off and my instructor laid on the mat trying to shake off the unsettling feeling of actually feeling the full effectiveness of BJJ. I tried to ease his mind by making light of the situation but inside I was trembling thinking of all the rehab and time off I was now facing.

I spent the next 2 months in a sort of depressed haze filling my time and energy drawing and watching Gilmore girls. Don't laugh, it's surprisingly comforting in times of distress. 😉 Well after such a long time off I was out of shape but my knee seemed about ready for at least a little bit of testing. So I went to class only to have to pop again during a routine back step during open gym. My knee swelled up and I had to sit out the rest of class. I was devastated and imagined all the time off was for nothing. I had messed my knee up and now I was back to square one. How long would it really take to be back to 100%? Six months said another instructor who had the same injury. I went home crushed realizing that it's probably better if I just quit BJJ for now. Who's was I kidding, I had felt my passion for the art dwindling and now more than ever was the best time for me to hang up the gi. So with a heavy heart, thinking of the 11 years I put into it, I emailed my instructors to tell them the news.

I spent the next day in a strange place. For the first time in 11 years I didn't have the pressure of BJJ on my mind. It's like this constant pull making you want to eat healthy, stay fit and flexible, and thinking of new ways to improve your game. All that was left was this palpable void. Yes for the first time in over a decade I was faced with the same void that haunts us all. I'm going to write a whole piece on 'the void' but for now I'll just say I realized this void is responsible for either destroying or inspiring each and every person. I could see why some people, in order to deal with this void, turn to alcohol, drugs, consumption, Crossfit. 😉 Just kidding my Crossfit friends..kind of. In my case it was Jiu Jitsu. Without it I lacked a major driving force in my life. Besides family, friends, students, guitar, yoga, art, and Buffy, Jiu Jitsu/martial arts has been one of my main pillars, one of my main reasons for being alive. Call it cowardice, but I found myself running back to the 'gentle art.' I decided to fight through this damn knee injury and continue my journey to black belt.

To my surprise, after making this decision I woke to find that my knee was already feeling much better. I didn't take three steps back but perhaps only one or two. With a good knee brace and this new determination I believe I can get back to the mats sooner than later. Thanks for reading everyone and thanks to my instructors and girlfriend for putting up with my drama. 😉 -Mike

Advertisements

Wim Hof Method and BJJ

Hey everyone. Just wanted to share an experiement I’m doing that has to do with breathing and Jiu Jitsu. I discovered a guy named Wim Hof on a few podcasts who is known for extraordinary human feats that range from mainaining normal body temperature while in extreme cold to scaling Mt. Everest shirtless. He has created a method that he claims can help you strengthen yourself from the inside by improving many of your internal systems including respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine, etc. Because I have a mild case of asthma and have always suffered in BJJ with limited lung capacity, I have decided to give his method a try. My goal is to keep updating this post week-by-week and let you know how it has affected my game and my life.  (His online method is a 10-week course.)

Week 1: I think I’ve taken in more O2 in the last few days than I have in years. With my body fully oxygenated I took part in an hour long grappling rotation in open gym. Normally I would have taken at least 3 hits off my inhaler but I only had to use it once and I think that was partially out of habit. (Also, my need to use my inhaler outside of BJJ has disappeard since starting his exercises.) Instead of thinking about my next move I simply made sure I was taking consistent breaths breaking it down as: Breathing comes first, Jiu Jitsu follows. I felt strangely great after the session and felt almost giddy during my cold shower that followed, (cold showers are another requirement of the method). By giddy I mean there was a sensation in my body as though all my cells were alive and dancing, for the lack of a better term. I began to notice my breathing throughout the day taking special note of when I’d hold my breath or went a long period of time without inhaling. Seems like it happens when I’m thinking or straining physically. This made a lot of sense why I tend to gass out pretty quickly when in bad positions in BJJ. As an experiement I tried holding my breath while doing burpees and noticed that I could only do about 3 before panic set in. If that happens that quickly with burpees, imagine how fast you’ll tire out when some 200 pound guy is sitting on your chest choking you. Then I repeated the burpees while taking full breaths and I was able to go forever.

This all comes at a great time because my next review class is coming up this Sunday. It’s a way for you to advance belt rank at my school and requires you to roll 15 minutes with 3 or 4 opponents pretty much back-to-back. My biggest fear is exhaustion and/or giving up a tap just to take a break, so I’m changing my goal this time. My goal is to go there to practicing breathing. Everything else   is secondary. If a guy has my back it’s secondary to keeping my air flowing; If I have someone in a triangle choke it doesn’t matter as much as if I’m holding my breath or not. With this focus I know that whether I win or lose I’ll be in total control of my inner systems while doing one of the hardest martial arts in the world. Everything else will seem easy in comparison. 😉 Well I’m off to suck some air. See ya!

Week 2: (Update)

10/28/15 Had another open gym marathon roll today and did pretty well. Probably had about 5 five-minute matches, tapped once to an armbar and tapped my opponents four times mostly with heel hooks and one crazy collar choke. The big news is that I didn’t use my inhaler even once this time. I felt the urge at one point but pushed through. Seems the Wim Hof method is beginning to pay off at least with my lungs. Still trying to get used to these cold showers though. 

Yoga and Jiu Jitsu (a true story)

Why do I do this? I mean, I know I should doing certain things everyday for my health but I always seem to find a way to slack off. Take yoga for example. Every time I get in the habit of yoga-ing it up (daily or every other) I feel amazing. Why don’t I keep doing it??? Do I like pain?

Two months ago I started going to BJJ class way more often than before. I wanted to be in top shape before my next review class. In doing so I completely cut off all yoga routines because I figured I was getting enough exercise on the mats. Plus, we do a stretching routine before each class so I thought that would be enough. It wasn’t. My body began shutting down. Parts of me would begin hurting and before it could heal, something else would flare up. So I had two sore shoulders, a stiff neck, a tightness in my lower back, an injured wrist, and to top it off my foot started aching for no reason.

Out of pure desperation I got out the old yoga mat and did a short warmup routine. I knew I was out of yoga shape after only two poses, one of which is having your feet apart standing, dropping one hand to the mat and turning your head to face the ceiling. The areas that were injured all seemed to flare up at all at once but not in an intolerable way. I could control the threshold by how much I twisted. I instantly knew this was the answer. After a few more moves I was done. The whole routine is an hour and a half but today I was just happy getting through the warmup portion. Anyhow, I ended up not needing any Advil to get through the day for the first time in a while. I did my teaching and as soon as I got home I did the warmup routine again for good measure. It’s safe to say that my soreness went away about 50% in just doing those two short sessions.

Now that I’m back on the path I foresee much more BJJ training in my future and hopefully pain free (or close to it) times in between classes and matches. If you think doing BJJ means always being sore, please consider giving yoga a try before you decided to either live with pain or quit. See ya! or um..Namaste???

IMG_0045.JPG