Words: Callum Medcraft @callummedcraft
After over nine years of training, it finally happened. I suffered my first extensive injury lay off, which left me genuinely worried for my sanity.
Like any jiu jitsu practitioner I’ve had my fair share of minor injuries: a bloody nose, hyper-extended limbs (I did eventually learn to tap), sprained fingers and cauliflower ears. As you’ll all know, these relatively minor injuries do little in the way of keeping you away from training; they’re more of an inconvenience if anything else. As fate would have it, what eventually kept me away from the mats for my first extensive lay off was a fall during judo practice.
Having fallen awkwardly during judo randori and experiencing a sharp pain in my lower back, I stumbled through the rest of the session feeling like I was constantly winded. After peeing blood for 36 hours, being admitted to hospital for two days, getting diagnosed with renal trauma and ordered away from training for six weeks, I started to think of other ways to amuse myself.
Our resident BJJ Doctor, Braulio Estima, has addressed the issue of developing your BJJ away from actual training in a back issue of Jiu Jitsu Style, so I dug through my back issues and sought out his words of wisdom. Though I still felt depressed by the prospect of no rolling or any physical exertion for such a long time, I was also excited by the prospect of watching, reading and reflecting on as much BJJ content as I could get my hands on.
I decided to use my new found spare time to research some of my favourite athletes and their standout techniques in an attempt to head back to the mats with plenty of new material to work on. It was not only great fun watching highlights, reading blogs and searching for new content, but it also helped me think about the sort of grappler I aspire to be. Instead of coming home from a training session reflecting on the obvious areas I needed to work on, watching and reading content helped me think more about the additional areas I’d LIKE to work on.
Obviously we need to be mindful of addressing the flaws that live sparring unearths, but I think it can be equally important to maintain an idea of the skills you wish to learn. For example, though I’m a brown belt my attacking leglock game is still very limited, but I don’t often come away from a training session reflecting on this in my game because I can work around it. However, after watching and reading content from the likes of Eddie Cummings and Dean Lister, I have a new-found desire to look at this whole new area of potential development.
At the time of writing I’m due back to training in the next few days for the first time since the injury, and I can honestly say this has turned into a really positive experience. My hunger for development has grown greater than ever and – if it is possible – I think I’m in love with the gentle art even more. If you’re facing a lengthy layoff from the mats, my advice would be to use this as a time to reflect on your journey so far, figure out where you want to grow as a grappler and work hard to keep jiu jitsu in your life even when you can’t practise it.