Ultimately we will all experience injury to some degree in our Jiu-jitsu journey but it does not have to define us. We cannot treat our bodies as machines that can just have parts replaced, we often analogise our physical function to that of cars but the more we treat them in this detached way the more broken down we will be. The integrated nature of our brain and body means we have to take a more mindful approach to improving how we heal.
Major injuries stop you in your tracks! Surgery, painkillers, anti-inflammatories, swelling, crutches, knee brace, physio, rehab, therabands, ice and NO Jiu-jitsu!
The greatest pain of all. Missing the total brain and body stimulation that comes from connecting with our BJJ community.
In the face of this adversity there is a huge amount of learning to be had.
Injury humbles us all, before it we were trying to master rolling upside down, attempting Berrim-Bolos, now we can’t sit, stand or walk without pain.
How do we climb the injury mountain and get to the summit? If you haven’t had to do this climb before it can seem very daunting. You are going to need some help, a map, guides and a swag of tools. (Not all are actual physical tools)
Keeping your eyes and ears open on this journey will enable you to gain massive insight into how your body and mind work together giving hidden benefits to a painful and challenging time in your life. Here are some to consider…
PLANNING: In order to be successful on the journey back to the mats you need a plan mapped out for the necessary steps to take day by day, week by week to achieve your goal. In order to do this you will first need to get a map from someone who has covered this terrain before and knows it well. Once you have navigated this course and a few others like it you will better understand what works best for you and in time your ability to recognise potential pit falls and missteps. Experience will enable you to course correct and avoid having to back track.
TEAM WORK: You can’t do it Alone! You need trusted help to get you where you are trying to go. This will take the form of guides and sherpas: Physiotherapist, Myo-therapist, Osteopaths, Exercise physiologists, strength coaches and Personal trainers. They will keep you on the right path and do the heavy lifting of plotting the course in a territory unknown to you. They supply you with vital information about what lies ahead and exactly what needs to get done today. The more closely you work with your guides the more you will learn, eventually you will be able to function with less assistance and your communication can become more effective= saving time and energy.
ANATOMY: The ever, changing landscape of the body is a complicated place to navigate. Once you have learnt the basic lay of the land; muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones. You then have to learn how they work together, how long they take to heal and what you can do when things don’t go according to plan.Your individual anatomy, sensitivity to pain and speed of recovery depend on many factors. This very individual process you must learn for yourself, improving your knowledge of the physical self.So if you have to take this journey again but perhaps along a different path of the body you are quicker to navigate the challenges and arrive at health and vitality faster.
SKILLS: The skills you have built since you were a toddler, walking, balancing, squatting, jumping and running may at times be taken from you due to injury. The process of rehabilitation is the paced and incremental increase in difficulty placed upon you daily, weekly and monthly as you return to healthy, full range of motion and pain free FREEDOM!This process of skill acquisition and retraining definitely teaches us to appreciate the simple things that we take for granted. When putting on your own shoes is a real fight because bulged discs won’t let you bend over or putting on a shirt is impossible because torn rotator cuff muscles mean you cant lift the weight of your own arm! Just doing life becomes very challenging.
As you climb injury mountain back to the peak of your health and fitness, you will gradually experience improvements with less assistance and greater resistance. The movements that were too painful 3 months ago are now possible, a return to a sense of normal function is closer. Then before you know it you have reclaimed those lost skills (balancing, walking, sitting up, squatting) and have added a couple of new ones, resulting in you coming back from injury better than before.
PATIENCE: The process of navigating injury takes time. Progress is not a straight line back to the top, you gain some range of motion – so you use it… next minute you’ve got 3 days of swelling and immobility. You hit a new threshold of being pain free so you go for a run, then you can’t walk the next day. This method of trial and error is key to knowing your current levels of tolerance. As you test and re-test you will get frustrated, impatience is one of our truly human flaws. There is nothing like chronic pain to inflame the ego. Regardless of your emotional response to the situation forgive yourself and accept it will take whatever it takes. Once you have resolved to reclaim your function no matter what it takes you can take some pressure and urgency off yourself. This process is about letting yourself heal- not making yourself heal. That takes time and patience.
PERSISTENCE: Once you have locked in your determination to do this thing there is no turning back, the best way to approach rehab is like a young child trying to learn to walk. Standing and falling multiple times is required and should be expected. Unfortunately this is not something we recall easily as it was just expect of us to learn to walk and then keep up. The consistency with which you show up and do the work everyday: stretches, physio, massage, rehab, stitches, referred pain, foam rolling. The Persistence that is learnt from overcoming injury is a great asset that can be applied to lesser challenges that may come there after.
GRATITUDE: My body works again!!! That feeling of physical freedom when you can finally run around with your kids, bend and touch your toes without fear, lift a box easily and ultimately get back to Jiu-jitsu and roll with your friends. Nothing can remind us better, the preciousness that is our physical health and function than having it taken from us. When you experience serious illness or injury all you want is to have your normal healthy function back. It shouldn’t have to take a catastrophic event for us to take this Grateful perspective but a lesson learned the hard way is retained.We need to protect the “asset”. Injury prevention only takes a small investment of time and energy, doing strength and mobility work on a regular basis to avoid a major derailment or subsequently decrease it’s severity.
If you are injured and you are reading this take heart we have all been there and you are not alone. There is a lot to be gained from the experience of injury and the process of rehab. You will return to the mats soon enough- a better, stronger person. Seek help, advice and support- Bulletproof for BJJ is here when you are ready to take the next step after rehab, we got you.