How to Train BJJ Safely and NOT Get Hurt

While there are any number of reasons that can lead someone to training combat sports, underneath every rational there is one common and somewhat irrational idea. Below is a fictional transcript of an honest student orientation that addresses the motivations behind training:

Hello, perspective combat sport student. The head coach is going to be out today, so I’m just running an open mat. We have a list with the class schedule and price breakdowns, but those are very negotiable. I know a lot of places have extended contracts but we only want you to pay for the time you use. Some loaner gear is available in the locker room until you can buy your own. And, oh, before I forget: you will never be cool.

By some culturally ingrained system of false advertising, you walked into this gym under the impression that the activities practiced here will make you cool. This could not be further from the truth. Even as I tell you why, you will be thinking “Sure, I won’t be cool for the first six months, or even the first year. But I’ll work really hard, get good at it and one day, I’ll be cool.”

No. Never in your life. No matter how hard you work or how good you get. That feeling of pride when you first start to understand this stuff will be immediately followed by the realization of exactly how easy the more experienced students are going on you. And that’s only if no one decides to try and crush your spirit, outright.

When you finally get to the point where you’re not completely outclassed by everyone else here, which will take much longer than you think, you’ll be made to run a gauntlet where you face all of us without rest. These beatings will teach valuable lessons about endurance and how fun it is to hurt you since you got cocky.

At the end the gauntlet, you’ll be facing the 16 year old girl who just started training. On the off chance that you still have the strength left to defend yourself, you will be yelled at for not taking it easy on someone smaller and less experienced.

Expect her to use a lot of illegal moves, because it’s cute when she does it.

 And God forbid you are one of the few with the talent and dedication to become one of the real big dogs. As your reputation spreads, supposedly new students will be coming out of the wood work and treating every sparring session with you like it’s an Olympic trial. That one day you were still recovering from the flu but decided to practice anyway will go down in history for a giant kid in a TapouT shirt as the day he found out you weren’t so tough. Knowing when to train BJJ and avoid getting hurt is important, finding a quality rashguard can help with that. 

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Sure, maybe you won’t be cool in the gym. But fire forges steel and you’ll be a shimmering mountain of cool compared to soft, normal people.

This is also fantasy.

First, your body is going to be wracked with injury. When you are not using the energy you save up specifically for training, you will be as strong and mobile as a newborn deer. So stop picturing yourself busting up three muggers, right now.

And don’t even think about showing up to the doctor’s office, acting all badass with your battle scars. While you writhe in pain there is a woman, age 90, calmly knitting while she has the same procedure done without so much as a local anesthetic. You think you’re hard? She worked at a laundry supporting 10 sisters during the Great Depression.

I’m going to stop you before you even start on the next thought. Because this will not make you cool with the ladies. No matter how toned your muscles or hideous your ears, you will cease to be a tower of masculinity the first time you order a grilled chicken Caesar salad with the dressing on the side. Your ass has to make weight.

You could go the other way. Challenge a young woman’s false dichotomy between physical culture and intellectualism that she got from 80’s movies with talk of Plato and how classical society used combat sports to maintain individual achievement in an increasingly collective world. I know I’ve done this one, and your diet will be your undoing just the same. The uncontrollable farting caused by all that protein and fiber you intake just doesn’t jive with a debonair persona.

I am also forced to remind you that, while you may or may not use steroids, any level competition success will cause people to say that you do.

No, you will never be cool. The only reason why any of us come back to this gym is because we find it fun. I can’t explain why. If you turn out to be one of us poor souls with this compulsion to train, you can go in the back and get changed. Welcome to how you’ll be spending your free time.


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