As a child, I’ve always been very accident-prone. In fact, I think it was a fairly known fact that my family thought I was a bit of a klutz. Even growing up, I think my propensity towards ‘individual’ sports such as competitive swimming and paddling helped to solidify those theories.
I’ve got poor hand-eye coordination when it comes to spherical objects – seriously. Please don’t throw a ball at me. I’m not sure what I would do. I might duck, but I also might try some sort of heroic dive to catch it (and thus, hurt myself by falling.)
Anyway, training in BJJ is one of those things that I figured it would be fairly difficult for me to injure myself. I mean, I’m surrounded by padded mats all the time, right? Naturally, my theory proved me wrong. Aside from the recurring mat burn on my knees, feet and ‘knuckles of my toes’, I’ve managed to re-aggravate some old injuries. I sprained my left ankle as a teenager playing basketball and now I re-sprain the same ankle every single summer – sometimes more than once per summer season. Last week I stumbled during the warmup and tweaked that same ankle.
I’ve also got an old knee injury that hurt after training last week. I’ve been wearing my knee brace when I can, but also working on some leg exercises to strengthen my knees. I’ve got a poor family history of bad knees and knee replacement surgeries. I’d like to keep my biological knees for as long as possible.
I’m trying to be deliberate with my movements, and take things slow during training while I work on the fundamentals. Rolling with R has really helped with this. The goal during our sessions is for me to be aware of body positioning and move with purpose. They tend to be really slow, and when I move too quickly I tend to injure myself.
For example, I asked R to roll with me after a noon class at our gym last week and he patiently obliged. We started off well, and fresh from my class, I was practicing the stack pass with fairly good memory. He started to come forward and attack me with a kimura to my left arm and for some odd reason I panicked and brought my head to my left shoulder to ‘protect’ it. Which would have been fine except that as R leaned back to complete the submission, momentum pulled me forward and I tried to roll forward. I heard this sickening string of cracks and felt my neck pulled in an awkward direction. I rolled out and brought my hands up to protect my neck (R had thankfully let go when I cried out at that point). My neck felt weird, with a twinge of pain but thankfully it was nothing serious. I know he felt horrible since he was visiting my gym, and he thought that he hurt me. I think I was more startled by the sound and the awkward feeling rather than the roll itself. I convinced him I was fine and we kept going. Which ended up being a great segue into how to protect your arm from the kimura.
In the end, I’m learning to protect my body instinctively, but also work harder so that I’m not so prone to injury in the future. This is also why one of my goals this year is to be able to do a handstand (without the assistance of a wall or another person!) I believe that being able to do a handstand will help me with body awareness and balance which then becomes practical when I rely on my body to defend and position itself naturally.