5 Common Sense Ways To Avoid Injury In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

As I get “older” I see more and more people posting about injuries from BJJ. I also see more video clips where injuries occur. Maybe it’s just that they were always there and social media is simply displaying them more readily. Either way there is something that can be done.

Here are 5 tips that can save your body from more injuries:

1. Don’t train Jiu Jitsu if you are injured.

I had a person the other day say they wanted to roll with me. They were feeling adrenaline. However I knew they were injured or banged up and had promised themselves not to roll. I said “bro, you don’t have to roll with me. It’s okay to take the day off.”

They listened to me. The thing is if you can train today but can’t train for a few weeks because you are injured, why make it worse and have to eventually get surgery or something.

There’s nothing fun about being in the hospital. It can get expensive and cost you time and mobility throughout your life.

If you are injured take time off.

When my back acts up at all it’s immediately 3 days off. And because I am consistent I still train more than most others. But I bet I’d be in surgery otherwise.

2. Be aware of your surroundings.

If groups are bumping into one another and the mats are slippery you may want to really be on guard. You may not want to spar from the feet if there is little space. You may want to let all the groups know you are around and you may want to talk with your partner about the circumstances. Don’t assume all is safe. It takes one “oh fuck” scream to ruin a training session. Don’t be that person screaming.

3. Don’t hold on with a death grip.

This goes not just for your hands but legs or anything else you use superman strength with. If you are using all your muscles and joints all the time to hold onto people you will likely not be training very long without an injury. I promise you this.

Be smooth and relaxed with your movements. There are times to turn it on and use your strength but be in a controlled spot where you and your opponent both understand the gravity of the intensity. But holding on just doesn’t hurt the smaller joints it often affects the larger joints. People hold onto peoples pant legs with their arms when the legs are clearly stronger. Yes, there are moments where this is effective and correct. Be sure and understand how to grip and when to grip and when to let go if you plan to use a whole lot of strength against stronger body parts.

4. Outside injuries form lifting.

Man oh man, I can’t tell you how many people are not on the mat because of stuff they did off the mat.

They may even blame it on grappling but in reality it is their lifting injury that has been exacerbated combined with their grappling.

My shoulder sometimes feels “f*cked up”. There really isn’t one time it occurred during grappling that I recall. But the combination of defending kimuras with strength has not helped (when I should have tapped out instead) and doing bench presses when younger didn’t help.

Bench pressing often will screw a person’s shoulders up. So you have to be sure you are doing them to not injure yourself or not at all. This assessment is more experienced based than anything.

Also, another important exercise where I see people straining their backs is the deadlift. It’s not that deadlifts are bad. It’s just that they are complicated to get correct (for most of us). And people want to go up in weight and often do not notice when they are trying for a PR they sacrifice their form and get messed up. They may not feel it the same day but they will feel it later. They grapple and get in upside down positions and eventually will have lower back pains that can cause greater harm. Lifting is fine, but no one is perfect so going balls to the wall as they say is not always recommended. Now if you just plan on training for a few years then be my guest and do what you wish. But I am talking about training for the long haul and being able to chase your kids around without a walker when you are 45.

Feel me?

5. Training mentality.

I trained with a person the other day. They were going so light it seemed like they were honestly f*cking with me. But they weren’t. They were super technical and it made me realize even though I try and be technical I can do a better job.

Any position you get hurt in or feel pain you must re-evaluate what occurred. If I get caught in a kimura I don’t need stronger shoulders necessarily. I need either better defense or to be aware of my arms in the first place to protect my body.

It was Carley Gracie who once said if you want to train until you are 80 then start now.

After 30 years on a mat I agree.

An ounce of prevention is surely worth a pound of cure.


Ken Primola

Author of BJJ intelligence