How to Return to BJJ After a Long Break

How to Return to BJJ After a Long Break

Sometimes life gets in the way of BJJ. Accidents and injuries will knock you out of training. When you are sidelined with an injury, illness, or even a blessing like a new baby or a job promotion, it’s easy to go stir crazy. What’s the secret to a smooth return? Here’s my advice for getting you back on the mats ASAP:

Set realistic expectations. Taking two weeks off to go on spring break is different than being laid out for six months after ACL surgery. Don’t expect to jump right back in at your previous intensity level if that’s unrealistic. Take it easy at first and only push yourself when it makes sense, not because you’re impatient or because someone else pushes you past your limit.

Start prepping your body for your return. Find ways to stay in shape and keep your body as healthy as you can even if you can’t train BJJ. Being sidelined with an injury can restrict what you can do, but even a simple joint mobility routine will help your eventual comeback. Even just walking, swimming, or other casual whole body activities can help. I’m a proponent of Functional Range Conditioning and its daily CAR’s routine, which is explained in this series of articles.

Pace yourself and take it slow-ish. Take little breaks during hard warm-ups if they stray into bootcamp territory. You should be able to make it through drilling if you take it easy, but you may need to bow out during king of the mat drills or sparring. A good instructor will understand your limitations and not push too hard too soon or shame you for knowing your temporary limitations.

Pick your partners wisely and turn down those iffy rolls. You may feel guilty saying no to those ultra heavyweights and wrestlers-turned-white belts because your warrior spirit tells you to take on all challengers. Usually when we say “leave your ego at the door”, we mean you should be willing to go with those people who challenge you, even if that means tapping. Here it means turning down those people who you are not safe to train with yet.

Don’t cave to peer pressure to go past your limits. Even with innocent intentions, your training partners are likely to push you to train harder than you are ready for. In their enthusiasm to see you on the mats again, they may keep asking you to roll or bug you about sitting out a round, trying to get you to join in. You can appreciate their eagerness without letting it push you to making poor decisions that can set you back again.

Sit it out if you can’t control who you get paired with. Sometimes a big group game like king of the mat has you going against anyone in the room at random. You may be better off sitting these out if you don’t want to mess with the flow of the class by trying to dodge certain partners.

Know when to push yourself again. With all this talk about knowing your limits and pacing yourself, I need to add that you should eventually break those temporary boundaries once it’s been long enough to recover. Staying safe and healthy in training is important, but you don’t want to start making too many excuses for yourself as a coping mechanism for avoiding those rolls that will challenge your ego more than your body.

Injuries are an unfortunate part of BJJ and any high contact sport. Learning how to make a smooth recovery takes practice and patience. By following this advice, I hope your next recovery is a faster, smoother ride.