I wanted to share what it was like going back to BJJ after nearly a 6 month break off the mats. I herniated a disc in my back in October 2011, and since then I’ve had physical therapy, started lifting weights, but have continued watching BJJ, and going to class.

For me to go back to BJJ my test for myself was – could I do burpees? I tried one in January, and my back said NO. I knew that the amount of spine twisting and bending that went into BJJ was much greater than burpees – so if I had that much pain from one burpee, no way. Now I’ve been able to do many more, so I was ready.

I showed up 30 minutes early and got warmed up. I let the instructor know what was going on, so I wouldn’t be participating in everything (he is my coach’s instructor, not my regular coach). I tried out a few warmups I’d been watching over the last few months and I felt very awkward, uncoordinated, and unsteady.

We did some fun hopping games where you hopped on one leg and tried to pull your partner off balance. I discovered that these hurt my back a bit, as I wasn’t terribly used to a lot of hopping, nor people pulling on me. So after this I took a break and stretched and got more warmed up as they did takedowns.

No takedowns for me. That’ll hold true for a long time. I watched and recorded, then when they drilled I just stretched and did other things.

For the ground drills, I partnered with a brown belt. This is where I really felt the time away. Yes, I’d been watching BJJ, but for nearly 6 months I have not had to physically imitate something I’d seen. My short term memory and translating that into my body was definitely rusty. Thankfully, my partner was very helpful.

We then did some positional sparring. In this, one person had side control, the other person was trying to get out. This yielded uneven results with me – some of the actions felt natural – like getting into a hip escape position with my hip fully under me. Other things felt awkward. Holding down my partner – I wasn’t quite putting leverage in the right place, or my base was a bit off – those things were difficult.

I had a much easier time with the brown belt partner, but that’s obviously because he was definitely giving me lots of room to work, which was much appreciated. I had a harder time with my white belt partners – mostly the initial engagement – passing the guard. I just hadn’t done it in so long.

The sparring that was most helpful was with the purple from my school. His name is Rick, and so every time we spar I say “Yeah, I just got RICK ROLLED” hahahaha. Anyway, we rolled after class and went a much longer time. During this point I remember getting caught up in his legs and feeling a little overwhelmed by what to do, so I closed my eyes and tried to pay attention to where I was feeling pressure, where I was feeling unsteady, and made my move with my eyes closed, because what I HAD been doing hadn’t been working. At one point I think he was in side control and I pushed on his face to push him away from me – I asked about it later. I know that forearm in the throat is a bit douchy in the gym, but apparently just pushing gently and firmly on the face is fine.

My final partner was a 15 year old white belt girl. She has 4 legs and rotates like she’s on a freaking merry go round. Okay – that’s what it seems like. Anyway, we were rolling and all of a sudden my muscles went NOPE! DONE! WE’RE ON STRIKE. She just had normal side control and I said “Tap, I’m done” and just laid there. Absolutely all energy gone.

What’s changed

Poor little piggy who stayed home - he wasn't quite tough enough for BJJ.

First thing I noticed is that my toes are no longer tough. I have mat burn on my feet something fierce. Open skin on the little piggie that stayed home, where apparently the top layer of skin just came off. I have a raw patch on top of my feet.

Ouch! I ended up with painful bruises on my hips and shoulders and knees – I have had ZERO pressure on them for the past 6 months, and since they’re key pivot points, they took the brunt of my weight and my partner’s weight and I can really feel it today!

Muscle aches! The one that surprised me the most – my feet are KILLING me – from holding my feet at a 90 degree angle for hooking. Also, my neck is sore from holding up my head while laying down. My hands are also achy from using more grip strength. And, of course, there’s the overall just ache from using my muscles in different ways.


Some things I feel I did better than before

  1. I was paying attention to grip fighting – even the purple noticed it. I wasn’t necessarily better at it, but I was more conscientious about it.
  2. Getting my hip totally under me. I didn’t used to do that and it meant I was easier to shove down.
  3. Jackknifing my body. This happened several times – I would consciously move so that my bottom leg was jackknifed near my body and the top leg was making base. My natural inclination is to do the opposite.
  4. The Homer Simpson spin.
  5. Crawling my hand up. My base positioning was off, but when I had my partner in  mount, I used a technique I saw in Emily Kwok’s video and I walked my hand up, slowly moving their arm up. It was very cool, until my partner exploited my weak base.

What I didn’t feel
Shame, embarrassment, or intimidation. I was injured and am coming back. Anyone who can’t understand that is an ass.

I’m terribly glad to be back, and this morning, no back pain – just muscle fatigue and bruising.