Rick Baker is a white belt, and we know white belts are people too. In this instalment of ‘White Belt Fever’, Rick talks us through dealing with his first big injury.
It happened, my first actual injury from BJJ. It almost feels like a rite of passage, a milestone, a really rubbish one. It happened about four weeks ago. I was on a tear, training often, training hard and my nutrition was pretty good (you’ve gotta enjoy a beer or two still, right?) all in prep for a local competition.
A couple of us train BJJ at my place of work, including the business owner, who decided to mat out one of the smaller upstairs rooms in the building. Obviously, we all reeled at the opportunity and set up a regular Tuesday session to drill and roll. With the competition days away, we decided to get some rolls in, and we went hard. I mean, really hard, like the ADCC finals hard. Up to this point I’d been training 6 times a week so thought I’d be able to keep the pace up. After some back and forth, my training partner got a kimura grip on my right arm, I attempted to roll out, he followed with me, I tried to stiff arm my way out of it for a split second, felt a pop, yelped like a dog who’s tail had been stood on and immediately knew something was pretty wrong. I tried to put on a brave face, held my arm and sat out the next round. After barely being able to move my arm I decided to head to the hospital. Somewhere I hadn’t needed to go to since I was born, my records stated. The prognosis: hairline fracture in my right elbow. First question out of my mouth: when can I go back to Jiu-Jitsu. Doctors response: What is Jiu-Jitsu? I knew I was screwed.
I headed home, determined to not let it get me down. I messaged my coach with the prognosis and that I’m out of the competition. He was obviously disappointed, which only added to my own melancholy. I gave myself one day to mope. I ate rubbish and complained a lot. My other half was thrilled, as you can imagine.
The next day I gave up moaning as I refused to turn into one of the many, many training partners or people I’ve bumped into who no longer train. Who’s eyes go dull and lifeless when you see them in the street, as they know you still do the one thing that used to make them feel alive.
For the first few days I was determined to keep my cardio, strength and flexibility. I figured, my legs still work, so I started doing body weight squats like a maniac, stretching, doing bits of yoga and flexibility drills so that I felt I was keeping up with my training partners while they were in the gym grinding. As you can imagine, this got really boring really quickly. Over time, my diet slipped, I forget to do my squats (because working out to look good is nowhere near as exciting as working out to choke someone unconscious). The road seemed long, especially when I couldn’t pick up my gear bag with my injured arm, let alone train.
I’ve been doing Jiu-Jitsu for a couple of years now and it has become a big part of my life, so, what would I become without it? Jiu-Jitsu helped bring out the best in me and taught me life lessons quite like no other. At my worst, I’m an erratic, absent minded, irritable nightmare. At my best, I can be patient, calm, collected and focused – all things that are made much more accessible to our conscious mind by doing Jiu-Jitsu.
I decided to use all of the things that Jiu-Jitsu has helped me with mentally and applied them to my situation. Using patience, focus and an intelligent approach to resting my arm, I managed to be a bit more chill about my injury, see progress in my arms mobility and therefore see a clear path back to the mats.
Four weeks later, after some swimming and a bit of back and forth in my own mind, I decided it was time to make my grand return. I picked a Gi session, as I figured that would enable me to defend and slow the potential attacks down a bit more than No-Gi. I stepped onto the mats, and it felt like coming home. I put my Gi on, and took everything in my stride. I pre-warned my very understanding training partners, drilled some cool techniques and rolled defensively and precariously. I managed to come out unscathed, and I even got a stripe for my troubles. The lesson? Patience. If you can be patient, you can do Jiu-Jitsu forever, and that’s the goal, right?
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