Ask The Wise Grappler:What to Expect after Training Layoff from Knee Surgery?

May 9, 2012

“Paul, I hope you can give an OG some advice. I tore my knee up (new ACL and badly torn meniscus) last September and will soon be released to return to the mats. I’m nervous about what I will be able to do and how it will change my game. Any ideas you have would be greatly appreciated?”

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TWG: I had to deal with the exact same situation after my knee surgery and know exactly what issues you’re going to encounter with your return to the mat:

1. You’re going to have a huge mental block that’s waiting to see if your new knee is going to break once you return to training. Your mind will be fixated on every ounce of contact made with your leg, things that happen regularly training that you didn’t even pay attention to before the surgery. You’ll focus on it less and less once you get used to being back on the mat and see that the knee is ok.

2. When you return back to the mat, you’re going to favor and overprotect that knee for a long time (or at least until you feel comfortable enough to stop thinking about during training). You’ll be very sensitive to any contact or twisting that happens to your knee during training, whether it’s a natural movement or not. If the doctor did a good job repairing the knee, it should hold up fine in
practice as long as you take it easy.

3. Work into the warm-ups and technical drills slowly. DO NOT SPAR WITH ANYONE FOR A FEW WEEKS, regardless of how tempting it will be! Many grapplers get caught up in this trap because their enthusiasm and getting stuck on how good they were before surgery causes them to jump back too quickly, running the risk of damaging what was fixed during surgery.

4. If you been given an athletic knee brace from your doctor, use it at all times while training until you feel comfortable that you can actually train without it. If they didn’t give you one, go and buy a good brace to wear during training. That brace will provide you extra protection, both physically and mentally.

5. You have to select your partners very carefully while you’re on the road back to recovery. This will probably be another OG or senior student that understands that you’re coming back from an injury. Make sure that everyone that you drill techniques with understands that you are recovering from surgery and that light drilling is all you’re going to do for the first month.

6. Expect that some students in your class will view your return after a layoff as an opportunity to smash an easy target during sparring matches. If you were performing better than some of your teammates prior to surgery, some will be tempted to show you how much they’ve “improved” since you’ve been gone. It happened to me after my knee surgery when one of my junior classmates made a point to tap me my first week back on the mat. Not only did he rough me up after being off the mat for months, he told me “no one needs to know what just happened” after the match, right before he went to the locker room to tell another teammate what he had done.

7. Make sure to ice your knee down after each class for the first few weeks, especially if you feel any soreness after training.

If you take it slow with getting back on the mat, listen to your knee when it tells you to slow down or stop, and avoid guys that’ll try to kneebar your newly reconstructed knee, you should be fine.


6 BJJ Mat Tips to Improve Your Closed Guard Attacks! (Part 2)

June 6, 2011

In Part 1 of the “6 BJJ Mat Tips” article, I covered Mat Tips 1-3 (Don’t allow your opponent to get their grips, Keep your opponents head in front of their hips, and how to get into your opponent’s
“blind spot” by using angled attacks).

In Part 2, I will cover the remaining Mat Tips (#4-6) for improving your closed guard attacks:

Tip #4: Your hands must always make contact with your opponent at all times while in your guard – Far too often during a match, a grappler will establish a control grip on his opponent, then release it due to fatigue or frustration from not knowing what to do from that position. Once you break contact with your opponent and put your hands somewhere that’s not helping you during the match (e.g. behind the back of your head), you make it easier for your opponent to maintain the posture they need to eventually pass your guard.

Tip #5: Break your opponent’s base by “Driving Their Head” – Everyone has heard at one time or another to pull your opponent’s head down to your chest, but the reason why you’re doing it isn’t
always clear. Usually, grapplers pull their opponents forward to break their posture, but once you pull them forward, their immediate reaction will be to sit back up, with no benefit from pulling them down. But what if you steered your opponent’s head by turning it like you’d turn a car steering wheel? You would force them to break their own base while trying to free their head from your grip, making it easier to sweep them on one side while creating space on the other side to escape from underneath them.

Tip #6: Transition from closed to open guard BEFORE your opponent’s breaks your guard AND attack immediately – Most grapplers have heard that you shouldn’t wait until your guard is broken before you move to the next position (which tends to be open guard). Unfortunately, many grapplers transition too slowly from closed to open guard. That immediate closed-to-open guard transition should allow you to stay one step ahead of your opponent, making it easier to counter their attacks since they’re still concentrating on opening your legs to pass your guard.

And there you have the “6 BJJ Mat Tip to Improve Your Closed Guard Attacks.” Make sure that you master these tips and don’t get discouraged if your guard gets passed while trying to perfect
these tactics. With patience and persistence, you’ll have one of the most feared closed guard attacks at your academy.


The Wise Grappler BJJ QoTD (6/1/11)

June 1, 2011

“Wise people are foolish if they cannot adapt to foolish people.” (Michel Eyquem de Montaigne)


The Wise Grappler QoTD (1/31/11)

February 1, 2011

“Success comes from good judgment; good judgment comes from experience; experience comes from bad judgment.” (Unknown)


BJJ Training Lows (Low #1 – Training Progression: Seeing Immediate Gains, Then Slow Improvement)

January 21, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of 2010

January 1, 2011

Well, it’s the last day of 2010 and I’m sitting here thinking about the past year and all the “highs and lows” that I’ve encountered.

And as I reflect back on the year, I can’t help but to put things into three buckets:  the good, the bad and the ugly.

The “good” bucket consists of all my successes for the year. The things that I tried and everything turned out in my favor.  I guess it should go without saying this is my favorite bucket and the one that made me a happy wise grappler.

The “bad” bucket consisted of all the things I took a chance on and didn’t work out in my favor.  Although I would’ve wished for a happier ending for the items in this bucket, I gained a lot of wisdom and experience that I’ll carry over into 2011.

Finally, the “ugly” bucket consists of the missed opportunities that came my way because I either procrastinated or chose to do something that added little or no value to me  (e.g. making a decision to play “Madden 10” instead of writing an e-newsletter article).  I always knew those things probably took away more value than they added, in spite of the lame excuses I created to justify doing it.

However, with 2010 hours away from being a memory, I can say the benefits from the “good” and “bad” buckets made me a better person in the long run.

As for the “ugly” bucket, I’ll talk about how I’m going to deal with them in the next article.

So, have fun celebrating the New Year and best wishes for 2011! 🙂


Two Questions Every Grappler Must Answer Before 2010 is History

December 24, 2010

After a good workout in “The Lab” last week, a few OGs were looking
through their training notes and talking about all the things they
learned over the past year.

That’s a good thing.

But when I asked two simple questions, they had no clue about what
I’d just asked them.

And that was a bad thing.

I simply asked them if they…

1. Achieved the training goals they set out to accomplish for 2010?
2. If they hadn’t, what was their plan to achieve those goals
before the year was over?

And since they “just didn’t get it”, I had to explain the point I
was trying to make.

The first question focused on the fact that most people have a
basic understanding of setting goals. But since very few grapplers
talk about creating a plan to track goal progression, most goals
never make it beyond the sheet of paper they’re written on and go
unaccomplished. That’s the reason why they had goals at the end of
the year they didn’t get around to achieving,prepared to just
“roll them over” into 2011.

The second question focused on the idea of maximizing the last days
of the year to achieve outstanding goals instead of just “waiting
until next year” to achieve them. You can wait until next year to
do whatever you promised to do this year, but those last days you
let get away “this year” will be lost forever, regardless of that
foolish idea that you can just “work harder” to make it up later.

Once I explained it that way, they spent less time focusing on the
goals they achieved and more time on the work left to be done
before the year ended.

How about you? Have you reviewed your training goals and
discovered that you still have some work left to be done before
2010 is history?