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.


Do You Suffer From “Rank Overload” After Your BJJ Belt Promotion?

September 21, 2011

Imagine that you’ve been training BJJ for a few months and have been enjoying everything that’s involved with the training: the technique, the camaraderie, the friendly mat rivalries that you’ve developed with your training partners, the locker room trash-talking, and the fact that there are no expectations or pressure to perform.

Then one day, your instructor rewards you with your belt promotion to the next rank. You got your belt and should be happy, right?

Wrong!

For many grapplers, the first thing that crosses their minds is denial because they don’t think they’re good enough yet for the promotion.

The next thing that crosses their minds are the people they think are better than them that didn’t get promoted and how they’re going to feel. And it doesn’t help as they walk towards the locker room to hear some people whispering about how they shouldn’t have gotten promoted before someone else did. A moment that should be celebrated has now become a moment filled with anxiety and fear.

Does that sound familiar to you? That’s what I call “rank overload.”

Rank overload is an overwhelming pressure to prove yourself worthy of the belt promotion to every classmate that you were promoted ahead of that didn’t agree with your promotion; along with making you feel that you have to prove yourself worthy to be on the new belt line with the “old-timers” that have to welcome you into their group.

Rank overload can force a grappler to change their attitude from enjoying grappling to hating it because of the incredible amount of pressure that they feel to prove themselves to everyone.

Grapplers that suffer from rank overload almost seem apologetic for the fact that they’ve been promoted and expect to be constantly reminded that they not worthy of the belt, especially when competing in tournaments, visiting other schools to train, or when visiting grapplers show up at their school and outperform them.

Rank overload can happens for a number of reasons:

– The student is promoted too soon because the instructor wants to fill his school quickly with senior students

– Students are given social promotions based on the fact they help out the instructor in non-grappling areas and are well-liked

– Instructors are trying to appeal to a certain demographic among prospective students that may be lacking in his school (e.g. adults over 50 and women)

– The student is technically proficient, but lacks self-confidence, has a horrible mat attitude, and wants to stay at a rank where expectations are low and they can exist as mediocre grapplers without being challenged

For whatever reason that it happens, the grappler is put into a pressure cooker (sometimes unknowingly by the instructor, sometimes self-induced).

If the grappler is to survive mentally, they must act quickly to eliminate this mental state before it steals the joy of the art.

If the grappler feels like they’re not ready for the belt, they should be the first person at the gym and the last one to leave…EVERY TRAINING DAY POSSIBLE…trying to become the grappler they think they should be.

Hiding at home from training or agreeing with others that you don’t deserve it won’t help you. The best way to get out of the rank overload hole is to work you way out of it… through constant drilling and mental toughness.

If you follow that approach, you’ll realize that those “haters” that didn’t think you deserve the promotion will have slowly disappeared because you’re kicking their butts all over the mat!

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OG Earns His BJJ Black Belt at Age 52

February 7, 2011
Last week, I wrote about an OG (Harvey Hensley) that received his BJJ Black Belt at the young age of 52.

I did a quick interview with him after attending a BJJ Seminar that his instructor (and my “younger big bro”) Jared Weiner hosted at his school up in Philly (BJJ United) last December.

If you’ve been “training just to be training” and never thought about earning YOUR black belt, OG Harvey will make you reconsider it with his accomplishment.

Feel free to email, share or post the blog link wherever you think an OG can benefit from it and enjoy!

Dedicated to improving your mat experience!

Paul Greenhill (aka The Wise Grappler)


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

January 21, 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?


Are You Training with an Endpoint in Mind… or Just Killing Time?

October 30, 2010

A few days ago, I was cleaning up my office and stumbled across
some pictures that I hadn’t seen in a while. They were pics of me
training back in the day as a white belt and the early days at
LIMAA.

And once I started looking at those pics, I couldn’t help but
notice all those guys that I trained with back then that kinda got
lost along the way on my grappling journey.  Guys that I thought
were more likely to reach black belt than me.

Unfortunately, 90 percent of those guys never even made it to blue
belt.

The thing that made me shake my head in disappointment was the fact
that many of those guys were either REALLY good or had great
potential.

And as I looked through those pictures, I saw guys that were
bigger, stronger, meaner, more technically proficient, and way more
mentally tougher than I ever could be.

But for some unknown reason, they just got off the road to black
belt.

And as I put those pictures back in the box, I thought about how we
never really talked about becoming black belts back in the day.
Most of us thought it was such a far away goal to reach that we
just trained hard and ignored it.

But now I’m starting to wonder since we never talked about or
thought of ourselves as future black belts if that contributed to
many of those guys (and gals) falling off along the grappling
journey.  Maybe just training for the sake of training, without an
end goal in mind, made it easier for many of them to lose interest
and quit.

What about your training?  Are you training with and end goal in
mind (e.g. belt rank, coaching certification, etc.) or just
training because it’s fun and gets you out of the hose a few nights
a week?

Think about that question before you answer it.  It may make the
difference as to whether you’ll still be on the mat five years from
now or talking about what you could have been had you stuck with it.


10 Common BJJ Mat Training Lows and How to Avoid Them (Part 1)

October 10, 2010

A few weeks ago, a grappler sent me an email where he talked about his frustration on the mat.

The grappler (who I’ll call Grappler X) has been training for about a year, experienced what I call “mat lows” and wanted to know if anyone else had these problems.

I assured him that he wasn’t the only BJJer experiencing these
issues and figured I’d write a list of “10 Common Mat Lows” that
every grappler experiences at some point during their grappling
journey.

I’m going to break these 10 Mat Lows down into parts so I can discuss each one in detail:

1. Progressing fast in beginning, then slowing down – when you first start training, EVERY grappler experiences that feeling of picking up things quickly because everything’s new.  And when everything’s new, you’re going from someone who knows nothing to being proficient.  Once you start becoming familiar with the techniques, the proficiency is still happening, it’s just not as noticeable like when you were new to the mat.

2.  Unable to submit anyone during sparring – once grapplers start sparring, it’s usually difficult to submit or apply clean technique against an opponent because you’re spending too much time “thinking” about what to do instead of “reacting” to the situation at hand. The ability to “move without thinking” will only come with time, hard work and patience, NOT any sooner than that.

3. Watching classmates improve faster than you – this is something that grapplers deal with at every level, whether it’s based on friendly competition between teammates or just hating on someone that’s better than you.  And since everyone learns and progresses at different paces, it’s only natural to look at the guy/gal next to you and wonder why it seems easy for them and hard for you.

In Part Two, I’ll talk about “Mat Lows” 4-7 dealing with overtraining, mat burnout, and injury.