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How To Come Back To Jiu-Jitsu
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How To Come Back To Jiu-Jitsu

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So you took some time off and now you are looking to come back and start training again.  Or maybe you took some time off and now you are looking for the motivation to go back?

Personally, I feel like taking more than a week off, you will notice a difference, more than a month, even more, and so on.  For me, it was a little over 4 months where I was not able to train at all. For medical reasons I was not able to get on the mats and train at all during this time.  Let me tell you, at first, it’s super frustrating, it’s all I would think about, how much I missed training, how much I wanted to get back to it, and how much I didn’t want to end up another statistic that threw in the towel and gave up on it.  

As time passed it became easier to deal with not training.  I started to see how people could quit. I would say around the 2 month mark I started to question if Jiu Jitsu was something I wanted to continue doing.  It became easier and easier as time went on to find excuses and justifications as to why I did not want or need to go back to training. The reality was while this was happening, I also noticed a lack of discipline in other areas of my life, like my diet and strength training.  Not only was I not training, but I worked out much less and ate basically whatever I wanted, or whatever was around without any regard for how it would fuel, or more likely in these cases, not fuel my body.  

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I also realized during my time off how much Jiu Jitsu did for me mentally.  My brain seemed fuller and not organized in the slightest. I found myself having a much shorter temper in everyday situations with work, or parenting, and even though I knew it was happening, there was nothing I could do about it.   This is when I realized that those few hours a week I spent on the mats where doing so much more for me than I had realized or could even begin to explain. We hear it all the time, and likely have even said it to a few people, Jiu Jitsu changes your life, but until this, I didn’t have a deep understanding of exactly what that meant.

Understand that you must come back.  As soon as you are able you need to get back on the mats.  The longer you are away, the greater the risk of you never returning is.  If you must take time away, and I do me must, as in being forced into it by a medical professional, limit the time away as much as possible.

Let’s go over a few things you can do while you are away that can help you stay connected to the academy, and Jiu Jitsu as a whole.  First, if you are allowed to be in the academy just not allowed to train, for example your condition that is taking you off the mats is not contagious, then you should go to the classes you normally went to and observe.  If this is your situation, you shouldn’t make any changes in your training schedule and still attend the classes that you normally would, taking notes in your Jiu Jitsu Journal and simply not training if that was the direction from the doctor.  Understand that, “back off” or “take it easy for a while” are not the same as the doctor telling you that you are not allowed to train. Make sure you are clear on the restrictions. 

If you are not allowed in the academy because you are contagious you obviously can not apply the advice above.  Some examples of times you need to stay away is when you have pneumonia, the flu, or maybe a skin fungus like ringworm or an infection even. In these situations, it can be really hard to stay positive and excited about returning to training.  To help, let me tell you what I did during the 4 months I was out and unable to train that helped to keep me engaged and excited to return.  

First and foremost, don’t cancel your membership, stay loyal and keep paying during the time you are off.  Seeing this come out of your bank account when you can’t utilize it will be frustrating, but well worth it.  The thing is, most people spend every dime they make, therefore, as soon as you cancel you will likely find something else to spend that money on which will lead to the excuse of “I can’t afford to train” down the road, so one more time, do not cancel the membership.  

Next, dedicate some time to studying techniques you struggle with, and also the ones that are foundational to your game.  For me, I spent some time studying leg locks and watching a lot of Gordon Ryan and John Danaher video instructionals. I also spent a lot of time on passing the guard.  The timing worked out for me because Gordon had just released his video instructional titled “Systematically attacking the guard” which breaks down in extreme detail each and every step to pass the opponent’s guard, regardless of what they are doing.  There are tons of options out there when looking for quality video instruction, it’s up to you to decide what technique, and what instructor fits your style the best.  

The bottom line here is to be effective with the time you have and don’t lose sight of how much you enjoy Jiu Jitsu.  Do as much as you can based on the situation to stay as close as you can to your academy, your Jiu Jitsu family and your Jiu Jitsu game.  As you look back over your Jiu Jitsu career you will be able to see the changes you have made in your life for the better, the times Jiu Jitsu supported more than just your growth in the sport, but your growth as a person.  Jiu Jitsu tends to always be whatever we need it to be, don’t let that slip away. Don’t allow some time off the mats to pull you into being an average person that ultimately ends up depressed and unhealthy both physically and mentally.  

If you are looking to maximize your time off the mats, as you should be, this may be a good time to either start a strength training program, or turn your current program up to the next level.  Check out “Getting Swole as a Grappler” – by Gordon Ryan for his pro tips, tricks, diet and exercise notes that can help you dial in your strength training program and take your fitness to the next level.  Get to work and come back stronger than ever. 

It may also be a good idea to help maintain the muscle memory you have worked so hard to build for you to look at doing some solo drills if possible.  “Solo and Partner Grappling Drills for Rapid Movement” – by Tom DeBlass is a great way to get access to a ton of high quality drills so that you can pick and choose which ones best fit your abilities. 

Finally, to oversimplify this, just commit to yourself that you won’t quit, you won’t allow yourself to be a statistic and then just ride the waves of whatever life threw at you until you are able to get back on the mats.  As soon as you are allowed back on the mats, you should be back on the mats, in the meantime, use the tools above to get you through any down time and help mitigate skill loss.

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