Shoulder injury

Shoulder injury is one of those real bug bears of any athlete, and especially in BJJ. An injured shoulder, even minor really can put you out for some time. Many of us even stop training on minor injuries as we know that they can be the first warning sign of badness to come. Anyway, today we will cover assessing injury, train and treat, medication and when to see the doctor.

Sometimes shoulder injuries are really obvious with immediate pain after an event like an over extended shoulder lock ect. This type of injury we wont really cover as they are a no brainer and should be seen asap by your doc. The injuries Im talking about are those ones that sneak up on you the next morning after a session, or that become progressively worse over time.

A good way to work out where this injury is originating from is by extending your arms all the way backwards, forwards and over your head. You can also hold your arms out to the side and roll your palms up and down. There are occasions rarely, that you cant pinpoint the pain, or feel it in the actual shoulder. This can occasionaly be known as ‘referred pain’ and usually comes from your neck and into your brachial plexus http://geekymedics.com/brachial-plexus/

Once you happy the pain is likely not too serious, its time for physiotherapy and medication. Two of my favorite first up treatments are ball throwing and open handed swimming. Usually with a cricket ball I will play catch with a willing assisatant. Kids are great as they never get bored!! throw from as many angles as you can, underhand, overhand, sideways, soft and medium. Try not to overhand throw hard. Try this for 30 – 45 mins a day. Add to this swimming with fins on and open handed swimming. You can still maintain fitness and add to shoulder strength at extension with minimal loading. Do short sessions with all strokes except butterfly.

Add to this some simple analgesia such as non steroidal anti-inflammatorys such as diclofenac or ibuprofen. Check of course these are medictions your not allergic too, or cant take for other reasons.

http://www.nps.org.au/conditions/nervous-system-problems/pain/for-individuals/medicines-treatments-for-pain/nsaids_pain_relievers

We use these not just so your not in pain, but to improve range of movement, increase training volume and reduce inflammation. You can use these with panadol as directed on the packets.

Try doing this and still rolling, but of course you must inform your partner that you have an injury. And of course, tap or call stop if in pain!! If it remains sore, have a week off the mats. If you return and the pain is not improving pop into your doctor and discuss with them what you have done already. Physios are also a great port of call.

Practice makes perfect…or does it?

What a great day back on the mats. Spent some time rolling  with Jamie, one of my mentors, competitor and friend . Certainly no quater given.  A man who lives by the adage that you will be tested each and every time you step on the mat.

Spent not a great deal of time on the mats this year. Sadly life interrupted my BJJ. Though I was told early on in my journey that a day a week for life beats a bunch of days a week for a short time. BJJ has always been my refuge from the world. A place om the mats with people I trust and admire. I live for the roll, I have no favorite positions, submissions or competitors. I dont care for win, loose or draw. I feel safe from intentional injury and I know my friends will push me with their best. I am submitted often but never  feel like I have lost. I admire my warrior friends and their courage to get on the mat, day after day. Sweating and bleeding in the pursuit of a higher goal. I look forward to a year of more time on the mat.

Keto Boosted

I have tested all sorts of things in the persuit of improving my Jiu Jitsu. Whether it’s exercise, diet, or tracking performance, I try to test these things for myself, so I know what works for me.

I have gone months on a strict Ketogenic diet, and managed to get my blood ketones up to 3.5 mmol/L, well into the nutritional ketosis range.

There are product coming on the market that claim to boost blood ketones, even if you are not on a strict Ketogenic diet. One I like the look of is KetoSports KetoCaNa. I purchase some, and once it arrived, I wanted to test how effective the claims were, so I broke out my Precision Xtra to measure blood ketones. The Ketone Test Strips are pretty pricey at about $5 per strip.

I have been eating a diet that is not strictly ketogenic, but has more fat than the average diet. A couple of hours after my last meal, I took a base reading, had one recommended dose of KetoCaNa, then took a reading at one hour, and again at two hours. During that time I was just sitting in my office working, with no physical exertion.

What were the results:

  • Base: 0.3 mmol/L
  • 1 hour: 1.3 mmol/L
  • 2 hour: 0.8 mmol/L

So it looks like it made a significant difference. The next step is to try it prior to training and see the impact it has on performance, if any. I’m planning to test it a number of times before coming to any conclusion.

The other product I have pre-ordered is EAS Myoplex Ketogenic Powder which looks like it might be an easy option to hit all the Keto macro-nutrients.

Some good Keto resources:

The Belt Is Not the Progression

It seems that as people come to Jiu Jitsu, it is common to focus first on getting stripes and then on getting to the next belt. People become frustrated, and feel they are being held back if they are not progressing at a rate to their satisfaction.

I remember early on in my Jiu Jitsu career, getting a new belt carried  so much weight and gravity, that there was no rush to get to the next belt, in fact it was quite the opposite. There were two blue belts in the state, that I was aware of, so to be graded as a blue belt back then seemed to carry the weight of being graded as a black belt today.

Your progress on the mat is not dictated by the belt you wear. If anything, the belt is retrospective to the achievement you have already made. Ever day you get on the mat, you are making progress, even if it doesn’t feel like it some times. Even if you feel you are going backwards, if you are on the mat, then you are working through this difficult stage, and you will get to a stage where you feel and see the progress you have made.

To me progress in Jiu Jitsu feels like an undulating line on a gradual incline. Over a short period of time, it may feel like there is little or no progress, or even that you have gone backwards. If you look at the line over a longer period of time there is significant progression. I feel my game goes through stages of flux, where I start to add something to my game, it can feel like there are a lot of disconnected components, but as I start to assimilate these new skills, connections build between all of these components and they “gel” into a strongly connected cohesive game, which relates to the rise and fall of the undulating line.

So worry not, about the belt you wear. Worry less about the belt other students wear. This is your journey, it will happen at your pace, dependent on your skills, aptitude, dedication and available time to be on the mat. Concern yourself only with consistency and enjoying your time on the mats. These things will bring you progression, and in good time, the significant weight of a new belt to wear and represent.

Cohesive Coaching

While speaking to the coaching team the other day, I had to formalise my ideas on how working with other coaches should be done, to show respect and cohesion between different coaches with different styles and experience.

Having coached with the other black belts on this blog, we have an informal system of working together that works well for us. This is my view on the process and etiquette.

Primacy

First and foremost, one coach is responsible for the class. It is their class, and what they say goes. When it comes to the plan for the class, they will set this. If there is remuneration involved, this is the coach being paid for the class. They are the lead on everything in this class, including the responsibility for everyone’s safety.

Note that this may not necessarily be the highest graded coach in Jiu Jitsu, but even if it is a blue belt running a class with black belt students, it is still their class to run and control as they see fit, and they accord the associated respect.

On the same note, if a coach is rostered on to teach a class, the class is theirs to teach, and it should not be taken over by a higher graded coach who happens to be there, unless the rostered coach wants them to.

Collaboration

If the coach running the class has the time and inclination in the class, they may invite others to share their own ideas on a position, or a solution to the problem at hand.  They may not do this if they have time constraints, or have a particular path they are building to, and don’t want to be distracted on a tangent. Note that they are inviting this input, not having someone in the class saying “That’s wrong”, or “That’s not how I do it”, or detailing technique without prompting.

A prime example of collaboration is a workshop style class with multiple coaches. There will be a theme and one coach will lead the class, but typically at the conclusion of each technique, they may invite others to contribute their variations on the technique, or alternate solutions to the problem at hand.

Delegation

A typical example of delegation, is having a small number of students in the class without a basic skill, and the lead coach may delegate another coach to take them aside to teach them the skill independent of the other students, so as to not hold the students with the skill back.

In the case of delegation, the lead coach has given the task to another coach so they can fully focus on the other students. If the lead coach has the trust in the other coach to delegate the task to the coach, they should allow them to teach their own way, and not to manage the other coaches process of teaching.

Uninvited Input

Some times when I’m in a class run by the other coaches, and there is a point or technique that I think is particularly relevant, but the coach is not inviting input, I will wait until a quiet period when the class is working on technique, and then quietly put my idea to the lead coach. If they reject my idea, then it is not for me to push to have it accepted, it is up to me to accept their decision and let them run their class in their own manner. Conversely, I have also been asked to mention the point or to demonstrate the technique at the next opportunity.

Corrections

If I see another coach doing something I think needs correction or feedback, I would typically wait until after the class to go through in detail what I thought the issues were and discuss it with the coach. The exception to this, would be if what I saw was unsafe for the participants, in this case I would work to address the issue immediately.

One exception I can think of to this is coaching the coach. When students start their coaching career, they need feedback to grow and improve as a coach. The junior coach should have a plan for the class that we would discuss in advance, then we would typically talk through particular corrections or feedback in a quiet period, or after the class.

SA (Situational Awareness), personal safety, planning, paranoia and the mine field of socially acceptable conflict preparedness Part 2…

Condition Yellow: Relaxed Awareness

So yellow, should be our general day to day level of awareness, in this condition we are being cognisant of what is going on around us, we are relaxed and alerts we are always aware and prepared to escalate to Orange as required.

It is the state that we have accepted that a threat may exist somewhere, but we aren’t sure where, we have no specific point of focus, but we are alert and aware to any possibility, we are ready but not actively preparing, we are in our passive mode.

As we proceed through the day we pay attention to the oncoming person,we see the group of people conversing in a tight group at the petrol station, we are aware of the man in the carpark as we walk to our car. We see the late model Holden, sitting at the side of the road, with a man in the driver’s seat…. You get the idea

But most of all some of our awareness is dedicated outwards, not focused entirely on our internal thoughts, problems, stresses, distractions… some may be, but we retain a modicum of awareness externally, we are making mental notes and we recongise and accept that something sinister may happen today, but we don’t know what it is.

Condition Orange: Focused Awareness

So, if Yellow is our passive SA, the transition to Orange is an active ping.

We have encountered something that has triggered our attention, we have decided that some threat warrants further focus and our SA narrows. While we still want to maintain peripheral awareness, we have identified a potential threat, we now have a specific point of focus…

For example, we are in a bottle shop and a man in one of the aisles slips his hands into his pockets…. We have noticed this and focus more on this man and his actions… we have just switched from yellow to orange. Or as we leave the shopping centre walking towards our car we notice a man leaning on a street light close to our vehicle, possibly in a positing where we will have to walk in close proximity to him, same, yellow to orange.

This transition doesn’t have to be a person, as we walk down a street on a dark night we notice an alleyway running off to the right up ahead, we move further to the left to afford better angular view down the alley and allow more distance between us and the mouth… condition orange, our focus is now directed at something that deserves more attention.

Determining the intent.

It is Orange where we will start to take some evasive action to determine the intent of our potential threat. We cross the road to see what they do, we move to a different location in the bar and observe. If driving we make an unscheduled turn, or possible turn without indicating, all of which are to observe the reaction.

No reaction, they continue on their merry way, orange back to yellow… some response that further heightens our suspicion… possible orange to red.

Contingencies and our trigger

It is also Orange that we expose our mental trigger and commence to make contingency plans. Thinks of it like one of those switches with the red flip guard on them, as we commence our evasive maneuvers, or our intent tests, we are also flipping the guard off the switch, but in this case the switch is our kinetic trigger the point where we act, swiftly, with determination and without hesitation.

We are also formulating tactical contingencies, “If he does x , then I can do Y”. I have these tactical options open to me, the battlespace affords me these opportunities, I can use that furniture as a barrier, I can use that improvised weapon, I have those escape routes, etc.

If we never end up flipping the switch or engaging the trigger, because the threat dissipates, you then deescalate to yellow.

Remember, most predators want to have the element of surprise.

Your being aware of them and them realising that suddenly makes you a harder target and they may seek easier prey.

Part 3, condition Red….

SA (Situational Awareness), personal safety, planning, paranoia and the mine field of socially acceptable conflict preparedness

I’m going off topic today and sliding into another field, I am going to provide some diatribe on an exceptionally important skill, an attribute that people should improve, an ability whose importance is ever increasing and one that for the most part is severely lacking.. that of Situational Awareness, or SA form here on in.

SA is simply the knowledge and understanding we have of what is going on around us in relation to the circumstances and surroundings (our situation), and the application of this knowledge to the level of focus we have and our perception of this situation or fact (awareness) with the potential for generating an appropriate plan.

A bit long winded but in essence being ‘switched on’ to our surroundings.

For those that have ready Grossman, you will be familiar with the concept of sheep, wolves and sheepdogs.

I am not going to go into this concept here but briefly the majority of todays society and the sheep… those that plod along in daily life, living in blissful ignorance of what is going on around them and the potential threats that exist.

Then we have the wolves, that element of society that have embraced the predator’s mindset to achieve their goals, they don’t play by the rules that we count on to keep us safe, they don’t adhere to the general concepts of ethics and therefore seem more ruthless by our standards… One of the most dangerous things we can do if dealing with the wolves is to apply our social filter, our personal code or the societal rulebook, to these encounters… sorry digressions…

Finally we have the sheepdogs, now the most obvious sheepdogs are those in society that have made the conscious decision and sacrifice to defend the sheep, the Solider, sailors, Police Officers etc. those how allow “People to sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf” to quote Mr. Orwell.

These Sheepdogs have combined their training, ethics and mental toughness to create a combat mindset, they are aware of the importance of SA and practice it daily as an aspect of their employment.

They generally have the ability to scale their focus and attention up and down depending on the perceived level of threat, as a result of enhance SA and this is where we are going with this blog… sorry it took a while to get there…

Now I think that anyone willing to “the right thing” is a sheepdog and what we are doing here is describing how we develop our SA and apply it.

Unfortunately, the sheep don’t see SA as something necessary and what we perceive on a daily basis can be regarded by some, as being paranoid or being on edge, but that’s ok, they can afford this lack of focus because others in society have it, so we accept our role, smile and move on.

The system we are going to discuss is the colour code system.
There is much speculation about where this originated, but in essence we have 4 levels of awareness and each corresponds to a colour. Each colour in turn triggers the level of focus, planning and preparation we apply to the situation.

The coulours are:

WHITE: blissful ignorance, unaware, switched off, powered down…

YELLOW: Relaxed Alertness, chilled but aware, switched on

Orange: Focused Alertness, aware and ready, more switched on!

RED: Action ready, here we go! bring it on…

So as I move through my day, week etc., my condition changes, based on what I perceive through my SA. There is little outward sign, nothing dramatic, but I am constantly analyzing my surroundings and adjusting.

Factors that get applied are everything from the location, to the time of day, if you are travelling it changes, if you are with family it can change, the factors are endless and something for you to think about as home work.

Condition White: Blissful Ignorance.

The next time you’re out, have a good look at the people around you. What are they doing and what do they notice?

Do they notice you paying attention to them?

What you’ll begin to see is that most people are completely oblivious to their surroundings.

This is Condition White.

Whether they are sitting at a cafe engrossed in a book or walking along texting, or headphones on, their attention is drawn somewhere else and they have no idea of their situation… and have very little awareness, hence no SA!

In essence they are VULNERABLE and for the most part, what is a major factor that any predator uses in target selection? Vulnerability… it works in our society, animal kingdom, military planning, professional fighting… everyone looks for their opponent vulnerability. Couple this with the fact that in real life situation, the predator doesn’t want the target to know they are the target and that makes them even more vulnerable… imagine playing a game and you don’t know you were someone’s opponent in the first place?? Make it harder to win … of course!

So condition white is zero SA and to be avoided… even when relaxing at home you should still be aware, to a degree, of sights and sounds… I love watching my dog sleep, snoring away, paws in the air… but his ears are still moving and I know that a distant footstep on the gravel, a change in the ambient noise and he is awake… so even here, in his sleep, he stays away from Condition White.

Generally we cant do that when we sleep. Unless we have been trained, or have spent time is environments that force this habit we sleep in condition White, and I wouldn’t espouse anything different (other than get a Milionis ) I am just illustrating WHITE before we move on.

Part 2, Condition Yellow…..

Playing The Long Game

When you step onto those mats for the first time, I think very few realise just how long the road ahead is. Or just how much of an emotional roller coaster the journey will be. I have found as people progress, the tendency is to be come very short sighted regarding their development, sometimes at the expense of our training.

At 10 years + for the Black Belt, that is a lot of hours on the mat and it doesn’t all go our way. We train well and we train poorly (always embracing the good days, yet perpetually beating ourselves up on the bad). Life gets in the way, family commitments, passion waxes and wanes and then the is the dreaded demon… injury.

As one who has been plagued by injury for my entire training career and one that has been told by medical professionals on more than one occasion that I will not train again, I have developed a somewhat stoic perspective.

As I type this I have my hand in a thermo cast for another 3 weeks and then may face surgery. I have been off for 8 months with shoulder reconstructions and have had countless training injuries. But at the end of the day in a life long pursuit, 8 weeks off is a drop in the bucket.

Yes, you will lose some timing, not skill, generally, and if you do it comes back quickly and some degradation is un-avoidable in time off. SO we can see this as an obstacle and stress and fret while we are off the mat, inevitable try to come back too soon and re-injure. Or we see it as an opportunity to research, watch and try to find other aspects we can look to improve. We can continue our presence at the gym, supporting our community and enjoying the support of the crew, or we can take the easy option of removing ourselves from the temptation and stay home.

It seems that most BJJ practitioners are fairly hard on themselves when it come to that time off and the feeing is that if we aren’t back as soon as possible, then we are deteriorating, which creates increased anxiety and the feeling that we need to train harder, which in turn, induces that tendency to re-injure and so commences the downward spiral….

Another and more sinister reason for pressuring ourselves is Ego… yes there is that word in relationship to BJJ again… but here I am suggesting that people will return to training too soon, or put unrealistic expectations on themselves and their improvement, just because they don’t want to their place in the hierarchy change.

We must be realistic about what is keeping us off the mat, really analyse how that makes us feel and honestly deal with it as objectively as possible. There are always others around us that have been through it and they are there to console and advise, assist and counsel, so use them to good effect.

Nobody like taking time off, or seeing their improvement slow, or sometime deteriorate. But we have to take the good times with the bad, the progression with some regression and the inevitable fact that life will get in the way of training. Treat this as another challenge, another guard to pass and the true test is how we deal with this obstacle… do we let is slow us to the point of quitting, or do we smile, persevere and try to see an opportunity to challenge ourselves and improve in a different manner.

Welcome to Struggletown

“This is not an easy sport”.

That was a favourite saying of a former coach of mine. I can’t say I disagree with him. We’re not standing 7 feet 9.25 inches from a dart board with a pint in hand. We’re here getting our ego checked, and facing failure every time we get on the mat. That’s very confronting.

As I have said many times before “Every time you get on the mat, you can and will be tested”.  It doesn’t matter how practiced, how skilled, how long you have been training, you can and will get caught, sometimes by training partners you’re not supposed to lose to. A friend of mine who is a brown belt, was visiting a club and was having the last roll with a white belt, the only pair still rolling while everyone looked on. The white belt caught a submission and the brown belt tapped. It wasn’t supposed to go down that way, but that is how it goes some time.

Everyone has their struggles with Jiu Jitsu. Not necessarily the same issues. Not necessarily all the time.

It’s not just a case of getting caught when you’re not supposed to. Maybe you have a lot of things in your life, demanding you attention. Work, family, other activities and commitments. You can’t train twice a day, every day, as a world champion or a teenager living at home might be able to do. You might be struggling just to make it on the mat twice a week.

Maybe your frustrated with not getting the results you want, or progressing as fast as you would like. Or maybe you are injured, and can’t train with the level and focus you desire. It could be that your general fitness isn’t where it needs to be, and that makes everything harder.

Perhaps you have a fear. A fear of failure, a fear of losing, a fear of getting injured, or a fear of other people thinking you don’t deserve your grade. Maybe you training partners are younger, faster or stronger, and you find it hard to even believe you could ever achieve victory over them.

As Chris Haueter says in ROLL: Jiu-Jitsu in SoCal “It’s not who’s good, it’s who’s left”. This is a war of attrition. Just making it on the mat one more day is an achievement.

Enjoy the good times, when it all comes together, and you can do no wrong. Equally you need to weather the tough times, to be able to make it to the next patch of sunshine. These tough times are where your ego will get checked and your character will be built. These are the only rewards you can count on in Jiu Jitsu, not stripes, not belts, not gold medals.

This is not an easy sport.

The struggle is real.

You are not alone.

Welcome to Struggletown.

Better…Stronger…Faster

A question I often get is “What can I do to improve my Jiu Jitsu?”. The question usually comes from someone looking for some previously unknown path to success. Sure, I swim and do Yoga for recovery, and I deadlift and squat for strength, but these are not the answer. The somewhat less than magic answer is more Jiu Jitsu. Not kettle bells, not Cross Fit, not gymnastics, not Yabusame. Jiu Jitsu. These other things will help your general physical preparation, but we’re talking Jiu Jitsu here.

For the extra curricular activities I do, it is never at the expense of time spent on the mat. If I am heading into over-reaching/over-training territory, then I’ll drop the other activities first, followed by the more intense Jiu Jitsu sessions if I’m still not recovering.

But what do you get from more Jiu Jitsu? As I have said many times before, you have to be a very special case to keep turning up consistently and not get better. Not better immediately, not immediate success, but one day you’ll realise you have achieved a goal you previously thought beyond you.

Better

How do you get better just with more time? You face the same problem more times. You subconsciously start to internalise the things that work, even a little, when you face the problem multiple times. You get the opportunity to visit that problem with multiple different opponents, all with their own specific attributes. Bigger/smaller, faster/slower, heavier/lighter, stronger/weaker, you get to adjust your response to each of these unique situations consolidating your technique to work in more situations.

You will also almost certainly be exposed to more training partners, and this is key to getting variation and inspiration into your game. When your partner does that unexpected thing, and you don’t even know where you went wrong, but are now doing your best impersonation of a pretzel, that’s a new problem for you to solve. What was it? How do I do it? How do I defend or counter it?

Stronger

And by stronger, I don’t mean bench double your body weight strong. I mean Jiu Jitsu strong. All the muscles you need will be continually worked, improving the attributes needed for Jiu Jitsu. As you progress in Jiu Jitsu, I believe you move from generating power through individual limbs, and move to generating power with your whole body. It is this core strength that allows you to attack your opponents arm, not with your arm, but to attack your opponents arm with the strength of all the major muscle groups in your body. In addition, all the stabiliser muscles will also strengthen with more time on the mat, improving your control and ability to escape.

Faster

When you have been training more, it feels like you are faster, and being faster can be the difference between being on the bottom and being on the top.

Earlier this year, due to a change in circumstances where I took on more responsibility at the gym, I started training Jiu Jitsu 6-8 times a week. I regularly track a number of parameters including Central Nervous System score, reaction time, resting heart rate, weight and sleep using an iPhone app. From the graph of reaction times, you can see the trend line and the obvious decrease in reaction time.

IMG_1656

This one came as a bit of a surprise to me. Not only do you feel faster, but you are faster.

So what increases reaction time? Alcohol, is one thing, so easy on the booze.

Final Thoughts

There is an interesting article here on the Sport Science of BJJ:

“Accounting for a whopping 70% of BJJ ability is technique.”

To hijack the quote from Henk Kraaijenhof, Olympic track coach:

“Do as little as needed, not as much as possible. Except when it comes to Jiu Jitsu, do as much as possible.”

Go Train! More!

The ramblings of three BJJ black belts on the wrong side of forty