Safety in Sparring
March 10, 2015
Let’s start this article with a simple update from yours truly: I am injured. I busted my knee during a sparring session. It was by someone I may have mistaken to be harmless… a white belt.
Let’s be clear about the elephant in the room (in this case, the gym): let’s talk about going full on, 100% during sparring. And it is always quite interesting seeing bjj newcomers going all out during every sparring session. I am talking about going all out Spartan while their hapless sparring partner is left murmuring the words, “so, what’s happening?”
Let’s all agree for a minute that we’ve all been there. We’ve had sparring partners that seem to go out too strong during what is supposedly a harmless activity of skill application and what-have-yous. Let’s also admit that for a time we were once like “that guy” whose eagerness seem to be boundless like the universe altogether. BJJ is supposed to be a safe form of martial arts. Injuries are minimal, although not entirely absent. Risk factor counts, however, injuries do happen
Going back to my story, it was one of those days that your eagerness to spar has gotten the better of you. Having had to take a month off BJJ, when I found out that it was an open mat day, I eagerly jumped in after my usual routine of circuit cardio and a bit of stretching. I saw a new face in the gym. He is much younger than I am, but I guess he is physically more daunting for his age. This new fry seem to be looking to spar. So I introduced myself and asked him nicely if he wanted to roll. He said that he was relatively new to the jiu-Jitsu. So I obliged and said that I am not good as well. So we agreed to spar. My intention was to take it easy… and then… while on his guard… a knee bar. And a rather intense one. It was one of those kneebars that seem to stretch the knee’s direction sideways.
Overdoing it. I winced in pain (wincing is actually underplaying). I think I just busted a knee.
He profusely apologized. Needless to say, I am out of the sport for an indefinite amount of time.
There is safety in sparring. And I think that any injury can be prevented given the right guidance. I am talking about your responsibility for your own safety especially during sparring. While I sit on the couch writing this article, I cannot help but regret not taking the right precautions. Admitting my mistake and shortcoming for my own safety prompted to me to write this article. I harbor no bad feelings towards the Spartan-like knee-bar that he pulled off. But I do feel that I could have set the right expectations with him.
Prevention is better than a cure. With this in mind, I vowed to actually do the following whenever I start to spar:
- Do enough stretching. I have been warned. We’ve all been that guy who at a time seems to feel to be too good for stretching. That day, all I wanted to do was to just roll. My excitement got the better of me.
- Communicate with your sparring partner what you want to gain from the spar. It’s ok to tell your partner you only want to keep it light.
- Submissions that involve soft joints such as the heel / ankle should be avoided.
- Focus on techniques rather than strength. After all, that’s what BJJ is all about, right?
- Never under estimate white belts. Extreme caution should be taken especially with newcomers.
Injuries are not fun. But my love for the gentle art will never wane… regardless how many pulled muscles or dislocated joints happen.
Stay safe, and spar on.
Jiu-Jitsu for everyone!