Why You Get Hurt in BJJ - Samantha Faulhaber

Published on by Samantha Faulhaber

Photo Credit: Jeff Chu @jeffreyschu

When I had the pleasure of presenting at a local school's Career Day about my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu experience, one perceptive kid asked, "how often do people get hurt?" My response was, "it does happen. It's a contact sport, but it's very safe. I would say 90% of the time when someone gets hurt it's because of somebody's ego. Does anybody know what ego is?" The rest of the conversation went very well, and I hope I can explain in a little more depth here but with the same amount of clarity.

Almost every injury is the result of ego. The 90% estimate applies best to early belts and may slip to 70% or so for higher rank. Before we get out the #notallinjuries hashtag, let me explain.

Ego is whatever tells you, "I am right and they are wrong". It doesn't have to be a worded thought and can easily be expressed in action. When we cling too much to these ideas we stunt our growth in training and amplify risk.

Insist that you are right and you may get or cause injury. Take any difficult position and the person under control has two options - fight or accept. If they choose to fight they accept the risks. The person in control has just as much responsibility. When their opponent chooses "fight" they are also left with two decisions - insist or let go. Insisting could cause harm if the other person fights hard enough. Risks are easiest to imagine when a cut and dry submission (like whether or not to fight out of or finish an armbar) is in question but injuries can happen any time resistance meets resistance.

Either person can try to prove that they are right and that they are better. Things must be fought for, and someone will come out a winner - this is Jiu Jitsu. It takes experience to know when holding on may hurt someone. It takes a healthy ego to let go when the risk of injury gets too high. It is a constant trade-off between risk and potential reward. Individuals and teams must be clear on what is too high a cost. Training with a pre-existing injury needs even greater care and the ability to let go at smaller degrees of resistance. In a competition match, the willingness to accept risk often shifts the other direction. The art teaches a delicate awareness of when to change for greatest benefit.

Jiu Jitsu is a known ego killer but students must be healthy enough to train for their egos to be killed. There are innumerable ways to clearly and firmly show someone the effectiveness of the art without harming them. Those with greater body awareness must help keep less aware training partners healthy if they want to have people to train with. This really is a very safe and immensely powerful, beautiful sport. We fight each other hard, smile, and do it again. The more we keep each other safe by allowing ourselves to let go, the more time we have to learn together and the faster our mental progression