Like it or not, you’re going to have to take a break from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training at a certain point. There are many reasons why, as we’ll discuss later. The important thing to know is that returning to the mats is not only possible, but it can also be quite easy. All it takes is knowing how to approach coming back to training after a long lay off. To begin with, know thigs – the higher your belt level is, the harder your return to the mats is going to be. In other words, the higher the belt, the more you need to follow the tips and trick below for a smooth transition back into the world of BJJ.
If there’s one thing grapplers hate, it is time off. I can’t say about other sports, but there’s something about BJJ that people simply can’t stay away. Oftentimes, even injured or sometimes sick people come to the Academy just to watch a training session. It can be extremely hard to stay away from the mats, but for most of the people training, that inevitable at one point or another. The only thing that varies is how much time you’ll spend out of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training. As for coming back, there’s no doubt that you will the first moment you get. What is more important, though, is whether or not you’ll be able to go to the transition and stay in training. Let us help with that.
Most Common Reasons For A Layoff From Jiu-Jitsu
There is no way to balance everything so perfectly that you do not miss a single session of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training. To that extent, missing the odd class or two, or even a couple of weeks due to vacation, traveling or whatever does not constitute as a lay off. Being away from the mats for months at a time, due to reasons beyond control is when you can consider yourself being on a hiatus from BJJ training.
Some of the most common reasons for stopping have to do with everyday life. From family obligations to career opportunities and/or school involvement, people simply can’t find enough time for BJJ in their lives. And no, you can’t find a way to balance it all every time. Getting married, having kids, moving to a different city/country, switching jobs, shift work, etc all have a huge contribution to whether or not you can make time for regular BJJ training in your life.
Another huge one we can’t skip over is injuries. The nature of the sport is such that people will get injured from time to time. Just like in any other sport. However, certain injuries take longer to heal, and might even require surgical procedures and a long period of recovery. Statistically speaking, injuries are the main reason for people taking extended breaks from Brazilian JIu-Jitsu raining.
Finally, there are personal reasons that are just that, personal Everyone has their private reasons wh they need to stop training for a while and they should be respected. It doesn’t matter why someone stops coming to training – what matters is, them getting back. However, after a while of the mats, you might see anticipation and eagerness turn into frustration extremely fast. If you thought starting Jiu-jitsu was tough, wait till you have to make a comeback!
Making Your Return
From my personal experience, there are three major things you have to consider when returning to Jiu-Jitsu after an extended break. These three things are, in a particular order, the physical side of things, the mental side of things, and how you go back into rolling. Let me elaborate.
The physical aspect of things is very important, particularly when you’re’ coming back from an injury. The main mistake people make is returning too soon, while their injury is still fresh. That means they can’t use a body part to the best of their abilities, resulting in further aggravating the same, or causing a different injury almost every time. Making sure your body is strong enough for the rigors of BJJ training, especially if you’re an experienced grappler is the first thing you should take care of before returning to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training.
Form a mental standpoint, a return to the mats is going to be really tough. You need to do the hardest thing possible – forget whatever you were able to do before your lay off, and take things slowly. This can be extremely challenging and even result in major frustrations and even people dropping out completely. While you can’t go back into training without good physical preparation, nothing is more important than your mindset.
Rolling is the final piece of the puzzle. It is the one aspect of training that can get your right out the door as fast as you walked in. Unless your mindset and physical conditioning are on point, you need to restrain from rolling, because going back to the way you rolled will take time and a very specific structure.
In terms of the physical side of things, the first thing to be sure of is that you’re returning injury-free. This one is non-negotiable. Go through all the physical therapy you need, but make sure you’re as near to 100% as possible. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training is hard and can be merciless on your body. Coming in unhealthy is a great way of making sure you’ll spend even more time on the sidelines.
One thing that will really, really help you is developing a bit of a gas tank. In other words, make sure you improve your cardio before coming back to training. Out of all athletic qualities you can work on before a return to BJJ, conditioning is the most important one. If you can get through training without having to gasp for air and push your limits, your body will most certainly be ready for a complete return to you best much sooner.
In those terms, the order of things should go from conditioning, through mobility to weight training. The important thing here is to remember that mobility beats strength when you’re looking to return to BJJ after a long time out. Make sure your body can move, particularly in all the directions Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training is going to take it into. Choose something that fits your needs, whether it is Yoga, foam rolling, massages, specific drill or any other method.
Finally, there’s strength training. If I had to choose, personally, it would be bodyweight, mostly gymnastics based training. However, whatever you think makes you stronger enough to return, go for it. Kettlebells, weights, medicine balls, sandbags, choose your own method. Just remember the order of things – a good gas tank, BJJ specific mobility and flexibility and only then strength training of your choice.
The Right Mindset
There’s nothing more important when you’re’ returning to training than doing so with the right mindset. Once again, this is different for everyone, but there are certain things that can universally help you manage your mental state for Jiu-Jitsu.
What I think is extremely important particularly for more experienced grapplers is to manage expectations. IF you area purple belt that loves submission hunting, and have been out of training for three or four months, you’ll catch a lot fewer submissions (if any) immediately upon your return. Expecting to go back and be the same is a great way to get frustrated at yourself and with BJJ. Instead, set realistic, small goals that you can achieve on training by training basis. This is the first thing you need to do before stepping back on the mats.
In fact, your entire approach to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training needs to be different than before. You will come back with the same level of technical knowledge as before. However, regardless of how many matches or instructionals you might have seen during your hiatus, you’ll be off. You won’t have timing, you won’t have balance, you won’t have the same reactions as you did. You’ll get all fo them back for sure, but not immediately, So, you need to modify your approach so that the lack of these things does not uprise you the first time you roll or drill.
However, you can’t just go back, and lie there, taking things too easy, the trick is in balance. Once you set your short term goals and adjust your overall approach, you’ll need to find a few challenges for yourself as well. Give yourself tough tasks to accomplish as long as their within the bound of your abilities. It doesn’t mean going all out with the toughest person in the gym. Instead, go for a certain pass or sweep, or attempt to submit a specific partner. Just simple easy challenges that can grow progressively more difficult over time.
Keep It Playful
If I say you should take a few classes without rolling as you return from a layoff, you probably won’t listen to me. I wouldn’t listen to me. It is completely understandable, as coming back after a long time has people itching to go roll. Simply jumping in trying to go hard is a great way of ensuring your hiatus will get prolonged.
The first thing to do, is to be really, really wary of your training partners. It may take time to choose the right partners, but there’s no way around it. You will have to learn to say no to certain people, if not most, particularly early in your return top Brazilian Jiu-JItsu training. Make sure you roll with people you can trust and people who won’t be trying to murder you on your first few days back.
In order to make sure you’re on the same page with the partners you choose, talk to them. It is simple, just let them know you’re out of rhythm, and you need to take things gradually. Find people that will flow roll with you. Furthermore, go for specific rounds with them, limiting both what they and you can do. There are a bunch of creative ways to set up rolling for you so that it is fun, while you’re staying cautious and safe.
Finally, there’s no need for you to roll every round once you’re back. Rest as often as you need to, In fact, scratch that, rest more often than you think you need to. Rol one round, rest for two. Then pick another partner and repeat. The next session, or the next week, depending on how you feel, reduce rest to one round, etc. You get the idea.
Returning to Brazilian JIu-Jitsu training with a solid plan is going to be a breeze. That said, I’ve seen many people throughout the years struggle upon attempting to return, and ultimately, give it all up. As long as you’re physically ready, you have the right mindset and the correct rolling strategy, your return is going to be fun and uneventful. Moreover, you’ll be back at your old self in no time and ready to take things to the next level.