Finally, we can think about returning to Jiu-Jitsu with a sense that it is not just daydreaming! Phase 1 of the easing the lockdown is no in effect, and very soon, collective sports (like BJJ) will be able to return. Yeah, we’ll have to abide by a bunch of measures and restrictions, but we will be able to roll. And that is what matters, right? However, there’s a catch – it’s been more than a couple of months, and we’re all out of shape. That said, is getting into BJJ shape absolutely mandatory before returning to the mats?
The thing with getting into BJJ shape is that you can’t really get there unless you’re doing Jiu-Jitsu regularly. Still, there is some baseline of conditioning that definitely will come in handy, particularly for everyone that has been training for more than a year. Let’s face it, the fact of the matter is that most of us didn’t really do much in terms of staying in shape. It was close to impossible anyway, so we took the easy route out. Now, we’ll have to do some work before trying to make the transition back into full-blown rolling as smoothly as possible.
What Not To Do
Of course, what we shouldn’t be doing is much more important than what we should be doing. It is kind of like Jiu-Jitsu when you come to think of it. The first thing to keep in mind, particularly for more experienced grapplers is, to be honest with yourself. How often have you been in the shape of your life while training Jiu-Jitsu? The answer is probably never. So, when thinking about getting back into BJJ shape, don’t think you can come back having the greatest gas tank and the strength of an ultra-heavyweight, It is just not conceivable.
For everyone that is still new to the sport, thinking that you can get in shape before returning is nothing more than a hoax. At no moment in time will you really feel you’re ready enough to come back to BJJ, and you’ll probably put it off. In short, experienced or not, forget about getting back in prime shape.
Another thing to really, really focus on is the warm-up. I know, most purple belts are frantically looking to close this article the moment warm-ups were mentioned. Still, going into class, however, it is organized, without carefully and thoroughly warming up is going to be a disaster. Skipping warm-ups is definitely something you shouldn’t do (anyway), and it is actually a great idea to start doing them now.
Something else to consider is that you can actually overdo physical training and derail your BJJ return. Trying to do dumb things like the 10.000 kettlebell swings challenge after two months of Netflix and chill will get you a couple more months on the couch. The goal of getting back into BJJ Shape is to avoid injury, not create one.
Getting Back Into BJJ Shape The Right Way
So, what exactly is the right way of getting back into BJJ shape? Nobody knows. More precisely, it is going to be different for everyone. However, there are certain pointers that are all generally beneficial.
First of all, look to move. A routine based on mobility and some BJJ specific movement is going to be the best thing you can do. Look to make yourself as limber as possible, while moving in a Jiu-Jitsu-specific manner. The core moves are, as usual, hip escapes (all possible variations), bridging, technical get up, breakfalls, and rocking chairs. These are the things you use in BJJ most of the time, so it would be great to refresh your body’s memory of how they’re all done.
In a more conditioning-specific manner, you could go for some animal walks and repetition style drills. Doing a standing closed guard opening motion, pistol deck squats, shooting your legs for triangles, Granbying, and the likes are all great to break a sweat and get some more movement patterns back.
Also, try isometrics. It may not be high on your list, but it’ll definitely do more for you than running or lifting weights. Getting back into BJ shape means priming your body for training, not overtraining it in a way that has nothing to do with grappling. So, try to isometrically hold positions like squats, pushups, hang off a pull-up bar, etc.
The “Triumphant” Return
As I said at the beginning, there’s no way of getting back into BJJ shape without actually grappling. That makes the actual return to the mat the most important part of your return to shape. And that is also where most people will inevitably mess up. Unintentionally of course.
When coming back, what you can expect is to have to go through a lot of disinfectants, for shoes, gear, and hands. Apart from that, we’ll probably have to be rolling with just one person for a few weeks, so be ready to pick a “favorite” partner.
When it comes to the training itself, regardless of how the class is put together, make sure you warm-up. Yeah, I already talked about it, but it is too important to skip.
Next, expect everything to be off. Getting back into BJJ shape means you are limber, mobile, and perhaps with a decent level of conditioning. However, it doesn’t mean your anticipation, timing, body awareness, coordination, and that grappling “Spidey sense” is back. On the contrary. What this means is that when training, and especially rolling, you’ll have to take it one small step at a time. It will not be fun, but the potential for injury is immense, given that your partner is also out of tune as well.
When coming back from injuries or layoffs, people are usually off, but never both partners. This is an unprecedented situation we’re in so leave every type of ego aside, and just try to find the rhythm again. From there on, getting back into BJJ shape, and I mean that prime shape, is going to be a piece of cake.
Getting back into BJJ shape is never easy. With everyone out of shape, though, the challenge will be even more difficult. The key is, working on specific coordination and movement in a final couple of weeks of lockdown, and then returning to “action” as slowly and carefully as possible. Remember an injury now will not just get you stuck at home again, but will also set your conditioning back.