I remember a while back reading a Rickson Gracie quote where he said that “Once jiu-jitsu is in your blood, you would rather die that go one day without it”. At the time this really hit home for me. It was true. Not having jiu jitsu in my life would be dreadful. For most of you reading this you have probably gone through a period in your training where you have become ultra-obsessive about BJJ, where you spend the time when you are not training thinking about training, when the thought of not training is too awful to even consider. There are so many positives virtues from training and what I this article will be about is looking at the negatives of not being able to train. What I do want to discuss is the emotional impact when you can’t do the thing you love.
I am currently suffering from a knee injury that has kept me out of action for a couple of months now. I would say this is the 2nd most serious injury I have suffered, the 1st being a shoulder injury that kept me from training regularly for about 1 year. Having had two so long lay offs I think has given me a perspective on why I want (maybe even need) to train.
For me the physical pain was something I could cope with. The withdrawal from my drug of choice was what was far less tolerable.
Post-Acute Withdrawal symptoms
The withdrawal stage can last a pretty long time. From personal experience it can last anywhere from 2 weeks to two months. Typical symptoms including:
1) BJJ cravings. Nothing can replace the high of training. .
2) Anxiety. Injured Jitsuka are often plagued with the thought “Damn it what cool techniques are my team mates mastering while I’m an invalid?” This anxiety can often lead to paranoia about returning to training.
3) Melancholy. This typically includes feelings of worthlessness and listening to Hurt by Jonny Cash and Yesterday by the Beetles on loop while crying into a bowl of Mississippi Mud Cake pondering the cruelty of being laid low.
4) Disinterest or low enthusiasm in all things not jiu-jitsu related. For example if a jitsuka suffering from Post acute Withdrawal encountered Beyonce riding a green winged unicorn outside their bedroom window saying she wants them to go with her, they would give the following response “Nah thanks – I’d rather watch Meio-Pesado semi-finals from the 1999 Mundials”.
5) Fatigue and weight gain. A classic Catch 22 where you lack the energy to do any sort of training and therefore gain weight. Once weight has been gained you feel too fatigued to any exercise to lose that weight. On a serious note I for one just don’t enjoy hitting the gym to lift weights.
6) Alternatively jitsuka can frequently feel restless or antsy. Tremors and grinding one’s teeth are not uncommon either. This can lead to chores put off for years being completed much to the chagrin of jitsuka’s spouses who lose ammo to use against them in arguments.
7) Annoyance. Taking time off training will mean spending more time at home with one’s spouse. There are many BJJ widows in the world who complain about the amount of time we spend training, once injured and forced to stay in. Despite this be prepared to face trumped up charges “getting under my feet” or “pottering around uselessly”. You’ll also face accusations however absurd of boring all your non-BJJ friends by constantly talking about how much you miss training.
8) Irritability. I personally experienced irritability and a shortening of my temper. Most of this in retrospect stemmed from the frustration of being unable to train. That and the high that I got from training gave me a higher tolerance for the utter douche-baggery of some of the people around me. Bloody douchebags you know who you are.
9) Self-pity. Frequently jitsuka will mope about like a scolded dog and will have the sad song from Charlie Brown playing in their heads (You know like that bit from Arrested Development). If not kept in check this will lead to an “intervention” where people who claim to “care” about will demand that you cheer up and stop eating all the chocolate cake.
10) Disturbed sleep.
- There is nothing better to ensure a good nights sleep that a hard training session. 30mins of hard sparring is better than Ambien for getting your head down after a long hard day. Not getting your dose of sparring can lead to a lack of good sleep.
- Disturbed sleep is also caused by the anxiety of being left behind by your team mates. Seriously what cool techniques are they picking up?
- Jitsuka often try to compensate for being unable to train by staying up to 4am in morning watching BJJ clips on youtube
11) Mood swings. In a post training conversation with Jeff one of my training partners at the time he said that “ Jiu Jitsu is better than therapy, if everyone did jiu jitsu there would be no need for psychiatrists”. I whole heartedly agree with this; training jiu jitsu is a great way to work through the evil that is inside you. These days I find myself thinking like a character out of a Bill Burr skit e.g. one minute you’ll be enjoying a pleasant wait for a train, the next you’ll be seized by the sudden urge to punch a fellow commuter in the standing there obliviously in the back of head for no reason at all.
12) Internet porn. While I myself never use the stuff I have been told by “friends” that being injured often leads to an increase use of internet porn. I hope you are reading this article with two hands. Every blackbelt I have spoken to, tells me masturbation is bad for your jiu jitsu (whether they were asked or not). So you aught to stay away from it even while injured.
13) Loneliness and isolation. Without wanting to come off too saccharine if you train at any club for a length of time, your training buddies do become like a second family (a family that repeatedly tries to choke and armbar you but a family none the less). Not being around them is saddening. Its one of hardest things about being away from training. Especially while they are mastering new techniques to use against you on your return.
14) Hallucinations. Once hooked on jiu jitsu going cold turkey can lead addicts to experience audio and visual hallucinations which can cause confusions e.g. mistaking a bus driver for Mario Sperry when in fact the driver is an overweight woman of East Asian decent or hearing a football commentator saying “Rickson by Armbar” during the FA Cup Final.
15) Sweating, clammy skin and body odour. Let us face it everyone; who doesn’t train jiu jitsu stinks. That includes you now.
16) "Black outs". While severe and rare it is not unknown for jitsuka to blackout leaving periods where they have no memory of what happened. Often people suffering blackouts wake up on a park bench wearing their training kimonos surrounded by dozens of squirrels nursing broken arms
So if you have just suffered a serious injury or are planning on suffering one then congratulations the above is what you have to look forward to. A whole lot of terribleness. That and the sense of unfairness you’ll wake up with everyday putting you in a foul mood. The best moments of you life being the in the morning just after you have woken up and you haven’t remembered you are injured. When you hear the laughter of children all you will do is ask “Why has the universe wronged me this way?”. I’m an addict and jiu jitsu is my drug of choice and I can’t wait for my next fix, whenever the hell that is.