Trying to get back on the horse

I got a brace, some pre-wrap, some compression wrap, and a ton of tape. I went to judo like it was a normal thing, got to roll with Tanner one last time.

There are things which are way harder than I expected them to be. Remembering to move my hands and feet at the same time among them. As far as the ankle holding up – it didn’t really. I can do some throws, but only as nage komi or yakosuko geiko. The speed of uchi komi means putting too much stress on the ankle. Randori means putting way to much stress on the ankle and introducing very awkward positions.

I’ll be continuing judo for awhile, but only warm-ups, nage komi, and yakosuko geiko. Randori and ground work are simply too much right now.

The Best Laid Schemes O’ Mice An’ Men

I was really hoping to be back in the swing of things by now. Definitely at least back in the gym. Alas, that’s not really happening yet. My ankle is starting to heal up much faster than it has been over the first six weeks or so (which were effectively stagnant healing and constant pain). The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley.

So it’s time to set new goals. By the beginning of next week I’m hoping to have manageable enough pain that I can start back at judo with a brace as long as I avoid foot sweeps. It feels like a lofty goal given that it’s just a few days away, but it would make me feel better about a lot of stuff. When you’re stressed and anxious and can’t even go wrestle there’s just a lot of Weltschmerz. Exercising is great for helping to cope with stress.

So that’s the hope, and with a little luck we’ll see where I am on Tuesday to see if it’s a possibility. The kind of shitty thing will be the fact that the judo rules severely disadvantage a player who can only do hip and hand throws. Most of the good backwards hand throws are illegal now and if there’s only one direction you can attack you become insanely easy to shut down. I’m sure I can figure something out for that.

Sledgehammer – The Workout

To preface this, a lot of the exercises were borrowed or modified from a Grapplearts post (which in turn was apparently a Diesel Crew post first). Credit to them.

If possible I’ll addend this post with pictures, but let’s be honest, it’s probably not going to happen so I’m going to try to link out to YouTube videos (which are not my own) when possible.

As a disclaimer – consult a doctor before starting any exercise program, yaddah, yaddah, yaddah… Seriously though, you’re going to be throwing a hammer around so be careful and be reasonable. Just like weightlifting where the weight can get too far from you and you throw out your back, sloppy hammering can wreak some havoc so take the time to go through motions slowly and take the time to find a video if what I’m describing sounds like nonsense (or skip it all together).

Equipment

First off, you don’t need that heavy a hammer. I got a 12-lb hammer and I’m seriously choking up on it. An 8-lb (or even smaller) hammer should be sufficient for just about all of these. Having said that, you can always choke up on the heavier hammer and for me, 12-lb was only $5 more than the 8-lb.

You’re going to need a tire. The advice from most sites that have hammer workout routines is that you can get one from somewhere that does tire replacement. I just happened to have a couple of old tires at home that I got talked into taking home when I got new tires because they’re viable spares. I think bigger tires are better because tractor tires are recommended, but I’m using car tires and it seems to work okay.

Positioning

There are a few key positions and terms that I’m going to use.

Choking up - this is an idiom for taking a higher grip relative to the hammer’s head. That is, a grip closer to the head of the hammer.

Split grip - I’m not sure if there’s an actual term for how one holds a hammer with one hand by the head and one hand at the bottom of the shaft, but with respect to martial arts movements it’s a fundamental split, so I’m calling it a split grip. Both thumbs should point toward the hammer’s head with this grip (which means the top hand is always under the hammer).

Baseball bat grip - I’m sure there’s a better term than this, but it reminds me of holding a baseball bat. From the split grip, let the top hand slide until it touches the bottom hand. This is how one holds a baseball bat in my experience.

Exercises

The Overhead Swing

Again, I feel like there are probably proper names for these exercises, but I can’t find them so you’re getting whatever I feel like calling them. This is swinging a sledgehammer, thus “the overhead swing”. Chris Melton has a great video explaining the motions if you’ve not used a sledgehammer (or an axe for that matter – pretty much the same motion).

Get into a squatting position. I actually have one foot slightly forward because it feels more comfortable. Start with the split grip, raise the hammer over the shoulder of the top hand, and swing it. As you’re swinging, let your top hand drop into the baseball bat grip.

Making this harder requires getting a bigger hammer or just going faster.

The Twist

The Grapplearts post notes this as “[levering] side to side”. I call it a twist because you’re keeping your elbow in place and twisting at your wrist. Grab the hammer in one hand and twist your hand both directions through the full range of motion at a controlled pace. That’s it. I recommend starting with a very high grip on the hammer and moving your grip down (head further from your hand) if it’s too easy. This one gets hard after a few reps so be prepared to choke up if you’ve started too far out. You’ll feel it in your forearm and elbow. A good video of both this and levering from GTSPerformance is on YouTube.

Once this is done, I turn the hammer upside down and repeat with the head of the hammer below your hand. Don’t cheat yourself out of a full range of motion here, it’s easy to.

The way to make the exercise harder is to have more shaft between your hand and the hammer. If you get to the base of the shaft and can do this, you are a better man than I and should probably seek a bigger hammer.

Levering

Of all the forms of levering, the form I’ve found most effective is the one where you hold the hammer to the side (choke up, seriously) and just move at the wrist up and down through the full range of motion. I’ve been doing this with the hammer both in front of and behind my hand on each side and it feels awesome. This is heavily covered by the Grapplearts post so you should look there for pictures. A good video of both this and forearm twists from GTSPerformance is on YouTube.

This gets harder with more shaft between your hand and the head of the hammer.

Juggling

I’m going to try to do my best to explain this exercise. It’s very easy once you get it, but feels a bit awkward at first. You’re just going to switch between right-handed and left-handed split grips. Start with one split grip and toss it in front of you such that you catch it in the other split grip. I can’t seem to find a video of this, but I promise if you’re tossing from a right-handed split grip and catching in a left-handed split grip (and vice-versa) you’ve probably got it right.

One rep is the hammer getting back to the position you started from (so tossing right to left to right is one).

I have no idea how to make this harder.

More ballistic exercises which I don’t do, but look kind of cool: Sledgehammer Workouts

Other Exercises

If you look around YouTube you can find other stuff, especially videos targeted towards MMA. I’m not doing those exercises myself so I can’t speak to them. Try them out if you care to, you already have a maul and a tire.

The Workout

  • 10x twists (head above hand), each hand
  • 10x twists (head below hand), each hand
  • 10x lever (head in front of hand), each side
  • 10x lever (head behind hand), each side
  • 10x juggling
  • Overhead swing until the cows come home (switch sides every 10 reps)

Starting Sledgehammer Training

Yes, I absolutely recommend it.

The first time I was introduced to the concept of using a sledgehammer to work out was actually a Grapplearts post from 2012 (which is actually borrowed from Diesel Crew). Mark had told me about levering in the Budo Club, though he actually told me to use a sword and practice cuts and levering to a light switch and stopping just above the switch. Since I’ve cared a lot about grip strength for awhile now I actually ran across Indian club exercises a long time ago and sort of discounted them. I was seeing good gains with grippers and gi work and didn’t really see the benefit to adding another exercise into my already limited workout time.

About a month ago though I was talking to a good friend of mine who said he actually had started doing Indian club style exercises with a sledgehammer. Yeah. A sledgehammer. One of those long handled 8 pound (~3.63 kg) hammers. My interest was piqued, but I didn’t really do anything about it. He hadn’t seen the Diesel Crew/Grapplearts post so I told him about levering in addition to his Indian club exercises.

The really long and short of it is that when I’m not training I’m insanely lazy at everything else. I eat like shit. I stop really working out in any other sense except maybe hand grippers and whatever yard work I’m still capable of doing with the injury. Then about two weeks out I kind of spaz out and realize I’m too out of shape to go back as is. There’s an expectation with your skill that you’ll be a certain amount of good even after an injury and the problem is that grappling is a very physically demanding art. So over the weekend I got a 12 pound (5.44 kg) hammer.

As noted, I definitely recommend it. After a five minute session with just wrist exercises on the hammer on Saturday I’m closer to closing the GNC 200 hand gripper than I have been in a really long time (again, serious schmuck when I’m out on an injury). Just simple levering choked up on the 12-lb hammer caused my forearms to burn like the first time I had done gi pull-ups did. That’s a good feeling. It means progress.

Since this has been a lot of rambling about how I found training with the hammer, I’m going to make a separate post of the exercises in case you’re interested in trying them yourself.

BJJ Collective Review

This is a review of http://www.bjjcollective.com. I was contacted by Stephen Kim of the website in the comments section awhile back. I’m not a member so this is just a quick overview of what you can expect to find and my opinion of the site. It is also just that – my opinion. YMMV.

Layout and Navigation

The site uses a drop-down menu to present you with options to filter videos in case you’re trying to find something specific. For example, you could pick “Sambo” from the stand-up section (and then “Sambo”, and then “Throws”) to see a set of throws from Sambists like Reilly Bodycomb. 

There is a search feature. For fun I compared it to YouTube by searching for “Koepfer”. Rolled-Up Episode 35 pops up which is awesome, but I was hoping to see some of the other videos by SamboSteve. To be fair, there’s not a lot on YouTube for that search term either. You have to know what you’re looking for on YouTube, and the big advantage of BJJ Collective is the ability to look without knowing the term you’re looking for.

The categories and sub-categories (though not sub-sub-categories) have nice pictures, which are great because there’s so much variation in terminology. For example, there’s the picture for “scarf hold” and another for “side forward”, but I would call it “kuzure kesa gatame” and would expect the techniques to be under “scarf hold”. The pictures definitely help you understand what’s going to be in each category.

Content

There’s not actually a lot to say on this. The videos are all from YouTube so there doesn’t seem to be any original content. As noted, the real benefit is the fact that someone else has gone through the work of finding all of the videos for you.

There is the ability to rate and add a breakdown of the video, but no ratings or break downs existed for the videos I psuedo-randomly sampled.

Overall

I like that someone went through the work of finding all of the videos. Normally you’d have to hope that someone shared the video on LockFlow that you could find it in the technique library or know what to search for on YouTube or LapelChoke, but BJJ Collective presents an interface where I can just look in categories to get to what I want without even having to know the terms. The guy held me like that picture, it was this variation, and I want an escape. Now I have four. Awesome. It’s definitely a format I’d recommend for beginners looking to find techniques.

The one big knock I will make is that the UI could use some work. The fact that a drop-down is used, but is not closed when you make a final selection, that I have to click “Wrestling” as a sub-category of “Wrestling”, that there are three different versions of navigation on the page, and the “(Go Back)” link to the right of the category title all feel a bit weird. The page is not responsive so you don’t get an experience optimized for mobile. That’s all very picky though. LockFlow isn’t any better on the responsive web department, and comparing to LapelChoke should probably be cheating since Jesse is, well, Jesse and we would all be disappointed if M3MMA didn’t put out a responsive site.

Popping sound countinued

So I owe you guys like a million posts (or at least a couple reviews and a status update).

Update here, review of BJJ Collective to follow.

I went to the doctor today to follow-up on the ankle. We’ve ruled out bone, cartilage, or muscular injuries thanks to the x-rays, range of motion I do have, and strength I have. It’s a connective tissue injury and there doesn’t seem to be any two ways about that. It’s likely I’ll be able to return to BJJ from a health perspective, though it’s still on the order of weeks out. Healing is going slow. There’s not really any meds or therapies my doctor knew of that would help. I’ve heard HGH can be amazing with helping injuries like this heal faster, but all the evidence seems to be anecdotal with no long term studies I could find around the use of HGH to assist with ligament and tendon injuries. There are a lot of snake oil style remedies – turmeric and egg paste, electric stimulation, etc. I’m surprised at the market for recovering from an ankle injury and how much of it seems to be bogus.

On the other front, the “do I actually deal with the risks again?” front, I’ve made a couple decisions. I know if it heals enough that the pain becomes manageable I could return to judo with a brace. So that’s kind of the minimum – I’m planning to go back to judo. My decision on BJJ will be entirely based on how judo goes after I finish recovering. Hopefully in another 2-4 weeks I’ll be able to go back on the mat with some serious taping.

Unfortunately the injury meant missing Tanner and Tim’s last classes. I still went to the going away party, but it’s just not the same, you know?

 

Pop

You’re rolling. It’s pretty controlled and whatever. You’re going to resist if there’s a sub attempt, but when it’s locked in you tap. You find yourself defending a straight ankle lock by posturing up and he’s switching to the heel hook. You’re still safe with your foot on the ground so you keep the pressure. He sweeps you and immediately cranks on the heel. Before your hand can reach his leg to tap there’s a loud popping noise. He keeps going past the pop until you successfully tap. You look at him and just say “never crank on those.”

The next day you’re in your doctor’s office. An avulsion fracture seems ruled out by the xrays, but based on where the pain is there’s definitely some kind of injury on the ligament. You’ll follow up in four weeks if it’s not progressively improving. You should do some rehab after it heals – draw the alphabet with your foot, use the band you have from last time. You don’t need crutches or a brace, but only because you already have them at home. You can’t walk without external support.

That was my last night and this morning.

If you’re following along at home you know this is the second time in less than a year someone has decided to not just sink in the heel hook, but finish it. Last time my doctor really wanted me to consider quitting jiu-jitsu if these kinds of injuries were a common occurrence. I dismissed it back then. Most of my injuries came from competition and at some point I just stopped competing. Now it’s looking like quitting BJJ is a reality I might have to face. If I’m getting serious injuries in regular practice I really need to consider if I can continue with jiu-jitsu.

I have at least the next six weeks to think about it.

EDIT: After I posted this I realized there’s an important distinction I want to make. This doesn’t reflect on my opinion of FightPrime. Both incidents of injury were with guys I do not normally see and do not normally roll with. FightPrime has been great about addressing these incidences when they arise. This isn’t about FightPrime not being safe – it is. In my time there I have one ever seen two individuals get hurt, and one was me. Matt and Thales do a great job trying to prevent injuries and following up when they happen.

What this is about is me getting too old to continue to risk injuries. It’s not okay to be a 25-year-old with arthritic changes in most of your joints. It’s not okay to have debilitating phantom pains that shoot up your hand and forearm. It’s not okay to have to miss work to have an ankle or finger or wrist looked at because stuff got a little cray-cray with someone who isn’t one of my regular half-dozen training partners who after years of rolling with I know I can trust completely.

It’s also about me not wanting to be the guy who only rolls with the same 5 or 6 people because I can’t trust others. Trusting people with delicate parts of your anatomy is part of jiu-jitsu. When you feel like you can’t trust people with your anatomy, can you really still do jiu-jitsu?