In June 2014 I acquired a ligament injury from a heel hook that was cranked through. It still hasn’t fully healed. Since then, I slowly got back into judo at Madison Judo, and recently restarted BJJ with Foundations BJJ. Both are non-profits that exist to teach the art rather than making money, and to me, that’s pretty damn awesome. I’ve been pretty lucky to have affordable options for grappling, but what’s even more lucky is the groups of individuals I’ve gotten to train with in these groups.
I avoided going to no-gi classes for 621 days after the heel hook. Even after I had healed enough and resumed grappling in the jacket I just couldn’t muster the courage to go back to no-gi. I had in my mind this image of all of the guys who don’t train in the gi – those guys who wanted to do MMA, who wrestled really hard without the gi to slow them down, who were training for competitions that allowed heel hooks and neck cranks. I started BJJ/MMA in 2008. Over seven years of experience has taught me that no-gi classes are riskier for injuries because of the techniques that are allowed and the way guys seem to train it.
Last night I sucked it up and went. 7.5 years of experience has been completely wrong. At least, the last seven years of experience that I’ve had other places was wrong, which to be fair have been BJJ/MMA gyms rather than a non-profit BJJ group getting together in a community center. Everyone was super conscientious. Even when going for the risky submissions or intricate locks, everyone I went with was super great about giving the chance to tap and then stopping when the tap happened.
Those horror stories of guys Hulking through a submission or going like they want to rip your head off aren’t myths. I’ve experienced them. However, they don’t seem to apply here to this group of people; this group of people who meets simply for the desire to train BJJ with friends and to get better. They compete, they train for competition, but they don’t train like it’s competition. Even as they ramp up their conditioning or rolling intensity in preparations for the slew of competitions in April, I feel safe with them. It feels good to have a place I can train where I feel safe.