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Featuring: A Guy Who Took a Long Time Off and Is Self Conscious About His Rank

Here at BJJ Problems we get lots of questions from readers, asking if we have solutions for their BJJ-related woes. Here to answer them as always is our advice columnist, A Guy Who Took a Long Time Off and Is Self Conscious About His Rank.

Dear A.G.W.T.L.T.O.I.S.C.A.H.R., 

I love jiu-jitsu and the people in it, but I can't take the injuries! First it was my elbow, then my ribs, and now my neck is so messed up I can barely sleep, all in less than a year. Everyone tells me not to go so hard in sparring, but I feel like each time has been random bad luck. Is BJJ not the sport for me?

- Made of Glass

Dear Mr. Glass: Believe me, I know more than anyone about the injury bug. After my knee surgery, changing jobs and some personal issues, it was a real struggle getting back on the mat. Even now, I don't feel 100% when rolling, though you wouldn't know it by people's expectations. Tying on a purple belt might as well be painting a target on your back.

When you love something, though, you need to adjust your approach to adapt to life's curveballs. For example, before I got hurt, I used to replace stripes on my belt right away if they fell off in the wash. Not anymore! With luck, my prof will forget they were there in the first place (just kidding...sort of).

Dear A.G.W.T.L.T.O.I.S.C.A.H.R., 

Long time reader, first time writer. I had a situation last week during open mat. I was having a bad day, not feeling like myself, when a lower belt choked me across my jaw, pushing my teeth so hard into my lip it bled. I made a scene, yelled obscenities and stomped out the door. I understand I should have tapped sooner, and I apologized to him for screaming, but should I try to avoid rolling with him in the future? I'm worried about losing control again.

- Hot Temper

Dear Hot: Don't get me started on lower belts! Those guys and gals can really get fierce when they see an opening. Try doing what I do: take them aside and calmly explain that you didn't really want to wear your purple belt anyway, rank doesn't matter to you, and we should all be judged as individuals, not colors.

Also, feel free to let someone know ahead of time if they're rolling harder than you'd like. Not everyone is training to compete, and that's OK. Heck, it's not like I could be expected to compete at purple belt yet, not for a long time. I mean, I'm barely holding my own with the newest blues. NAGA in April? Is coach serious? Does that sound reasonable to you, Hot?

Dear A.G.W.T.L.T.O.I.S.C.A.H.R.,

I train under a well-known Brazilian 3rd degree black belt, although most of the actual classes were taught by his brown belt student. This was never a problem, because the brown belt is an excellent teacher, knowledgeable, funny, and altogether an awesome guy.

Recently, the head coach and the brown belt had a falling out, and the brown belt quit the academy. He approached me afterward and implied he is starting his own academy soon and would like me as a member.

What should I do? On one hand, the head coach is well-regarded and there are lots of training partners here. I feel like it would be silly to leave a big-time school for a brown belt's garage. But when the head coach teaches, I don't really connect with his style. Plus I feel I'm sort of betraying a friend by staying. Help!

- Pulled Two Ways

Dear Pulled: Communication is always the best strategy. You have to be able to speak honestly to everyone involved, so they understand where you're coming from.

Unfortunately, you'll find some people are better at listening than others. Take Mark Hayley for example: I must have told him a hundred times that I'm not on the level I used to be, but he still crushes me like I'm the top purple belt in the school. Please Mark, just ease off the pressure and let me work a little, my muscle memory is like, nearly zero. I might as well be a white belt at my trial class for all I can do against him.

Anyway, talk to your head coach. I know I've been meaning to speak to mine about maybe wearing a blue belt for a little while, at least until the summer. I just know he's going to get really annoyed, though, like he did last time.

Hey, maybe you could say something about me while he's nearby? Something like, "Gary sure has been struggling, almost like he's a blue belt again." Sort of plant an idea in his head, you know?

Actually, no. Don't say anything, OK? Just...yeah, just forget it.


A Guy Who Took a Long Time Off and Is Self Conscious About His Rank will be back next month to help with more of your BJJ problems, so keep those questions coming!


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