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Joint Health and Jiu Jitsu by Outsid/In

Respect the Structure: Joints, Bones and BJJ

Continuing our theme of CONSTRUCTION, we put ourselves under the X-Ray, examining our relationship to bones and joints in the practice of BJJ, with input from Grapplers all over the world on how they maintain the structure that supports their art.

When you roll, how often do your joints come to mind? What about your bones? The structures inside you that make every move on the mat possible, these are elemental things. They’re likely not part of your active thinking, but they move and shift in ways both major and minor, to protect you and your training partner and to support you both as you grow on the mat.

As we thought about CONSTRUCTION for the past couple pieces here at Outsid/In, it helped to go back to the basics, with a few definitions:

Joints in our skeletons are grouped by range of motion and the material they are made out of. Here are some common joints, their range of motion and their material.

The Joint: KNEE

The Range of Motion: FULL MOVEMENT

The Material: SYNOVIAL CAPSULE HINGE JOINT


SKULL SUTURES

IMMOVABLE

FIBROUS


VERTEBRAE

SOME MOVEMENT

CARTILAGE


If a joint is “fibrous” it means there are thousands of strands of tissue (fibers) holding the joint in place, as in the skull or teeth, and are generally immovable.

If a joint is characterized by cartilage, the elastic, rubber-like substance usually sits between two bones, uniting them in ways that are immovable (as in the first pair of ribs meeting the sternum) or slightly movable (as in the vertebrae, where discs unite each bone).

Finally, there are joints that move. These are more mechanical. They glide, they rotate. There are hinges, balls and sockets, saddle. They provide the blueprint for common machines, and are supported by ligaments to hold these machines back - after all, complete movement (like bending the opposite way) would break the machine and injure the person it’s inside of.

So when you think of joints in your practice, the best way is to think of them as simple machines working on a complex whole. And machines need simple maintenance to function - lubrication in the form of fish oil, ice to calm inflamed elements, strength training to build muscles that will share the strain on joints. But don’t just believe our take on it, here’s what our grapplers had to say:


When you practice BJJ, are you thinking at all about your joints/bones?

  • Maybe my partners joints!
  • Always
  • Yes. This is why I warm up and regularly do mobility, foam rolling and yoga.
  • Not really 😃

  • (We’ve purposely removed the belt rankings and names from these answers.)

    Have you experienced any bone/joint injuries? If so, how do you adjust your training?

  • Yes I did! I try my best to avoid the injury part and go a little easier than usual in the training session!
  • Multiple shoulder joint dislocations and knee tears.
  • I adjust my training nowadays avoiding certain angles to avoid pressure on weak ligaments and joints.
  • Yes. My left foot and right shoulder. I try to be mindful of my shoulder and probably protect it more that I should.
  • Yes. Training while injured (if possible) it’s a great way to improve your Jiu Jitsu! You learn to protect the injury while improving on other parts!
  • YES. I sprained my MCL drilling takedowns...had to take time off for rehab and to rebuild my confidence.

  • Keep in mind these are not physical therapists or licensed professionals. Everyone’s approach to their own construction is different.


    When it comes to your health, do you have any preferred methods to take care of your joints?

  • I do use a lot of Ice, some supplements and I make sure to always warm up my joints before any exercise!
  • Good diet, hydration, Weight lifting and rubber band exercises.
  • Yes. Fish oil, mobility and yoga.
  • Supplements and ice!
  • i've tried supplements but strength training was the only thing that worked.

  • No two grapplers are constructed the same. But at the same time, we are. We all have joints and they all adhere to the same basic mechanical functions. Our creativity on the mat arises from the way we manipulate our own joints, to apply pressure to others’ own joints. So your own joint health directly affects your own ability to be successful in your practice. 

    This is what we think about when we think about CONSTRUCTION. See you on the mat.