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I think a lot of people will agree when I say that wrestling is generally more demanding on the body, with higher chances of injuries than Jiu Jitsu is. I am a world champion wrestler and have been training and competing for over 20 years all over the world, and strangely, I am noticing far more injuries occurring in Jiu Jitsu than in wrestling. As a performance coach, I have practiced and trained a lot of Jiu Jitsu athletes and boy, let me tell you, they are always bruised, injured and kinda broken.

How is this possible?

A relatively low number of injuries occur in a sport where slamming and throwing is a part of the warm up. Yet somehow more people get hurt in this sport known as “the gentle art.” Again, how is this possible?

Wrestling is more of a culture than just a sport with far more of a background than Jiu Jitsu has. One of the differences between these two sports is that in wrestling, respect isn’t implied by belt color, nor is training at certain clubs with different training partners shamed or punished. With all due respect to Jiu Jitsu, I think it’s pretty obvious there is some insecurity around the sport of Jiu Jitsu and its practitioners.

For his reason, I believe that injuries in Jiu Jitsu are more related to ego than to physical strains on the body. In Jiu Jitsu there comes a point when the athlete needs to place himself, his limbs, and his joints before his mind or his ego. There comes a point during Jiu Jitsu practice when you need to put yourself and your health first. You can do that only if you or your health matters to you. In Jiu Jitsu, there are many instances when you have to make a sound decision in a split second’s worth of time. This is obviously a difficult thing to do. Jiu Jitsu athletes train and compete with one objective: maneuver themselves into a position in which they can put as much pressure as possible on a particular joint of their opponent, in turn, forcing the latter to tap out or quit.

In that moment, one competitor is basically waiting for a response from his or her opponent. I understand that an athlete should wait for as long as he or she can before tapping out if they are competing in a tournament for which they’ve been preparing for months, but the injuries referred to earlier seldom happen during competition. They happen during training! And sadly, it seems that the only times you can prevent such injuries is to tap out only in a situation where doing so won’t make you look like a “wuss.” But it is foolish, if you do have the opportunity to tap-out, to pass on it just because you think it is a sign of weakness.

Remember, being smart is not a character flaw. With the risk of offending some people, I believe that most Jiu Jitsu injuries come from nothing more than a place of low self-esteem. Most Jiu Jitsu injuries spawn from struggles for feelings of self worth.

“I’m a warrior if I don’t tap,” says your average Jiu Jitsu practitioner. But I say, “How does it feel to be broken and unable to train? What makes you believe that getting hurt by “not tapping” makes you tough and that making a smart decision is a sign a weakness? Since when does absence of sound thinking indicate superiority?”

The truth is that you are really a warrior if you manage to stand up for yourself and walk away in one piece. You are a warrior if you care more about how you feel than what others think of you. You are a warrior if you make it to competition and reach your highest potential. You are tough when you acknowledge your fears instead of ignoring them. You are much stronger being yourself, slowly growing weaker when trying to impress others. It is just sad to see how many of the Jiu Jitsu athletes fail to tap into their full potential, while bouncing from one injury to another.

Of course accidents happen, but let’s be honest. How many of those injuries are truly the result of accidents? How many athletes are actually aware of the real reason they choose not to tap?

It is sad to see so many athletes getting hurt so quickly in a sport where injuries can so easily be prevented. I’ve been a wrestler for all of my life with a lot of competitions under my belt, but like I said, I’ve never witnessed so many injuries like I do in the Jiu Jitsu crowd.

I love Jiu Jitsu and the ones who practice it, and that’s why I am writing this. Jiu Jitsu practitioners are wonderful people with a lot of potential. They don’t, however, need to spend more hours on the mat striving to become the next Romulo Barral or Edwin Najmi. They should spend more time being healthy and less time seeking outside validation. They don’t need belt colors and bows. They need more handshakes and steady eye contact. They don’t need more takedowns. They need more hugs. Jiu Jitsu practitioners need to stop chasing the belt and start finding their strengths. Being a truly great black belt is being a great human being. Being a great Jiu Jitsu practitioner is learning how to put yourself in THE most favorable position: The one where you can let go and find the inner strength that allows you to tap out with dignity. Only then will you discover the key to conquering your most formidable opponent.

Stay healthy and rock on, Jitsu peeps.

Thank you and God Bless.