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      GUIDE: Back Injuries in BJJ

      GUIDE: Back Injuries in BJJ

      Oh jiu jitsu... we love it so much, even when we wake up and get out of bed like a 90-year-old grandpa. Let's face it, Brazilian jiu jitsu does a lot of wonderful things for the body, such as weight loss, strengthening, building your cardio, etc. But it can also take a toll on your body, too. One of the most common parts of the body that can become injured in BJJ is the back. 

      Here are a few common back ailments and how to manage them:  

      Muscle or Tendon Strain

      There are a ton of different muscles and tendons (the fibrous tissue that connects the muscles to bone) that make up the back, each of which have their own purpose and function. Because of the nature of jiu jitsu - with all the bending, twisting and inverting that goes on - all of these muscles come into play at one point or another. Now, it'd be one thing if we were doing all the bending, twisting, inverting by ourselves, but because we are doing so with the weight and pressure of another human being - sometimes one that is much larger - we are at an increased risk for muscle strains, particularly in our lumbar region (lower part of the back). A strain is the overstretching or tearing of muscles or tendons in the back, which, in addition to pain and stiffness, can be accompanied by muscle spasms. 

      The best treatment for strains are ice, rest and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen). Taping the afflicted area with kinesiology tape can relieve some of the pain and inflammation (See our Guide: Taping Injuries in BJJ for more information), but you'll need a buddy to help you... unless you're super crazy flexible (you weirdo). What's most important is that you stay off the mat for a couple days. Yeah, yeah, I know... better said that done.

      Ligament Sprain

      Sprain and strain are often used interchangeably, but a sprain most commonly refers to overstretching or tearing of the ligaments, which is often accompanied by bruising. Ligaments are the tough, fibrous tissues that connect the bones together. Again, the lumbar region is usually most affected by this type of injury, as it's the epicenter of a lot of our twisting and inverting movements in jiu jitsu. Various sets of ligaments connect each of our vertebrae together, as well as connects our neck and sacrum to our spinal column. The main causes of a sprain include over rotation or excessive bending of the spine (which in jiu jitsu can happen on a daily basis... both voluntarily and involuntarily).

      Both strains and sprains can last anywhere from a five days to a month, but you can easily minimize that time by taking it easy. Just as with muscle and tendon strains, ice (followed by heat therapy after the first 48 hours), rest, NSAIDs and taping are your best options. Remember, if you don't stay off the mat, you could potentially risk tearing the already weakened ligament, which will prolong your recovery time exponentially. 

      Bulged or Herniated Disks

      Another common injury is when the intervertebral discs (the cartilage between each vertebrae that acts as a cushion and shock absorber for the spine) become compressed and bulge outward or herniate ("rupture"). Bulging and herniation are basically the same phenomenon, in increasing intensity: the tougher outer cartilage of the disc (annulus fibrosus) is weakened, causing it to bulge out the side or even rupture, allowing the soft goopy inner cartilage (nucleus pulposus) to protrude, which irritates the nerve in that area. According to Recharge Sports Injury Center, "Many factors decrease the strength and resiliency of the disc and increase the risk of disc herniation. Life style choices such as smoking, lack of regular exercise, and inadequate nutrition contribute to poor disc health. Poor posture, daily wear and tear, injury or trauma, and incorrect lifting or twisting further stress the disc. If the disc is already weakened, it may herniate with a single movement or strain such as coughing or bending to pick up a pencil." Eek. Long story short: take care of yourself both on and off the mat.

      Most mild to moderate cases can be treated through non-surgical methods, including NSAIDs and ice/heat therapy to reduce the inflammation, as well as stretching and particular exercises to strengthen the muscles and reduce spinal pressure, chiropractic spinal manipulation or even epidural steroid injections (ESI). For most people, recovery takes approximately four to six weeks. However, more severe cases may require surgery, called a "discectomy", to remove a portion of the disc that's touching the spinal nerve. 

      Prevention is the Best Medicine 

      When it comes to back injuries, you can prevent a lot of them by simply taking the time to properly warm up and stretch. This is something that way too many jiu jitsu practitioners - including myself - neglect in their training regimen, but is the single most important thing you can do to increase your longevity on the mat. 

      Train on... and don't forget to stretch. Oss. 

      Top 5 Taboo Topics in BJJ

      Top 5 Taboo Topics in BJJ

      Jiu jitsu is most definitely its own culture... and as with any culture, it has its own set of taboos. Taboos are those things or actions that are looked down upon by the majority of the community's members, either because it's seen as repulsive, as a violation of tradition, destructive to the culture, or just simply against standard practices. 

      Keep in mind the operative word here is "majority." Just because some people consider it taboo, doesn't mean you have to blindly follow it. Definitely decide for yourself what you believe and go with that. Without further ado, here are our top five taboos in jiu jitsu: 

      Washing Your Belt

      One of the oldest superstitions in Brazilian jiu jitsu concerns washing your belt. A lot of old - and new - school practitioners refuse to wash their belts, considering it a kind of "washing away of knowledge" obtained on the mat. Athletes in general are a superstitious lot, with all kinds of habits and practices that make absolutely no sense to anyone else but them. This is natural and completely normal (and quite humorous, as well). Whether you subscribe to this superstition or not, it's important to know why some do not... The primary reason concerns hygiene; your belt, like any article of clothing, absorbs sweat and houses bacteria. Therefore, a lot of BJJ practitioners regularly was their belts, if not daily. 

      Belt Promotion Gauntlets

      A lot of academies have this peculiar tradition during their belt promotions: the gauntlet. No, it's not a medieval metal glove. The word itself actually comes from the Swedish word "gatlopp," meaning to "run the gauntlet," which referred to "a form of corporal punishment in which the party judged guilty is forced to run between two rows of soldiers who strike out and attack them." While a typical BJJ gauntlet isn't meant to be a form of punishment, it still involves two rows of your fellow practitioners inflicting some well-meaning and friendly (usually, anyway) abuse upon the newly promoted student with their own belts. While this practice continues in a lot of academies as a sort of "rite of passage," many academies have begun to abandon it, largely due to outside criticism or their own beliefs that it can be brutal, excessive or unnecessary. 

      Going Creonte

      The word "creonte" originated in the Brazilian jiu jitsu community and is used to refer to a student who switches academy affiliation, particularly if he/she had a very long-standing relationship with the former academy. This term is usually associated with more traditional BJJ academies, while more modern academies - many of which were built on drawing upper belts from other academies and locales - typically shrug it off. There is quite some heated debate concerning the word, however. Those who subscribe to it argue that a student, who has been given years of training and support from the original academy, is unforgivably disloyal when he/she leaves to join another academy. Those who oppose it claim the original professor and/or academy is afraid of being seen as inferior and that a student has every right to leave if he/she feels another academy will fit his/her needs, personality or game better. 

      Cross Training with Other Academies

      Related to the idea of a creonte is that of a student from one academy training periodically - or regularly - at another academy. This is also a hotly contested topic.  For some, training at other schools not only demonstrates a lack of respect for the original professor and academy, but can also create problems as it relates to competition and representing a team. If a student is training at two (or more) different academies, who does he/she represent? If he/she giving away too much of the academy's game and strategy to a competitor? On the other hand, proponents of cross-training argue that it only helps a competitor grow his/her jiu jitsu, and that of the academy as well, as he/she is bringing back fresh ideas. Of course, there are those academies that have great relationships with each other, and thus cross-training is completely accepted; as well as those academies that are bitter rivals, in which cross-training is strictly prohibited. 

      Dating Within the Gym

      And now to the taboo that afflicts any kind of gym environment: dating within the gym/school/academy. Whether it is open or on the down-low, if there is a substantial group of both men and women on the mat, odds are there is some dating going on. Which is a perfectly normal phenomenon with any group of people in which the members share the same passion and spend lots of free time together. However, this can cause issues. In the case of a breakup, who gets the gym? If both individuals choose to stay, it can cause some tension on the mat, even for the other practitioners. However, there are definitely some jiu jitsu couples who have demonstrated that a relationship with someone from the same academy is perfectly fine. These couples typically do a good job of keeping their occasional arguments away from the mat. 

      As I mentioned before, whatever side you take and however you feel on these subjects, that's on you. You're entitled to your own opinions... just as long as you keep training and allow others to have theirs. 

      Train on... respectfully. Oss.

      Product Release: New Kingz Gis!

      Product Release: New Kingz Gis!

      What's better than a new, fresh, crisp gi in the mail? When it's a new gi model from your favorite jiu jitsu brand!! Whether it's the new colorways, more streamlined or flashier design, better fit, or latest fabric technology... or all of the above... you're bound to squeal like a little girl (or boy) on Christmas morning. 

      So what do we got for you this time? The latest release from Kingz Kimonos, featuring not one, or two, or three... but FOUR new gi models! Check them out:

      Classic 3.0 Jiu Jitsu Gi

      Personally, the Classic has always been one of my favorites of Kingz. Super streamlined, super classy, and not too light that I feel like it'll rip the second one of my teammates grabs a hold of it. For those of you who are already Classic fans - like me - the Classic 3.0 brings you the same amazing features, with fresh new colorways to add to your collection. Made with a light weight, yet sturdy 450 GSM Pearl Weave Plus jacket and 10 oz cotton drill pants, the white gi features blood red, the blue gi features dove grey, and the black gi features cool mint green embroideries and patch details. Also available in Kingz' popular women's cut

      Nano 2.0 Jiu Jitsu Gi

      Competitors rejoice! Kingz also decided to refresh their highly popular ultralight gi! The original Nano was a total hit among the jiu jitsu community, as it was one of the few truly ultralight gis in the market that featured cotton rather than ripstop pants. With ultra-streamlined embroideries, a super lightweight 400 GSM jacket and 8 oz cotton pants - bolstered with as many reinforcements as they could without sacrificing weight - the Nano is a competitor's best friend. And can we talk about how stylish it is?? In addition to a slightly heavier fabric (we're talking a teeny tiny bit, 400 GSM versus 370 GSM, in response to reviews about the original Nano being too light), Kingz has also refreshed the colorways and added a sick grey version to the lineup! Also available in a women's cut!

      The One Jiu Jitsu Gi

      Kingz really is all about the people. Since the beginning, they've provided a basic gi model at an amazing price, without sacrificing quality. They've continued to commit to that idea with The One Jiu Jitsu Gi, a basic gi that is far from basic. Featuring a 400 GSM High-Tech Pearl Weave jacket, 10 oz cotton pants, streamlined Kingz crown logos and their new One logo, the One Jiu Jitsu Gi is a sweet, sweet gi, perfect for everyday training and at a price point that allows you to have one, two, heck... ten in the closet. Available in women's and kid's cuts!

      Sport Jiu Jitsu Gi

      If you thought Kingz' product release was just about refreshed gi models... you thought wrong! Check out the all new Sport Jiu Jitsu Gi, the latest model in Kingz' gi lineup. Inspired by football ("soccer" for you 'mericans out there) and fast cars, the Sport Jiu Jitsu Gi features wicked cool racing stripe Kingz patches down the shoulders and one leg, a lightweight 400 GSM Pearl Weave Jacket and ultralight weight 7.5 oz polyester/cotton ripstop pants. Only available in black and white! 

      Yeah, we know your interest is piqued... with so many new fresh models, how can you possibly decide which one to get?? Why not try them all? I mean... you really can't have too many gis. 

      Train on... Oss.

      What's With All These New Guards?

      What's With All These New Guards?

      One of the most beautiful aspects of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is that it is always evolving. It seems like every month - every week even - someone has posted something new and fresh... some new entry into an arm bar, some new variation of a pass, and event a new guard!

      So we thought we'd dedicated this blog to document some of the more modern guards out there in the BJJ world today. Check them out:

      De La Riva ("DLR")

      Although this guard had been previously employed in judo during the 1970s, the development of the De La Riva Guard in BJJ is attributed to Ricardo De La Riva during the 1980s. While not the most modern of the modern guards, it deserves note here because it is a foundation position for many of the modern guards that followed it.

      Reverse DLR

      Also known as the "Spiral Guard," the Reverse DLR Guard emerged in the early 2000's and is largely attributed to legendary rooster weight Caio Terra. Reverse DLR also serves as a foundation for a lot of other modern guards, and is the entry point to the Kiss of the Dragon back take.

      50/50 Guard

      An appropriately named leg entanglement, the 50/50 Guard is one in which your opponent is essentially in the same position as you are, with an equal opportunity for both fighters to execute techniques. This is a great guard for those who enjoy foot locks, heel hooks... or just stalling a match to win by advantages.


      Largely attributed to BJJ legend Marcelo Garcia, the X-Guard is another foundational modern guard that has seen a ton of different variations - usually in the form of a hybrid X type guard. Predominantly used for sweeping or going to the back, some practitioners have found sneaky attacks from this position.

      Single Leg X

      A favorite guard of some of world's top modern BJJ practitioners, the Single Leg X is another guard that sees a lot of variations and hybrids. A strong guard for both gi and no-gi styles, when executed properly, the Single Leg X provides a ton of opportunities for sweeping, going to the back, attacking legs, etc.

      Tornado Guard

      Popularized by Roberto "Cyborg" Abreu, the Tornado Guard, or Inverted Guard as it is sometimes called, is not for the faint of heart... or the inflexible. But for those who can fold themselves like a piece of sandwich bread, the Tornado Guard provides some highlight-reel-worthy sweeps and attacks. 

      Rubber Guard

      An invention of the notorious Eddie Bravo, the founder of the 10th planet system and a pioneer in the intentional evolution of jiu jitsu, the Rubber Guard is another guard that requires just a bit of flexibility. This guard is great for those who like to play from closed guard.

      Spider Guard

      A guard that can only really be played in the gi, the Spider Guard is another modern guard that has become the foundation for a lot of other hybrid modern guard variations, like the Lo Guard, a hybrid of the DLR and the Spider, and Dom Bell's Tarantula Guard. The strength of this guard lies in its ability to manipulate the base of your opponent by controlling his/her upper body.

      Lasso Guard

      For those of you who aren't fans of the Spider Guard - like me, with my short legs - the Lasso Guard is great alternative that allows for just as much base manipulation without having to be as dextrous with your feet. Plus, the position opens up a lot of great triangle and omoplata attacks. 

      Lapel Guard

      These days, the Lapel Guard has become almost an umbrella term for a lot of different guard variations that use your opponent's lapel against him/her. You can't mention lapel guards without talking about jiu jitsu phenom Keenan Cornelius, the inventor of many highly effective lapel guards, such as the Worm Guard and the Squid Guard.

      Whether you're an active competitor, or just a weekend hobbiest, it's important that you recognize the constantly evolving nature of jiu jitsu and keep abreast of all the new positions and techniques that are floating around out there. If you don't... you do so at your own peril when you find yourself facing some hotshot modern jiu jitsu player. 

      Train on... and evolve. Oss.

      How Often Should You Train BJJ?

      How Often Should You Train BJJ?

      Sorry guys and gals... there is no standard answer nor any magic algorithm that can tell you how often you should train Brazilian jiu jitsu. Everyone's life is different, and everyone's jiu jitsu journey is his/her own.

      However, there are a few questions you should ask yourself to figure out how often YOU should train BJJ. Read on... 

      How much do you want to? 

      How often you should train will be dictated largely by your will; how much do you really want to train? Are you absolutely obsessed with the gentle art and want to train every day, all day, and only that for the rest of your natural born life? Or do you just love it and want to hit the mats a few times a week to get your adrenaline and endorphin fix, in between the days you do other things that you love? Either is fine, and completely normal, believe me. What's most important about this question is that you can answer it honestly and without any outside influence. Make sure you're training only as much as you want to, not as much as someone else wants or expects you to. When it becomes about what someone else wants, you'll quickly find your will to train deteriorating... and nobody wants that. 

      How much can you? 

      That first question will be significantly tempered by how much you can train. Maybe you have a full-time job and a family. Even if the will to train every day is there, your available "me time" is just not there. You have obligations, which is cool. Congratulations on being a successful adult. But because jiu jitsu is such an excellent vehicle for relieving stress, regardless of how busy you might be in your real life, you should make the time to hit the academy a few times a week... for your own health and sanity (which only has positive effects on your family and work relationships). Or maybe you do have the time, but you have physical limitations on how hard and often you can go. As someone in my 30s, I know that my ability to recover is not what it used to be, so instead of breaking my body to keep up with all these superhuman kids, I train less, but train smarter.

      What are your goals? 

      Then you have to factor in your goals. Do you want to be a world champion athlete? You're not going to do that by training just a few times a week. There are people out there busting their butts each and every day to make it to the top. You're not going to get there by cruising. Do you just want to stay in shape? You probably don't need to train seven days a week (unless you want to... or like me, you have a terrible addiction to sweets); four or five days a week is fine. Do you want to become a black belt in 8-10 years (that's pretty fast, btw)? Then you should be training often and consistently. If you don't really have any goals, and you're there just to have fun, you can train however often you feel like it. 

      How do you feel? 

      Which brings me to my final consideration: how do you feel? However often you decide to train, you should always listen to your mind and your body. Have you been training six to seven days a week, hard, and you feel like your 90-year-old grandpa when you get out of bed? Then you should probably tone it down a bit. Are you forcing yourself to get into your car because you feel like crap and you kind of dread going and getting smashed on? Don't go. If your mind and body aren't feeling it that day, you may not be able to perform as well as you can and you might get hurt, or worse, burned out. Of course, there have been times that I've felt a little "meh" and forced myself to go train, only to feel 100x better afterward and glad I did it. But there's a fine line, and you should make an effort to recognize where that line is for you. 

      However often you train jiu jitsu, remember to always have fun.

      Train on... often. Oss.