A question I’ve been getting a lot since I had to stop training because of a sprained ligament in my knee is “what are you doing with all your spare time now?”. I typically train jiu-jitsu in some fashion at least 5 days a week so I have found myself with a lot of “extra” time I am not used to having. Because this is a high impact martial art, chances are most of you will have to miss some time because of an injury at some point in your training as well. Should you find yourself on the sideline wondering what to do with the copious amounts of time you are not spending rolling around on the floor in your pajamas, here is a list of things I have been doing to keep myself busy.
- Eat – I figure I need to heal the injury from the inside which means I need a lot of calories.
- Drink – Since I cannot train I am not getting an endorphin rush nor am I wearing myself out on a nightly basis, alcohol has been a suitable (and delicious!) substitute for making me feel both happy and sleepy.
- Spend some time with friends – Since I spend so much time training I often neglect my friends, especially with tournaments coming up. Having some down time has been a great way to reconnect with some of them. It’s also a good excuse to partake in numbers 1 and 2.
- Catch up on TV shows – I am proud to report that I am now entirely caught up on The Vampire Diaries and ready for the new season to begin (on Thursday!). Soon I might start on this Breaking Bad everyone is so fond of (although now that I have had so many years of people telling me it’s the best show ever I am sure that I will watch it and be let down by unrealistic expectations…I’d rather be the freak who never watched Breaking Bad than the freak who didn’t like it). If you are feeling ambitious number 4 can be combined with numbers 1,2 and/or 3.
- Rest – I really need to make sure I heal up so I am trying to move the knee as little as possible. This takes much skill and the patience to lie on the couch for hours at a time.
- The “to do” list – We all have a list of things that we neglect because we have no time between work and training. Whether it be the light that has been burnt out for months, the closet that needs to be cleaned, the pile of mail yet to be opened or the hundreds of other things that need to get done, when you are injured it is the perfect time to pick off some items from that list. I am totally going to start doing that. For real. Soon.
- Permanently mar your skin – As you may know, I am a huge fan of shoulder pressure and it has become my best weapon in jiu-jitsu. One of my teammates felt he was spending so much time with my shoulder that he named it Stanley. The name stuck and I started to think of my shoulder as “Stanley” as did many of my training partners. I have wanted to get a Stanley tattoo on my shoulder for a while but never wanted to give up a week or more of training time. Since I had some extra time…
So as you can see I have been keeping myself quite busy! Luckily the physical therapist says I can try drilling tonight and if I don’t have problems with that, I should be able to start training full time again soon. Hopefully all goes well or I may end up coming back to jiu-jitsu with two full sleeves.
A disclaimer: In this post I will be describing something that happened to a friend of mine and my take on the situation. I realize that not everyone will agree with my opinion. While I won’t apologize for it, your feedback and discussion are always welcome.
Loyalty and respect are themes that are pervasive in the martial arts and jiu-jitsu is certainly no exception. In fact it seems that the higher the belt, the more respect a person gets, whether earned or not. I’ve had some reason to examine what the notions of respect and loyalty in BJJ mean to me in the past few weeks.
Last summer I attended a 4-day jiu-jitsu event. I went with a teammate of mine who I managed to persuade to come with me because 1) she is awesome and 2) I was afraid of being the only woman there. As luck would have it, there was another woman signed up. The three of us lodged together and became fast friends. The event, although open to the public, was run by a prominent regional BJJ franchise. Most of the instructors and attendees (including my new friend) were members of this organization. This summer the event was scheduled to take place again and my new friend and I both signed up.
About a month and a half ago I was sitting in my gym waiting for BJJ to start and catching up on Facebook news. I saw the following post from my friend:
I immediately reached out to her to see if she was ok. She assured me that although she was a bit upset, she was going to be fine and keep training. After making sure she was ok my thoughts naturally turned to me (I am ridiculously self-centered) and I wondered if her no longer being associated with the organization was going to affect her going to the event. I asked her if she was still comfortable going and she said she was, that she still had a lot of friends that she was looking forward to seeing and it was going to be fine.
A few days later a mutual friend brought my attention to the following Facebook post from her ex-coach (clearly my sister has been right all these years and Facebook is indeed evil):
This post was very disturbing to me. Of course the first thing I felt was outrage and sympathy for my friend. I could only imagine what she was going through because of what seemed to me to be an angry, hurtful and juvenile attack on her character.
I next couldn’t help but think about how unprofessional and “un-BJJ” like the post was. I understand saying heated things out of anger, but surely a business owner who makes a living in a discipline that is centered on respect would realize this wasn’t a good way to represent himself to the community.
I figured that if he had still been too upset to realize this wasn’t the right thing to do, surely someone else in the organization would tell him. I expanded the status to see the comments, expecting at least some of them to be admonishing and was dismayed to see that not only had everyone else seemed to be happy to add to the mudslinging, the head of the organization, several coaches and some potential camp attendees had “liked” the status. In case you are wondering if maybe they didn’t realize who her ex-coach was talking about, he mentioned her by name in the comments.
As I sat there reading the nasty comments, my heart sank. I was upset for my friend and what she was going through but I was also upset as a woman who trains jiu-jitsu.
My friend and I are in very similar situations in that we are often the only woman on the mat during class. Even if you are a woman who gets to train with lots of other women, the overwhelming majority of people in the sport are men. There is a good chance that you are going to become friends with a lot of guys. I know that her close friendship with one training partner (who also left the gym to pursue MMA) had long been a source of speculation at her gym.
I have made many friends, both male and female, that I hope I will be talking to for the rest of my life through jiu-jitsu. I know I am not alone in this, jiu-jitsu has a way of bonding people. I know anytime a man and woman spend a lot of time together some people will start to speculate but because most of the people involved in jiu-jitsu are men, it is only natural that a woman who trains would become friends with men.
However as a woman who is surrounded by men while training you can’t help but worry about the perceptions of others sometimes. In a sport where many of the positions are suggestive (for examples read the comments under the recent Kyra pictures), it is natural to be concerned about what people think about the one lady rolling around on the floor with a bunch of men between her legs.
These concerns are largely unfounded but they are there for a lot of women who train. My hope would be that the leader of a gym would do all he could to dispel these misconceptions. Instead my friend’s coach not only chose to feed into them, but used them to bully and slander her.
A few days later she called to tell me that things had gotten worse. She was concerned for her safety and no longer felt comfortable going to the event. I told her that I understood and she said she was going to talk to the man organizing the event to try to get a refund of her deposit. I told her I was not very interested in attending anymore either and she said she was going to try to get my deposit back as well.
My friend spoke with the organizer and we found out that we were not going to get our deposits back. Although disappointed, I was not overly surprised. I accept his reasoning that he had already used the money setting up the event with only the slightest bit of skepticism and anger.
Obviously my friend was not going to go under any circumstances, especially since her ex-coach was likely to attend. I was left with the decision to either lose my deposit money, $325, or spend an additional $500-$600 on getting to the event by myself and paying the remainder of the tuition.
I didn’t like the idea of losing money but I couldn’t stop thinking about what her ex-coach had said and how others in the organization had reacted to it. I have often struggled with feeling like I don’t fit in when training. There is a certain testosterone-laced machismo that goes along with training a combat sport and as a woman, it’s easy to feel out of place and even isolated sometimes.
I know that much of this is in my head. Many of the people who train jiu-jitsu feel out of place sometimes whether it be because of their age, their size, their perceived lack of athletic ability, etc.
To me, her ex-coach’s statement felt like he was confirming the secret fear that so many women have felt when training, that we don’t belong there. He had rid the gym of the girl who comes in not to train but to cheat on her husband with the men at the gym. He only mentioned her by name in his status suggesting he was placing the blame for these alleged affairs squarely on her shoulders. It made me feel like my inner fear was true, the boys don’t want the girls to train. The support of the leaders of his team suggested that they agreed.
Even if you do not agree with my interpretation, I think it’s hard to argue that her ex-coach’s statement was anything but disrespectful. He used accusations spread about in a gym and posted them as if they were fact without any kind of proof. Even if he had believed his words to be truth, he showed a complete lack of respect for her family in posting them publicly.
In the end I made the only decision I could and skipped the event. I couldn’t go and pretend I was ok with the way my friend’s ex-coach had treated her and the team’s continued support of him. As the event came and went and I saw pictures posted online that included her ex-coach, I knew I had made the right decision.
I don’t know if the leaders of the organization addressed this situation with my friend’s ex-coach behind the scenes. It is my hope they did. I do know that no one has apologized to my friend for what he put her through and publicly they have done nothing but support him.
So I didn’t get to go away for vacation this summer. It wasn’t a complete loss though. This experience reminded me that respect and loyalty are not things we should give away blindly based on the color of a belt someone puts on or the team they train under, but rather they have to be earned.
Thanks to everyone for the well wishes over the last week. I went back to the orthopedist on Tuesday to get the results of the MRI and he said there were no significant tears but one of my ligaments on the outside of the knee is sprained. We are treating it conservatively with physical therapy and meds and hopefully in 2-3 weeks I should be good to go. It was about the best news I could have hoped for!
I had my first PT appointment last night. The therapist’s name is also Cynthia but luckily she goes by Cindy so we won’t get all confused. She did a workup and showed me where the injury was on my knee with a chart. Some ligament attached to the fibula with a fancy name I can’t remember and there also seems to be some irritation with the hamstring in the same area.
She also said my knee is moving too much and probably got hyper-extended. I had a flashback to a few weeks ago where, when drilling takedowns, my partner bent my knee back while going for a single leg. Which was also around the time my knee got much worse. Now it all makes sense. I knew standup was the devil. She gave me some stretches to do at home and we start actual therapy next week, yippee!
I have to admit that I was driving to work after the orthopedist appointment the other day I started wondering if just a sprain meant I could compete in No-Gi Pan Ams afterall. The doctor said that anything that is potentially jarring to the knee is definitely a no-no but he also said it might be better in 2-3 weeks. That would mean that it could be healed up just in time for Pan Ams.
I talked over my options with a training buddy and he definitely didn’t think competing was a good idea (he actually threatened to take my knee fully out of commission should I try). We talked a bit about what the motivation could be to compete when my knee was injured and I really didn’t know what to say.
I think a lot of the reason I wanted to compete was that I want to prove I’m tough. It’s jiu-jitsu, we don’t stop training for puny little sprains! I actually felt embarrassed when I told my coach what the diagnosis was. But in the end I realize that a sprain is an injury and I definitely don’t want to damage the ligament anymore so I am taking the doctor’s advice and refraining from jiu-jitsu until the knee starts feeling better.
So the next couple of weeks will be therapy, focusing on diet, doing some upper body and core work and tightening up my cheerleading game for the No-Gi Pan Ams.
I am also still working on a really long blog post that is taking me forever but I promise to post soon. My life has been quite hectic with work and running around to different doctors but hopefully it will settle soon.
A quick update on the knee. I went to the doctor on Tuesday and he said he doesn’t think it’s a ligament (phew) but it could be a torn meniscus. It also might just be a sprain which is what I’m hoping for. I got an MRI last night and will go over the results with the doctor on Tuesday morning.
This was my first time getting an MRI which really wasn’t so bad. I went in feet first so my head was outside and I didn’t feel claustrophobic. It was difficult after a while not to move but I did get to listen to the Grease soundtrack so that was a bonus.
They gave me a CD that has all the images from the MRI on it when I was done. I naturally looked at it today and saw lots of pictures of my knee that I had no idea how to read. I am thinking of posting them to Facebook and sharing them on the wall of every doctor I can find 🙂
In the meantime I am not allowed to train because the doctor says training with a torn meniscus could result in damage to the ligament which is apparently much harder to fix than a meniscus. I am going somewhat stir crazy but I have been researching exercises I can do that do not require the use of legs and figure now is a good time to work on upper body strength and abs. I’m also making sure to stick to a good diet since I can’t train.
I am so far remaining calm and trying to keep the “what ifs” out of my brain. I am doing a surprisingly good job of it (I think at least) but I am super anxious to get the results on Tuesday. I just want to know what I am facing so I can figure out the plan to kick its ass!
Sorry for the long delay between posts. I have actually been working hard on what’s turned into a very long post about some recent BJJ events in my life that I hope to post later in the week. I think for the first time in my life, I am understanding this thing they call “writer’s block” as I am struggling to find the right words for the situation. I was also off of work last week and traveling a bit and getting food poisoning so it’s been busy busy busy.
I did two very contradictory things in the past week that make little sense. The first is that I registered for the no-gi Pan Ams which take place in 24 days. The second is that I finally admitted to myself that my knee might be seriously injured and I made an appointment with an orthopedist which takes place today.
I’ve had nagging knee pain for a couple of months now but it hasn’t been bad enough that it kept me from training. When it started I gave up running (which I’d probably use any excuse to do anyway, not a big fan of the running) and started biking instead but it still wouldn’t go away. Twice I’ve taken close to a week off of everything to try to let the knee heal but the pain would not go away. I kept telling myself it was nothing and trying to push through but the last couple of weeks it’s been getting progressively worse. The knee took a lot of abuse after a particularly vigorous single leg a couple of weeks ago and it’s gotten to the point that I can’t walk without discomfort.
I am really nervous about what the doctor will find because I do not want any kind of lengthy time off right now, I’m too old for that! I am doing my best to stay optimistic but I fear I will become a mess if it’s bad news today. Oh well, hopefully in 6 hours or so I’ll have some news and I’ll know where to go from there. Wish me luck, I promise updates and the really long post soon!