Wednesday, 30 September 2009


It has been a while since I last updated because I have been feeling demotivated with training. My elbows are slowly improving but they are still bothering me enough that I cannot grip a gi. I have been trying to work on my guard but as my game is very reliant on controlling the gi, I have been feeling very frustrated and despondent. I have also stopped Judo and weights completely which upsets me as I enjoy doing both.

A few weeks ago I realised I needed to pull myself together and stop feeling sorry for myself: I should stop yearning for the things I could not do and start finding ways to train that do not aggravate my injuries. Instead of Judo class on Mondays I am now attending no-gi class. My no-gi experience is fairly limited compared to my overall BJJ training history. I have ocassionally dabbled with it in the past but I did not like it very much because I felt like I was drowning in the sea with nothing to hold onto. Now that I have more BJJ experience I am finding I enjoy no-gi. It is forcing me to be quicker and tighter in the way I control and apply positions. I think in the long run I may even find that no-gi grappling suits me more than BJJ in the gi.

In gi class I am developing my guard to become less reliant on the gi: Instead of pulling on the sleeves and lapels to control I am now pushing and blocking my partner's head, shoulders and hips to escape my hips and create space. It is forcing me to use my arms less and use my hips and legs more which can only be a good thing in the long run. I always enjoyed attacking with gi chokes but now I am unable to grip to apply them I am relying more heavily on joint locks and trying to see them from all positions.

At first, I saw my injury as a handicap: It was a limiting factor that prevented me from playing my usual BJJ game. Now I see my injury as an opportunity for me to learn other ways of using my body. By shifting my focus from my short-term setbacks to my middle- and long-term development, I have rekindled my enthusiasm for BJJ. Although it may be difficult to see it at the time, sometimes injury can be a blessing.

BJJ Elbow, Part Three: Soft Tissue Release

The purpose of this post is to show the lay person a simple way to relieve tightness in the forearms, it is in no way intended to replace treatment by a qualified professional.

Soft Tissue Release (STR) is a form of manual therapy used to treat soft tissue, in this case muscle, fascia and tendon. Quite often tightness in soft tissue is not uniform and there will be specific areas of myofascia that are restricted or that may contain scar tissue and adhesions.

Traditional stretching methods normally involve movng the muscle insertion (where one end of the muscle attaches to bone) away from the muscle origin (where the other end of the muscle attaches to another bone). This will usually result in the less-restricted portions of the muscle stretching first with little effect on the restricted portion. By determining which parts of the muscle are tightest and 'locking' it with various tools (digits, forearms, elbows, massage tools) to create a false muscle origin before moving the insertion away from that false origin, it is possible to isolate the stretch to the portion of the muscle that needs it most.

To perform STR on the flexors of the wrist and fingers:

  • Determine which portions of the muscle are restricted. Such areas will normally seem tight during movement and will feel hard or 'grisly' to the touch.

  • Apply a 'lock' to the muscle just above the area of tightness. The lock should be applied obliquely at a 45° angle and all excess tissue should be moved away from the wrist. The effect of applying this pressure is to create a false muscle origin. (You may notice that I have applied the lock with my thumb, this is fine for me as I am accustomed to applying pressure through my thumbs. If your thumbs are weak or hyperextend please use a massage tool to avoid injury.)

  • Whilst maintaing the pressure of the lock, extend the wrist (bend it backwards) to apply the stretch. By locking the tissue to create a false muscle origin all the tissue below the lock will be stretched and the tissue above the lock will be uneffected. By performing STR it is possible to isolate the stretch to the tightest parts of the flexors. It is also possible to avoid aggravating the muscle tendons which are currently inflammed.

  • Repeat the process several times until the muscle feels 'stretched'

Please note that I have only demonstrated how to apply STR to the flexors because I have pain at the medial epicondyle. If your problem is elsewhere you can still use the same principles but you will need to adapt the technique accordingly.