How to Improve when Injured
Injury. As a Jiu-Jitsu player, this is one dreaded word. Despite our best efforts to stay healthy, every one of us has to deal with it during our journey. More than once!
When an injury occurs, we have two solutions. We can wait, be miserable, and count the days until we got the green light to train. Or we can make the best of this opportunity and improve! Sadly, most practitioners do the former.
In this article, we'll discuss how Mental Training will be your ally during your time off the mats, how Visualization and Active Observation will help your game, and why you should do it even when you're healthy!
Visualization is something I've been doing for years. At first, I thought I discovered a revolutionary technique by myself, only to learn a few years later than champions of the like of Georges St Pierre or Novak Djokovic (World Number 1 Tennis Player) were using it daily!
If I wasn't a pioneer, at least I was doing something right! But what is visualization?
It's a versatile technique that consists of picturing something in your mind. I use it in two ways.
The GSP Way
When GSP was recovering from his first knee surgery, he spent a lot of time at the boxing gym, watching Amir Khan shadow box. The simple fact of observing, and then closing his eyes and visualizing himself performing the moves had a real impact on his technique and was allowing him to improve, even when he couldn't move! He talks about this in his book, The Way of the Fight.
So how does it work, and how to do it?
The idea is to trick your brain into believing you're performing the move. Let's say you want to practice the breaking mechanism of the outside heel hook. Close your eyes, and picture yourself in Outside Ashi Garami. Now, you want to imagine the physical sensations you will get while performing the move. The contact between your grip and your partner's heel, the floor and your elbow, the position of your head, et cetera.
You want to be as close as possible to reality. Now, be accurate when mentally performing the move: Align your forearm on his foot and your head on his shin / Post on your elbow to elevate his heel (elbow below your wrist) / Keep your chin as close as possible to his heel at all time / Top knee closes down / Lift your hips / Drive hips forward. Again, try to FEEL the sequence; this is key.
Keep an open mind, and try to do it. I guarantee you will be impressed the next time you perform the move. On many occasions, when I was a blue belt, I would watch a new move in an instructional during lunch, and I was able to perform the technique during live training without any prior practice or test. The secret? I had spent 20min drilling the move in my head, doing visualization, during my commute time.
The Prison Break Way
If you used to watch Prison Break back in 2005, you might recall the first episode when Michael was trying to memorize the prison plans in his head. Well, the idea here is to do the same, but with the FlowChart! (I'm not suggesting you should tattoo the FlowChart on your torso!)
To improve your game, you need to understand Jiu-Jitsu as a system. If you want consistent results, you need a systemic approach. That's where the genius of Danaher comes into play, and that's where the FlowCharts will be your best asset.
In my opinion, the fastest way to learn a system is to "print" the FlowChart in your head. You need to know how to react in front of the different situations that may occur during a sequence. To do so, open a FlowChart, and follow a sequence while visualizing the action in your mind. Use the same technique as before. Try to feel the moves. I believe it's the fastest way to learn. The beauty of it: You can do it while you commute to work! No need to make room in your daily schedule!
ABOUT ACTIVE OBSERVATION
The first step to quicker recovery is to go to the gym and observe your teammates. I do believe going outside, back to an active lifestyle, is right for your head, hence beneficial for your body!
Once you're there, observe! But do it right! There are two ways to observe: a passive and an active way. Passively watching your training partners is when you watch the action unfold without processing any information. It's like watching a stupid tv show: you have a good time, but don't get much out of it!
What you want is active observation, where you imagine yourself in the position and think about what would be the best next moves. By doing so, you will train your mind to analyze a situation and have responses for it. You'll develop patterns, which is a crucial element of the game. Like chess, the best player is often the one who can recognize the most patterns. Unlike chess, you'll need to be able to perform them physically!
Combining Visualization and Active Observation will be the best option to keep improving when you're injured. Remember, the two keys are to feel the sequences and to ask yourself what would be the best next move in this situation.
Done consistently, you will see a significant improvement in your game, without changing your daily routine as you'll do it during your commute time! And remember, it's not only for when you're injured. It must become part of your regular training!
If you have any questions, requests, suggestions, or if you just wanna chat, send me an email or a message on Instagram @maxigarami, and I'll be more than happy to talk with you and to hear your feedback.