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April has been a tough month for our family, injury wise. About 2 weeks ago, Matthew tore some cartilage in his ribcage. And then, a little over a week ago, I re-injured my neck/shoulder in the same way I had done over the summer. So there was a week in there where both of us were in pain and Maya was home on Spring Break. It sounds horrible, but actually we had a nice vacation. She had a few playdates. We spent a lot of time at the playground. (A number of people have since commented on my lovely tan. No I did not go to Aruba. I went to Grand Street.) We lazed around. I used the heating pad. A lot. It was almost relaxing.

In case you were wondering, I have an appointment with a sports medicine specialist next week. And Matthew went and had an x-ray after his injury, just to make sure nothing was broken. We are good, responsible adults. But because we are us, both Matthew and I took about a week off and then went back to jiu-jitsu to work through our respective injuries. There is a kind of science to training while hurt. It requires careful experiments, trial and error. For example, I went to class Monday and only drilled. Yesterday I tried one slow round of rolling and by the afternoon my neck felt like I had been in a car wreck. Note to self, not quite ready for rolling. Lesson learned.

If your sport is running, or swimming, or any other exercise that you can do alone, your injury affects no one but yourself. It is different in jiu-jitsu. Injured grapplers have two choices, stay home until they are completely healed, or involve someone else in their recovery. Both Matthew and I chose the latter.

When I showed up to drill on Monday I felt awkward. The first thing I did was explain the situation to my instructor and make sure it was ok for me to just go slow. He of course, said yes. I imagine most teachers would. I then had to explain everything to my training partners. Please take it easy. I can take you down but I can't fall. I am not doing any rolling. Sometimes I felt like I was asking too much, like my injury was ruining their class experience. I felt fragile and pathetic. I kept apologizing and I thanked everyone a million times after class for working with me. 

I would not say it was a fun experience. Worth it, yes. Humbling. Educational. But not fun. Still, my partners were wonderfully supportive. They did not seem to mind that I was slowing them down, probably because they could still roll with each other as hard as they wanted. Perhaps they even appreciated the opportunity to work on detail. (Wishful thinking?)

My husband also went back to careful training after a little over a week. Like me, he told every single partner he worked with about his injury, what side of his body to avoid, what he could and couldn't do. Most of them were great. A few were clearly trying but were not so sure how to go light, or they started off slow but seemed to lose themselves halfway through the round. Only one person seemed to not care that he was hurt, and just did what he always does, almost as if he was thinking, Now! Now is my chance to beat this guy. But there is a rotten apple in every barrel. For the most part, everyone was cool.

Before going back to class yesterday, for more of the same, I had to make my peace with having to once again impose my limitations on everyone else. After all, we are all in this together right? Sure right now I am the injured one, but it is the nature of training that at some point the shoe will be on the other foot and I will be the one asked to go light. 

So how do you train with an injured partner? Well, as is often the case, my husband actually came up with the best analogy. If you are drilling with a brand new white belt, you would treat them a certain way, right? The same goes for someone smaller than you, older than you, less athletic, or whatever. So when I am your partner right now, don't think of yourself as training with the normal me, the one you are used to. Instead, think of me as a different partner. Today you are rolling with "messed up shoulder Jennifer". Thanks for not crushing me.

As for how to be the injured one on the mat, well I am still working on that. I have learned that you have to go slow, listen to your body, experiment. It takes a lot of patience, which if you know me you know is not really my specialty. Recovery is rarely a straight line and I often feel as if I have taken 2 steps forward only to then be rudely shoved backwards again. But I am getting there. And I am very grateful to have good teachers and training partners who never make me feel like I should have just stayed home. 

I am also grateful for a husband who not only understands the martial arts life but also happens to give a kick ass neck massage. And a six year old who knows when to let mommy nap and has actually used the phrase "just push through it" in conversation. 

Also red wine.
And chocolate. 
Not always, but often together.


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