Jiu Jitsu is gaining popularity worldwide. It’s often seen as the gentle art that prioritizes technique and skill over strength. But how true is this reputation? Is Jiu Jitsu Dangerous? What’s the risk of injury, and how does it compare to other mixed martial arts?
I’ve been training Jiu Jitsu for some time now and had some injuries myself. Some of them I could’ve avoided… I’ll walk you through the questions by giving you insight into my own personal experiences with the dangers of Jiu-Jitsu.
Is BJJ Less Dangerous Than Other Martial Arts?
Many MMA enthusiasts and practitioners argue that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is one of the safest martial arts. Let’s explore the reasons behind this claim.
1. Tap Out
In BJJ, the ability to “tap out” is a safety feature that sets it apart from arts like muay thai or boxing. If you find yourself in a painful position, all you have to do is tap your opponent or the mat, and the fight is over.
This option to signal surrender allows you to train and spar without fear of getting injuries. It’s a built-in safety mechanism that respects the physical limits of both participants.
Just make sure not to tap too late. It’s always better to tap too early than too late. Especially as a white belt, sometimes it’s hard to decide whether you should tap. So tap early, please…
2. Grappling Only, No Striking
Unlike many other combat sports, BJJ doesn’t involve hitting or kicking. Instead, it’s about grappling, ground fighting, and submission techniques.
This non-striking nature reduces the risk of head injury and other injuries that are common in striking-based martial arts. By focusing on control and technique, BJJ minimizes the impact and potential harm.
But accidental strikes do happen! Once, I got accidently up-kicked when I wanted to pass their guard. Result: My nose was bleeding all over the map… Nothing serious at the end, but only because the rule set says no striking, that doesn’t mean that accidents won’t happen.
3. Option to Pull Guard
BJJ allows for “pulling guard.” Although rolling sessions often start standing, many BJJ practitioners choose to sit down and pull their opponent into a guard position.
By doing so, they reduce the danger of getting injured with a takedown. With this, you get more control and lessen the risk of takedowns, making training and sparring safer.
Guard Pullers are often made fun of within the BJJ community. But don’t take this too seriously. Everybody understands why you are doing it. I’m definitely pro Guard Pulling! No shame in it. 🙂
4. Emphasis on Safety in a Good Gym
Choosing the right gym and training partners plays an important role in making BJJ training safe. A responsible gym prioritizes safety by giving supervision, teaching correct techniques, and creating a respectful environment.
So please make sure to choose the right BJJ Gym for your training.
They educate students about the importance of warming up, using gear like a rash guard, and not overtraining. Additionally, experienced instructors tailor lessons to suit individual abilities and needs, reducing the risk of injuries.
In my experience, BJJ Gyms are safer than regular MMA Gyms. Other Gyms tend to brawl more and go hard all the time.
The BJJ culture is different – it’s more gentle and less serious. I definitely feel safer when I go to a BJJ Gym than when going to an MMA Gym where they have occasional BJJ classes.
What Are The Health Risks of BJJ?
While Jiu Jitsu has many aspects that contribute to its safety, this martial art also has risks and dangers. Here are some of the factors that can make Jiu Jitsu a dangerous sport.
1. Trained to Attack Vulnerable Body Parts
BJJ training targets breaking joints and other vulnerable body parts. Although considered part of the sport’s tactical complexity, it leads to serious injuries if not practiced with caution and respect.
Ligament damage and joint injuries are painful and long-lasting, especially if you don’t tap early or your opponent is not careful.
So here again, you see, choosing the right rolling partners, the right Gym, and tapping early is crucial! If you do that, BJJ is safe.
2. Rolling Immediately as a Beginner
In many BJJ gyms, beginners start rolling (sparring) very early in their training, sometimes during their first session as a white belt.
While I wouldn’t change that, and it is an exciting aspect of BJJ, the lack of experience can lead to injuries. Beginners often don’t know which positions could be dangerous, increasing the risk of injury.
So there’s no shame in not rolling. Just let your trainer know that you want to take your time before you start rolling. I still don’t roll every practice. Sometimes when I have little injuries or just don’t feel like it, I just go to practice for drilling and skip the rolling. That’s totally okay!
3. Infections, Fungus, and Bacteria in BJJ
I’ve never sweated so much than in Jiu Jitsu rolling. Jiu Jitsu is known for its sweat-soaked sessions. And unfortunately, not everyone has proper hygiene…
This lack of control over hygiene can lead to skin infections such as Staph infection, which is relatively common. Regular BJJ training without proper cleanliness exposes you to harmful bacteria and fungi. This shows the importance of personal care and cleanliness within the gym.
So make sure that you are not the one who brings the infections to the Gym. Always make sure to wash your BJJ Gear after every practice, and choose a Gym that follows a strict hygiene routine!
4. Unpredictable Rolling Partners
You never really know who you might be paired with during rolling sessions. Some are aggressive and lack control.
One time, I rolled with this guy who armbared me pretty hard. I tapped as soon as I could, but by then, my arm was already overextended – I had problems with this arm for weeks.
Finding the right training partners and a gym that has values and respect is important to minimize this danger.
And just for you to know: It’s safer to roll with the upper belts. Most injuries happen between white belts. That’s because both don’t know what they are doing, and they are going hard without knowing the proper technique.
So either choose white belts you trust or go with the upper belts. That’s how I do it.
5. Impact on Knees, Back, Elbows, Shoulders and Necks
Certain movements and techniques in BJJ can be hard on the joints, like elbows, knees, lower back, and shoulders. Repeated stress on these areas without proper technique or overtraining leads to chronic pain and serious injuries, such as back or knee injuries.
I developed a condition called “Golfer’s Elbow”. Turns out my tendons are too weak for all that pulling and grabbing. So now I cannot roll as much anymore. Treatment methods are limited, and nothing has really worked for me so far. And I’m not the only one with chronic injuries…So be aware of that. Jiu Jitsu takes a toll on your body over time.
Whenever I speak to one of the higher belts, they tell me how many injuries they had and how bad their knees, backs, or necks are. It’s accumulated injury over time.
6. Lack of Proper Warm-Up
Many BJJ injuries come from lazy warm-ups. In other martial arts, such as wrestling, the warm-up is emphasized. In my experience, many BJJ gyms don’t prioritize this and have lazy warm-ups.
I didn’t prioritize warm-ups either. If I wasn’t told, I wouldn’t do it. But now, because of my chronic elbow injury, I make sure to warm up my elbows before practice starts.
I went to some gyms where many start rolling before the actual start of the training. Also, a warm-up in Jiu Jitsu typically lasts 5-10 minutes, compared to Wrestling practice, where we warm up for 30 minutes.
A lack of proper warm-up increases the injury risks, especially in intense grappling and ground fighting. Trust me, I’m speaking from experience.
What Are Common Injuries In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a contact sport where you grapple and spar with each other. While BJJ usually emphasizes safety, injuries can and do happen. The risk of getting hurt varies based on several factors, including training intensity, technique, and even individual gyms’ safety protocols.
Though there are fewer injuries in BJJ compared to some other combat sports, the number of injuries can still be significant. Here’s a list of common jiu-jitsu injuries that BJJ athletes encounter:
- Lower Back Pain: Often coming from bad posture during rolling or overtraining.
- Neck Injuries: Often from getting choked.
- Disc Injuries: From forceful twisting or bending.
- Knee Injuries: From takedowns to leg locks
- Shoulder Injuries: From intense sparring sessions.
- Skin Infections: If hygiene protocols are not followed.
- Wrist and Hand Injuries: From defending against grips or during falls.
- Elbow Injuries: Result of armbars and too-late tapping.
- Rib and Chest Injuries: From pressure or accidental strikes.
To reduce the risk of these and other injuries, you must be aware of your body, train responsibly, and follow our safety measures.
If you want to know more about the specific injuries – how often they occur, how you deal with them, and how to avoid them, then read our post on the 9 most common injuries in BJJ.
5 Tips To Reduce The Risk Of Injuries in BJJ
The joy and growth in BJJ come from consistent practice, but please make sure to stay safe. If you get injured, the consistency goes out the window.
So, avoiding injury is the best way to improve your jiu-jitsu skills. Here are practical measures and tips to ensure your BJJ training is fulfilling and safe.
1. Warm Up Correctly
Proper warming up is essential to prepare the body for the physical demands of BJJ. It’s important to warm up the neck, knees, hips, arms, legs, and other vital areas.
Unfortunately, I have been to many Gyms that ignore warm-ups completely.
If your gym doesn’t do enough warm-up exercises, make it a point to come 5 minutes earlier and start warming up yourself. This will avoid injuries and ensure you stay consistent.
2. Tap Out Early
In BJJ, tapping out is a clear signal to your partner that you are in discomfort or pain. Especially when caught in dangerous submissions such as leg locks, tap immediately.
There’s no shame in tapping, and it’s better to tap out too early than too late. Learning when to tap out can save you from unnecessary injuries.
There were a couple of times when I tapped too late. And I paid with problems in my knee for weeks.
3. Choose the Right Rolling Partners
Knowing who you’re comfortable rolling with is important. As you train BJJ, you’ll recognize who you want to spar with. Seek them out, and don’t hesitate to ask them to roll with you. This proactive approach will lead to more enjoyable and safer sparring sessions.
If you wait to be chosen, you won’t have control over who to roll with. Plus, the probability will be higher that you will get chosen by somebody nobody wants to roll with.
4. Invest in Protective Gear
Quality gear is important for you to stay safe while training. I didn’t do that in the beginning, and I paid for it with bruises and headaches.
5. Don’t Overtrain
Consistency might be key in BJJ, but overtraining can lead to many injuries. Listen to your body and know when to stop or skip a class to recover. If you’re injured, attend only for the drills or take time off to heal completely.
Trust me, I have experience with this. I was so caught up in not missing practice that I ignored all signs until the pain got to me. The end result – I had to pause for a month…
So now, if I have problems with my elbow or other areas, I come for the drilling sessions and skip the rolling part. In the end, Jiu Jitsu is about frequency, not intensity.
Conclusion: Is Jiu Jitsu Dangerous?
The short answer is yes, training Jiu-Jitsu can be dangerous, but it is generally more safe than other martial arts. It’s often referred to as a gentle art, and indeed, it is designed to avoid injuries for the most part.
However, injuries can happen if you don’t follow the rules and the tips mentioned earlier. Like in any sport, getting an injury is a normal part of the process, but you can minimize the risk.
While it may be less prone to immediate injuries, accumulated chronic pains such as knee or back pain are common injuries since practitioners spend so much time rolling on the mats.
As a BJJ athlete, rolling is a significant part of the practice, something that distinguishes it from many other martial arts. Therefore, being aware of your body, following safety guidelines, and respecting the art will keep you safe.
As for my personal experience, I love BJJ. I never had serious injuries from BJJ (knock on wood), but I encountered small injuries here and there. In comparison to other martial arts I practiced, Jiu Jitsu has been much safer for me. So far, so good.
Jiu Jitsu offers a unique mix of physical exercise, mental challenge, and personal growth. It can be as safe or as risky as your practice makes it. Being mindful of the guidelines shared in this post can help you enjoy the art while keeping the risks at a minimum.
So this post shouldn’t lead you to not do jiu jitsu, it’s there to inform you and to make you aware of how you minimize the risk of injury or at least decrease your injury rate. Stay safe!