The conclusion of my BJJ Injury blog is finally here. I wanted to wait a little while, and give myself some time to adjust to healing from my first real BJJ injury. The Wednesday after my follow-up appointment, I went to visit my BJJ academy for the first time in probably over a month. I missed my teammates, just being around them and the training atmosphere. Anybody’s who’s trained for any length of time knows that feeling, when you can’t be on the mats and you see everybody around you improving day in and day out, and feeling like you’re just falling behind and you’ll never catch up again. Anyway, it was nice to see my teammates! I forgot how hard we train just doing warm-ups. Anyway, I had had my first session of physical therapy (more an evaluation than anything), and had set a pretty vigorous pace of three sessions a week. The sooner I could get through the required sessions ordered by my orthopedic doctor, the sooner I could get back to the mats. Kind of a recurring theme through this whole situation, huh?
I had two more physical therapy sessions last week, and only on the third session did I feel any pain, but I had worked pretty hard in the second session. I could walk a pretty brisk pace on the treadmill with no problems, and was starting to squat with no problems as well. I was digging the sessions, because they were the most workouts I’d done since stopping BJJ, but I definitely paced myself too fast initially. Those pesky limits really interfere with my plans for recovery! That Thursday, the day after my first visit, I had a second follow-up appointment with my orthopedic surgeon. He was confident about my recovery, but he told me to “take it easy” and to let pain be my ultimate guide. I was still not cleared to do jiu-jitsu, but he didn’t need to see me again until there was a problem with my knee again. He said in another 4-6 weeks, though, I would be cleared to start training again.
That night, I went back to my academy and was still feeling good from my physical therapy session that afternoon, good enough to ask my instructor if I could try some drills during class. He was extremely open and welcoming to the idea. He’s had his share of back and knee injuries in his 20+ years of training jiu-jitsu, so he understood my struggle of trying to come back. However, as my teammates did their regular warm-up routine, I merely sat against the wall with my knees at a 90-degree angle, because I still can’t run at this point. It was only five minutes, but it felt like an eternity. As my teammates shrimped up and down the mats, and did various calisthenics exercises, I stretched out my legs and realized that no drilling was happening that night, as least on my part. I’m so desperate to get back on the mats, though. Patience is not my strong suit at all!
Today, I went to Massanutten Ski Resort in McGaheysville, VA, about two hours away from Richmond, with my best friend and two of our work colleagues. Our work colleagues wanted to go skiing, but my best friend didn’t. She and I ultimately decided to try a hiking trail. I figured if I was there, I might as well attempt it. A year ago, I had tried going on a mountain trail hike with some of my teammates. I hadn’t trained in almost a year at that point, and hadn’t been hiking in well over a decade. I barely made it a quarter mile up the trail. This time, I was determined to finish this trail. It was a 1.8-mile, moderate-rated trail, so I figured it wouldn’t be too bad. It took us about two hours to walk the trail and come back, but we made it, and I felt a sense of accomplishment I can’t begin to try to put into words. Considering I failed to even make it a quarter-mile into a trail the year before, and it was only 3 weeks out from my knee surgery, I felt like a million bucks by the time I got back to the car.
If anything, completing a 3.6-mile roundtrip hike showed me that I can do anything I put my mind to, including getting back to training jiu-jitsu. I love this art, as a sport and as a self-defense mechanism. It’s the most challenging thing I’ve ever done in my life, and it only gets more and more rewarding as I continue to progress through it. It might take me a while, but I will get back to the mats one day. This injury was only a bump in the road, and I’m sure I’ll suffer through many more over the rest of my life. Jiu-jitsu is a lifelong journey, and in life, struggles are bound to happen. It’s how you react to them that create your character, and after this, my character is stronger than ever.