BJJ Beginner - broken rib in 4th class.

TheExperimenter19

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Hi,

I joined a BJJ gym recently and managed to get a rib broken on my 4th time going in.
I'm not sure what to think of what happened, or of my instructors response, so I'm looking for thoughts and opinions from experienced folk.

The sparring session in which I suffered the injury was a format where we all formed groups based on belt colour.
One person goes on their back; the others in the group take turns in starting in a dominant position (knee on chest. It was not knee on belly).
After 1 minute, the person on top changes. Guy on bottom stays there for 6 minutes and we take turns in bottom position every 6 minutes.

There were 5 guys in the group of white belts I was in, and at least a couple of them were very aggressive and tried desperately hard to win each time, though seemed to have little in the way of technique.
I'm not sure if me being brand new was a factor here, though I had the impression a couple of guys might have been trying harder to get me to tap then in their other pairings.
At some point when I was in bottom position I obviously took a hit to the ribs. I can't remember the exact moment but I do remember feeling a lot pressure at different stages on my chest, and there were some impacts
for sure, though I know that striking like that shouldn't be part of it.
All of this was unsupervised. The instructor was participating in a separate group with brown belts.
This sparring was the end of the class and on my way home I started feeling pain.

A few days later I got an X-Ray confirming the fracture. I informed the instructor and his response was "Bad luck. Get better and we'll see you soon".
I found this odd - I was expecting him to at least ask how it happened. And I thought it might be of particular concern to hear that a beginner has had a rib broken.

There's a couple of other aspects to this gym I don't like (drilling seems to have been fairly advanced stuff so far, and there seems to be no curriculum/focus for the beginners or white belts.)

But what do I know, maybe all of this is normal.
May not be relevant, but I'm 5 foot 9, 75kg, 45 years old.

I'd really appreciate any feedback

Thanks!
 

jks9199

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Broken ribs, broken fingers, sprains... injuries do happen in training, even if everyone does what they're supposed to. And, in BJJ, the instructor will need to be roling with various students at times rather than simply supervising. You say the instructor didn't ask how -- it sounds like maybe you just texted or emailed him? Maybe he assumed it happened outside of the training floor? Or, since you're a fairly new student, he just doesn't have a ton of personal investment in you yet. New students at a month or so in often find reasons to step back from training.

My advice to you would be to show up as you heal, do what you can, and when you're recovered get back on the floor. If you're worried about how it happened, bring the issue up directly with the instructor. (Honestly, I could see it happen with nobody doing anything wrong; just an inadvertent bad landing...)
 

Tony Dismukes

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Hi, BJJ instructor here.

These would be red flags for me.
All of this was unsupervised. The instructor was participating in a separate group with brown belts.
If the instructor was only able to supervise one group, he should have been paying attention to the white belts. The brown belts can take care of themselves with just a little bit of initial direction. The white belts are the ones who need observation, coaching, correction, and supervision for safety's sake.

One person goes on their back; the others in the group take turns in starting in a dominant position (knee on chest. It was not knee on belly).
For white belts, I will always teach knee on belly first, rather than knee on chest. Knee on belly is a more stable control position. Knee on chest is a variation which can inflict more discomfort and potentially cause injury. If you have white belts practicing knee on chest, they are more likely to a) lose the position and/or b) inflict injury/get injured because they don't know how to control the pressure or protect themselves from the pressure. I definitely wouldn't have my white belts doing knee on chest rounds without supervision.

A few days later I got an X-Ray confirming the fracture. I informed the instructor and his response was "Bad luck. Get better and we'll see you soon".
I found this odd - I was expecting him to at least ask how it happened. And I thought it might be of particular concern to hear that a beginner has had a rib broken.
If one of my students gets injured, I want to know exactly how it happened. That way I can provide feedback or take steps to reduce the chances of that occurring again. You can't eliminate the risk of injury in a contact combat sport like BJJ, but you can minimize the risk. The first component to doing so is awareness on the part of both the instructor and the students as to how accidents can happen and how to avoid them.

There's a couple of other aspects to this gym I don't like (drilling seems to have been fairly advanced stuff so far, and there seems to be no curriculum/focus for the beginners or white belts.)
This is unfortunately not as uncommon as it should be. There are plenty of gyms which have a good program for introducing beginners to the fundamentals and helping them progress. However there are others which have a more "sink-or-swim" mentality. This can happen for several reasons - maybe the instructor doesn't know how to teach, maybe they only care about the prestige of having a successful competition team and they use the white belt classes as a way to weed out everyone except the rare natural athlete who can figure things out on their own despite poor coaching.

If you have other gyms available in your area, I would check them out. There's a good chance that you can find one with a better atmosphere and better coaching for beginners.
 

Holmejr

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The cobra Kai of BJJ schools lol. I would seriously talk to the instructor and ascertain where the system broke down. Maybe and assistant instructor out on vacation or maybe an unconscious instructor. I would give the head instructor a chance to correct the process. If that doesnt work, adios
 

hoshin1600

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I've been there. Broke my ribs on day two, By the instructor himself, Kinda showing off to prove a point. Being a bit thick headed I showed up the next day for class. That's when It dawned on me that it just wasn't a muscle soreness.
Had some of the same same red flags.
I wouldn't bother saying much to the instructor, other than you got your ribs broke so you won't be attending anymore. If you signed a contract, they usually have a medical cancelation exception which should apply here.
I'm a bit older than you and while I would have stuck with it if I was 20 again, I got to wake up and go to work everyday to pay the mortgage and feed my family.
 
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TheExperimenter19

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jks9199 - Thanks very much for taking the time to respond! I did just text him, explaining it was during sparring that it occurred, so he is aware.

Tony Dismukes - Thanks so much for your post! It's a great help/reassurance to hear someone with your level of experience validate some of the thoughts I've had about my experience. My instructor showed a complete lack of interest in how I got my injury, which just didn't seem right, given I'm a complete beginner. I did pick up the "sink-or-swim" vibe at this gym, which probably isn't suitable for me.

There are 3 gyms in my area, and I did a free class in all of them, but obviously didn't make a good choice! With the benefit of hindsight
and the small amount of experience I've now had, one of the those 2 gyms has an instructor who seemed to pay a lot of attention and the class did seem better organised and felt safer : I plan to talk to him once I've recovered and ask him some questions around safety and beginner curriculum etc. So maybe I'll end up joining that one. Thanks again - I really appreciate you offering your thoughts - you've helped out a stranger big time!

Hanzou - Thanks.

Holmejr - I had Karate Kid flashbacks throughout this experience. I'll never make fun of "sweep the leg" again. But I really don't get the impression the instructor cares in the slightest about my opinion on his processes.

Hoshin1600 - I'm so sorry to hear that, that's absolutely brutal! I thought my instructor was a bad egg, but your's is way worse for sure, what a scumbag. I'm just paying by the month, so luckily I can just leave straight away. At 45, I'm not sure if going back to BJJ at all after this is a good call, given my rib will likely never be 100% again/will be weaker than before, and re-injuring it could possibly lead to complications. But I was enjoying things so much, I really do want to go back!
 

dunc

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jks9199 - Thanks very much for taking the time to respond! I did just text him, explaining it was during sparring that it occurred, so he is aware.

Tony Dismukes - Thanks so much for your post! It's a great help/reassurance to hear someone with your level of experience validate some of the thoughts I've had about my experience. My instructor showed a complete lack of interest in how I got my injury, which just didn't seem right, given I'm a complete beginner. I did pick up the "sink-or-swim" vibe at this gym, which probably isn't suitable for me.

There are 3 gyms in my area, and I did a free class in all of them, but obviously didn't make a good choice! With the benefit of hindsight
and the small amount of experience I've now had, one of the those 2 gyms has an instructor who seemed to pay a lot of attention and the class did seem better organised and felt safer : I plan to talk to him once I've recovered and ask him some questions around safety and beginner curriculum etc. So maybe I'll end up joining that one. Thanks again - I really appreciate you offering your thoughts - you've helped out a stranger big time!

Hanzou - Thanks.

Holmejr - I had Karate Kid flashbacks throughout this experience. I'll never make fun of "sweep the leg" again. But I really don't get the impression the instructor cares in the slightest about my opinion on his processes.

Hoshin1600 - I'm so sorry to hear that, that's absolutely brutal! I thought my instructor was a bad egg, but your's is way worse for sure, what a scumbag. I'm just paying by the month, so luckily I can just leave straight away. At 45, I'm not sure if going back to BJJ at all after this is a good call, given my rib will likely never be 100% again/will be weaker than before, and re-injuring it could possibly lead to complications. But I was enjoying things so much, I really do want to go back!
Hi
As a 50 year old BJJer Id also suggest looking for a gym that has classes that cater to older folks with jobs etc
In my experience these tend to be the before work classes
You may find a group of people that like to train hard, but have a high degree of sensitivity around safety and as a result control
Hope this isnt the end of your BJJ journey
 

Tony Dismukes

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At 45, I'm not sure if going back to BJJ at all after this is a good call, given my rib will likely never be 100% again/will be weaker than before, and re-injuring it could possibly lead to complications. But I was enjoying things so much, I really do want to go back!
If you can find a good gym where the instructor has a proper attitude to student safety, then you should be able to return to training with no more risk than any other sport.

Some tips, in case you do.

Make sure your instructor and your training partners are aware of any physical limitations that you might have

Rolling with higher belts is generally safer than rolling with other white belts. The more experienced practitioners should have the control to not accidentally hurt you.

You may want to emulate the list of priorities that I (as a 58 year old practitioner) follow when drilling and sparring, to wit:

1) Keep myself safe and in good anatomical alignment.
2) Keep my training partner safe.
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3) Learn something.
4) Have fun.
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5) Get the momentary ego boost of "winning" the sparring bout.
 

drop bear

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Also roll physically slower. If it gets to fast tap and restart.

Some people who get injured are these chuning masses of spinning elbows and knees.

As an experienced guy. I shut that down forcefully before I can get injured.
 
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