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Is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Dangerous? (And How to Make It Safe)

Is Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) dangerous?

Let’s start by saying that there are risks in every sport; BJJ is no exception. On the scale of all the sports, BJJ being a martial art, it comes with more risks than badminton, for example.

However, on a martial arts scale, BJJ is one of the safest when done correctly.

BJJ does not include punches or kicks, so the risk of concussion, for example, is a lot lower compared to boxing or other sports that involve punches and kicks.

How to train Brazilian jiu-jitsu safely and decrease the risk of injuries

There are several things you can do when training BJJ to minimize the risk of injury. Brazilian jiu-jitsu is safe when done correctly and everybody knows how much force is necessary.

I would say the most dangerous phase of training BJJ is when two brand-new white belts spar together. They might not yet understand the proper techniques and that too much force can cause serious damage.

Now, let’s talk about the ways you can minimize the risk of injury when training BJJ and make it as safe as possible.

Proper warmup

Proper warmup comes without saying in any BJJ training session. You can get hurt badly if you go into sparring or training techniques without any stretching or warmup. That is why there is dedicated time for warmups at the beginning of BJJ lessons.

Wear a mouthguard

Accidental hits from elbows, knees, or other body parts toward your face and mouth can happen. These are usually harmless and won’t cause a lot of damage if you wear your mouthguard.

A mouthguard is a cheap way to protect your teeth and prevent you from accidentally being knocked out.

I can not count how many times a mouthguard has saved my teeth or at least saved me from some serious pain. It is a very cheap way to ensure that your teeth will be attached after a lesson.

Still, keep in mind that the mouthguard has its limits as well. If the hit toward your face comes with too much force, even a mouthguard might not be able to save your teeth. It will, however, milder the hit and might save you some trouble.

Tap out too early rather than too late

It is a common saying among BJJ members to leave your ego outside the gym. This means not being cocky, trying to boost your ego by using full force, or other disrespectful or unsportsmanlike ways of acting.

Remember that everybody is there to learn new things, not to make themselves appeal better than others. It is true that people with higher belt colors and more experience could tap you out.

They and you should not try to prove anyone anything, leave that to the tournaments. Regular lessons are to learn new techniques and sharpen them.

That being said, it is always better to tap out too early than to try to find ways out. There is no point. Even if you managed to get out, what did you win? You risk getting serious injury to your arm for a playfight that is meant for learning. Tap out to be safe, instead of risking your health.

Use minimal force required

When sparring and training BJJ, use minimal force required. The training should be about techniques instead of the usage of pure force.

You might be stronger than your sparring opponent, keep that in mind. Try to beat them with pure techniques instead of using force.

When using minimal force required, the chances of injury decrease as well. When doing joint locks, do them “gently” without applying too much force. If you’ve got the upper hand, there is no rush of breaking someone’s arm. They should know to tap out, give them time to do so.

Take care of your hygiene

BJJ is a close combat sport. By taking care of your hygiene, you ensure that everybody will have a more pleasant time training with you.

There are also health risks if someone does not take care of their personal hygiene, and there is a reason why you should wash your GI after every training session.

Diseases might be easier to catch for you and your training companion from unsanitary mat conditions. This is why it is important to keep the mat cleaned regularly, as well as yourself and the GI.

It might not seem like a big deal, but imagine your head being pushed against a floor that everybody else has been walking and rolling around. When in that situation, I would wish that everybody took care of their hygiene to ensure the mat was as clean as possible.

Wear contact lenses if you have bad eyesight

Having bad eyesight can increase the risk of injuring yourself or your opponent when training BJJ. However, bad eyesight should not prevent you from training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

One option is to wear contact lenses if you can not see clearly without glasses or contact lenses. More about training BJJ with bad eyesight in this post.

Risks of Brazilian jiu-jitsu

As I mentioned before, all sports come with risks and BJJ is no exception. I will list some of the risks that come from training BJJ.

Skin conditions

Due to possible unsanitary mat conditions, skin diseases might be easier transmitted.

BJJ is a ground combat sport, usually at least one of the two wrestlers is against the ground and that might cause skin conditions if the mat is not clean.

Cauliflower ear

Cauliflower ear is a common thing among wrestlers and BJJ practitioners. It can be avoided if treated immediately.

It comes from your head and ears taking too much pressure, and being rolled on. If not treated, it will become permanent.

What is cauliflower ear and what causes it?

white cauliflower on brown wooden chopping board

Damaged joints and limbs

Brazilian jiu-jitsu includes a lot of joint locks and close combat wrestling. It would be a miracle if something never happened.

Broken limbs and joints are another possible risk of training BJJ, but you can decrease the risk of that by tapping out early and taking things slow.

Always keep in mind not to stick one finger on anything; always grab with your whole hand if possible. Using just one or two fingers puts those fingers at extreme risk due to sudden movements of your opponent or other conditions.

Final thoughts

So, how dangerous BJJ actually is? As I said, BJJ like every other sport comes with its own set of risks. Despite that, I think BJJ is a great sport and when done correctly, the chance of an accident is pretty low. You can prevent injuries by taking things slow and wearing a mouthguard.

More about the dangers of martial arts in general in this post.

I have more BJJ-related posts as well. You can read them here.


What is Brazilian jiu-jitsu?

Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a martial art that focuses on ground fighting. This means it focuses on taking the fight to the ground and finishing the fight with joint locks or chokeholds. Brazilian jiu-jitsu was developed around 1920’s, and was modified from judo. Nowadays, Brazilian jiu-jitsu is an essential martial art for MMA.

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