Training without goggles – Short sightedness and BJJ

GlassesMinions have their googles and I have a pair of rather strong spectacles. I am very shorted sighted (Myopia) and although its not at the point to be classified as visually impaired it is bad enough to be lovingly called as “blind as a bat”! Basically my vision begins to blur at anything that’s more than 6 inches beyond the end of my nose. This blog isn’t simply adaptations but more the personal tricks I use to maximise my mat time. I hope by blogging about it that a fellow minion may find it useful!

Glasses on or off?
I know some grapplers who take their glasses on and off during class to see techniques. Meerkatsu is well known for his grappling goggles that he keeps on and has done his own blog regarding his short sightedness. Personally, I’m a glasses off person. They steam up making them useless, it’s a pain grabbing them (and not missing some of the the technique) and finally I find I can get a little disorientated in the first few minutes after taking them off so I’d rather get that over with in warm up part of the class. The only big tip I will say is to find a safe patch of the gym to put them. The same thing applies to competitions – mine always end up on the scoring table so I can find them post match. Obviously you don’t want to break them but if I’m honest it about making them easier to find at the end. I find it embarrassing having to ask for help in finding them! 

Contact Lenses?
If you can wear them and feel comfortable rolling in them then great. I can’t comment on that as I can’t wear them and have had difficulties trying to but there are discussion posts on Reddit about it. Similarly I’m not a suitable candidate for laser eye surgery. Some people are just stuck with their glasses.

dalmatian-blurred-260x170It really hard to explain what the world looks like to me but I found this picture of a Dalmatian on the internet which sums up how things can look to me without my glasses. My brain can work out it’s a dog, I know it’s a Dalmatian but I just can’t see the details. That when I struggle with techniques – when I need to see smaller details. There are a few things I do to solve this……

UntitledGet where you can see! – Yup be really selfish. If you see a lot of pictures of the training in our gym you will see I am always near the front near where the demo is. My teammates and coach know why and are use to it. Also don’t be afraid to move so that you can better see the details of a grip or position. Let’s be honest that’s good practise whether you’re short sighted or not!

Pay attention / Listen – It’s common sense but in reality it’s very hard to fully take in what your coach is showing and what he is saying simultaneously. Luckily for me I can’t always see so it means I need pay close attention to what’s being said. But it does rely on your coach being able to give clear verbal instructions so be careful. e.g. in class with a previous coach who repeatedly had said “take a cross grip” but in drilling I struggled and discovered later that the technique he was doing didn’t even use the cross grip!

Just ask! – There is a phrase that there is no such thing as stupid questions. In this case it’s totally true. Just ask! The coach might find your question odd (until he remembers why)but if it helps fills in the gap then its worth asking! One of my frequent questions is that I can’t see your fingers / hands what is the actual grip you have? I rarely can see grip details – its just a pair of fleshy hand blurs!

Feel it – Sometimes I just struggle with taking in a technique and need to feel it. This has two purposes. It’s the closest I can get to seeing some of the moves but also by feeling the movement and the forces involved simply helps with my learning. I think that this is more to do with my learning style than my vision but since I’ve worn glasses since being in primary school  I really don’t know what came first; my vision problems or my learning style! Obviously its more effective when it’s someone who knows what they’re doing with the technique.

Whilst in London the other week I started to struggle with one of the techniques despite using my usual tricks. I was partnered with my friend Liam and I had to insist he went first so I could feel the technique and work things out. As my old coach he instantly understood and agreed without question – I’ll be honest it was that moment of comfort that actually prompted me to write this blog just in case it helps someone else!

Distance Management – A special note on distance management. Learning takedowns or more dynamic transitions can be really challenging for me. This is partly due to movement speed but mainly because  my short sightedness effects my distance management. I simply can’t gauge distance that well without my glasses. My usual solution is to try and work out a target zone to aim for! Whether it’s drilling by using mat lines as a guide or by simply asking the coach where he’s aiming to put his foot e.g. is it near the ankle he wants to land or more past his foot? It’s not a perfect art but with practise I can start to feel where I need to be and not end up in a tangle or with too broad a base etc. I just need to find that starting point to help my brain with working out the technique.

Finding Partners
RollingAt your own gym you’ll have people you frequently work with who come to you so its not much of a problem especially if you sit next to them! Outside normal sessions before you take your glasses off (or when doing the group photos) try to scope out potential rolling partners (size, build, gi, belt etc). I can’t see facial details but a blond haired chap in a blue tatatmi gi with a purple belt is manageable!

The last note I can give is wearing glasses is by no means a barrier to learning BJJ. At the end of the day once you have hold of someone who know exactly where they are and they can be at your mercy lol! The key is communicating to your coaches and friends where you need a little help and figuring out what works out best for you! I just hope by sharing my own personal experiences and tips that I can help someone else!


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