One of the caveats of training in a martial art is looking like you train in a martial art. I’m not saying everyone who trains will get a black eye, but it’s not surprising if you do. Especially when you start rolling, bruises are common and can be almost comical in their location and frequency. If you haven’t had black eyes or large bruises before training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) you may not be prepared with dealing with them.
A black eye is a bruise around the eye area. While they are often non-serious it is important to see a doctor if you experience: changes in vision, vomiting, persistent headache, or any signs of infection. Sometimes getting hit in the nose will give you two black eyes, a fun fact I learned firsthand.
In the first 48 hours after the initial injury, applying an ice pack will help alleviate some of the swelling. Don’t worry about the old fashioned remedy of applying raw meat, that’s an unwelcome opportunity to introduce bacteria to your eye. Feel free to take an over the counter pain medicine like Tylenol but avoid blood thinners like aspirin (which may make your bruise look worse). After the first two days, heat compresses are recommended to stimulate circulation. If you want to heal quickly, it’s a good idea to take it easy on your training to let yourself heal. You don’t have to quit training entirely but try limiting yourself to rolls with safe partners doing flow rounds.
An herbalist friend made a salve for me with comfrey, calendula and arnica, which help reduce bruising. Other natural remedies include vitamin C to help reduce inflammation, pineapple, which has Bromelain to help with bruising and bilberry, which is thought to strengthen capillaries.
I don’t generally wear make up and find that trying to cover up a bruise or black eye often draws even more attention. There are tutorials online on using orange or green corrective concealer to cancel out the blues and purples. Whatever you do, please don’t be the jerk who wears make up which comes off on people’s gi.
Now, for the trickier part. Because domestic violence and violence against women is so common and pernicious, people have strong reactions when they see a woman bearing the marks of violence. I have experienced looks of pity, careful and caring inquiries on how I got a black eye and straight up rude comments. I don’t mind the kindhearted comments from strangers, because there are people out there in bad situations who could use that kindness. But, in general, I wish people felt less comfortable commenting on a women’s appearance.
On our first date, I warned my boyfriend (who had never trained BJJ before) that there was a chance in the future that I would get a black eye or bruises from training and that strangers may give him the stink eye. We talked about how to respond if jokes about domestic violence came up.
Domestic violence is no joking matter even if the bruises come from Jiu Jitsu. Others in the Jiu Jitsu community agree and have stepped up to bring awareness to the issue of domestic violence. The organization My Bruises Are From has done a phenomenal job of raise awareness and funds for domestic violence shelters. Their goal is to break through social stigma preventing survivors from getting help, while providing funds to organizations that help rebuild lives.
About the author:
Irene Matsuoka is a purple belt and has been coaching kid’s class for about 3 years. She is working on a master’s in public administration and a blog on personal safety: Preparation, Practice & Positivity