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Elbow Issues after Jiu Jitsu


I have developed "tennis elbow" in my left arm and "golfer's elbow" in my right (I'm left handed). I believe these developed after I started Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu classes about two months ago. I'm think these are related to my faulty punching technique. Any thoughts as to the precise cause (assuming it is related to punching)? I have been spending some time on my own shadowing boxing and it may be related to this activity. Not really sure of the proper shadow punching technique. I seem to throw hard punches and then stop short. I also lift weights four days a week but I have been at this a while and good with my form. I am 54 (maybe just old age setting in, damn it). Any help would be appreciated.


Are you doing Gracie Jiu Jitsu? Most modern BJJ classes don't include punches.

I'd guess it's due to the way you shadow box. When you're not hitting anything but air, punching hard with full elbow extension is unnecessary and - exhibit a (you) - harmful. Focus on speed and fluidity instead. You may have to scale back your activity level for a while to let your elbows heal.


Being as you just started, I'm going to guess "punching hard" means "I'm tensing up like I'm about to punch a wall," except you're not because you're shadowboxing. So yea, punching air hard as fuck is going to kill your joints.

Watch this video. See how Canelo shadowboxes? Light and easy. That's how you do it. Not to say that you never go fast, of course, but most of your work shadowboxing is focused on perfecting your form and stringing everything together - not punching the air like it fucked your girl.

Also, this video is great. Dude never tenses up - is just relaxed and smooth the whole time.


FightinIrish26 and nighthawkz thank you very much for information and videos. great stuff. I think this is my problem, not relaxed and throwing too hard. I appreciate your help!


Medial (Golfer's) and Lateral (Tennis) Epicondylitis generally are associated with rotational forces at the wrist and elbow joint, improper musculoskeletal alignment/mechanics and excessive chronic strain being placed on the elbow. Tightening up too much or throwing "hard" punches into the air could potentially cause such issues, but my guess is that it is more likely the result of poor mechanics while shadow boxing, but also likely while hitting bags/pads as the forces encountered are greater.

So, let me ask:
1) which punches do you feel the discomfort on most (I'm guessing it's probably different punches on each arm, most likely the right hook and straight left, but possibly the right jab too)?

2) do you feel it most while shadow boxing or while hitting targets (bags, focus mitts, thai pads, etc...)?


Thanks for your insight. You are correct on the right jab and also straight left. Not so much pain on the right hook. Pain mostly on the focus mitts but also on the bags and shadowing boxing when throwing hard punches. I have been instructed to throw the punch and turn my fist into the target just prior to hitting the target and then snap back to guard my face, if that makes sense. Thanks again.


It makes sense.

My guess is that on your jab you are trying to rotate too much from just your wrist and not enough from your shoulder. If your elbow point still points "down" at the end of your punch you are doing it wrong; your elbow should point "out" at full extension (if throwing a horizontal fist punch, it should point down if throwing a vertical fist punch).

On your straight left you may be somewhat "backfisting" the punch it either by throwing your elbow first, or trying to throw it "straight from your chin" but not realizing that the body needs to start rotating before you release the punch which puts you into a more mechanically advantageous position.

Those are my guesses without actually watching you punch. If you could take a video of you throwing a few jabs and straight lefts on a bag or mitts I'm sure we could give you even more detailed insight as to what your issue might be.


Now that you mention it, my instructor has commented several times about the backfisting and failure to rotate shoulders. I guess I need to work on starting with shoulder rotation and let the punch follow rather than start with the elbow and fist which is what I do. I have a class this afternoon and will try to get a video. I really appreciate your help. Thanks.


I agree with Sento.

When you throw a straight punch, you've gotta think of your fist as the rock and your shoulders as a catapult. When a catapult fires, the rock never moves first - the whole fucking contraption does, and the rock is the last thing to be flung into the air. Same shit when you're punching - the feet turn, then the hips, then the shoulder, and finally the fist.

Same think with a hook, except it's more a mace instead of a catapult ... the killing end always moves last, and you whip it with the rest of your body.

It takes a long time to master, but when you do, you get some serious killing power - especially at close range.


^^^Exactly. We refer to what Irish is describing as "off-set timing" which essentially means that when throwing a "power" strike (even though in actuality traditional boxing straight rear hands and hooks aren't true full Power punches, but that is how they are referred to in boxing and they do use abbreviated Power strike mechanics) you want to treat your body like a multi-stage rocket. The legs start the motion, then the hips and shoulders rotate, and finally you release the punch with the muscles of the shoulder girdle. This "off-set timing" allows for greater kinetic linkage and thus greater kinetic energy upon impact.

One thing I will add to what Irish said though is that the feet don't just "turn". Yes, they turn, but if you understand Newton's 3rd Law Of Motion you will realize that in fact the feet should also be driving/pushing into the ground in the opposite direction that you are trying to generate force in (sometimes this will result in a corresponding step, and sometimes it will not). There is an old saying in boxing that you "punch from the ground up/punch from your ankles" and this is exactly what I am referring to. In order to create force going forward, you need to be pushing forcefully off of something sturdy in the opposite direction; unless you are braced against a wall or laying flat on a bench, that thing is the ground. If you get this and internalize it you will see a huge increase in your power pretty much immediately (once you get the correct kinetic linkage/timing down and assuming your musculoskeletal structure is in optimal positioning for leverage/power upon impact) and it will allow you to punch harder for longer durations (it's more efficient and uses the work horse muscles of the calves and hips to generate a significant portion of the force rather than focusing on the smaller muscles of the trunk and shoulder girdle).

Definitely post a video though if you can. Hope this helps.