When people ask me how my neck is doing these says, I quip that I am *fixed*--which is literally true after my second neck surgery--even though my neck pain, limited range of motion, etc. are far from fixed and will, in some important sense, be forever a constant source of irritation and agitation. I have written about my own journey in this regard several times (see here, here, here, here, and here). Now I had some new thoughts to share since the fusion is healed as it is going to be at this point and the next step of my progress begins.
For starters, one thing you notice when rolling with people who have a background is wrestling is that we have often already developed the skill of using our head as a trip pod, fifth limb, etc.--which in turn requires good neck strength, flexibility, and mobility. Indeed, this is often a focus of training and drilling in wrestling. Moreover, because we are accustomed to turtling, using rolling, bridging, etc., we are comfortable extracting ourselves from bad situations and maintaining good ones by using our neck and head. But now that my neck has been "fixed," I have greatly lost this asset.
Further compounding matters, because I need my training partners not to go for chokes or put lots of pressure on my neck, I try to return the favor. But this means lots of reverse kesa getame--which in turns means lots of key locks, arm locks, kimuras, etc. both when I am on a top (which a good thing) and when I am on bottom (which is bad thing). In short, I can't simply bail like I used to and now my game is stuck.
I can still play footsies--albeit not being able to go inverted makes it hard at times--and I can flow roll for positional transitions and control, but my options for top submissions seems limited and my bottom defense is horrible since I don't even want to give people half guard and frame up on their throats and shrimp out (since they will only return the favor by posting on my neck--as they should). And if I play closed guard, people will try to stack me (which is bad for my neck), or they will tug like hell on my collar (which is bad for neck), etc.--you get the picture by now.
I am not posting this just to complain--albeit, I am the grumpy grappler. I am posting to hear back from readers who have had similar plateaus related to injuries or age. Sometimes I am so stiff, it seems like I should just quit altogether--but that doesn't seem like the right strategy either. All I know for sure is that when I don't just play footsies, I now regularly find myself in problematic situations on bottom that never used to give me much trouble. Somehow, it seems related to my neck. Trying to problem solve from the inside is proving difficult. It seems a multi-pronged approach is needed--strength training, more mobility, more privates, more rolling!
Any black belts in the lowcountry or the triangle area interested in doing a private or two to help me troubleshoot? If so, shoot me a message through the FB page!
p.s. I will talk to Jeff Robertson (Devine Jiu Jitsu Charleston) about this at practice today!
p.p.s. Here is an old post about some foundations of mobility, range of motion, etc. I will post again in a few days with some neck-specific exercises.