Secrets to Martial Arts progress – avoiding injuries & incidents

My own thoughts on one should handle injuries and incidents in martial arts training. If you have any advise of your own, feel free to add it in the comment section! For more secrets, read here.

As we dedicate ourselves in a field of inherently violent nature, it’s pretty unavoidable that you will at some point get injured or unable to train. That said, I consider martial arts generally speaking to be a relatively safe hobby. I base this statement on that the average student gets an acute awareness of the risks involved in the regular training, which makes him both wary of getting hit or accidentally hurting a fellow student (or at least it should be that way). Normally, a martial arts school also promotes control, discipline and self-restraint which make it a fairly safe environment. In addition, any teacher worth his salt will ensure that students are built up gradually and not exposed to violent situations that they can’t handle (especially nowadays when students might sue the school).

Flickr  Paulo Marcos

 Nevertheless, sometimes misfortune rears its ugly face and something happens that takes us out of training for a while. But with so many other things in life, being aware of this risk makes you able to prevent it or at least handle it in ways that gives you less grief – so read on and get empowered.

To quickly summarise my attitude to training:

Fight like you could die today, but train as if you’d live forever.

Preventative measures

Much like most violent situations, you can prevent or avoid a lot of issues and incidents by making sure that you’re prepared and ready for what may come. By following the below guidelines, you’ve effectively handled a number of risks:

–          Aim for a clean, balanced and varied diet. This helps you stay in good health, meaning that you’re less likely to catch any undue sicknesses or infections. It’s also likely to keep you in a healthy weight range.

–          Shed unnecessary weight. Apart from other negative effects of being overweight, it also puts a lot of stress on your joints and makes you move slower (as in, less likely to dodge that fist flying towards your face).

–          Condition yourself before taking up martial arts. A lot of schools will advertise MA training as a means to get in shape, but you’re better off achieving this through safer methods such as personal training or hitting the gym. This also lets you focus more on actually learning martial arts when you’re training, which is why you’re there in the first place.

–          Embrace the warmup.  Not only does it help prevent injuries and makes you more efficient in your training, it also gets you in the right state of mind for what’s ahead.

–          Be aware of what you’re doing. If something seems risky or feels painful, don’t be afraid to question it (as you may be doing it wrong) or refuse to do the exercise. Also keep an eye for highly repetitive techniques, as they may cause issues over time.

–          Reach out to your fellow students. If you’re trying out a complicated or acrobatic move, get some friends to spot you and give advice. Pester your teacher with questions when faced with a new technique so you’re sure to get it right. And if your training partner is going too hard or too fast, don’t be afraid to speak up so things don’t get out of hand.

–          Be prepared. Keep a light stash in bag or locker for when things go bad, even if it’s just a few bandaids along with a support bandage and tiger balm. Ideally, you’d take a First Aid course as well.

–          Nip it in the bud. A number of major issues start out small so try to strike first by going to a physio with that knee that is starting to ache, or see a personal trainer for exercises on how to strengthen that lower back that is making you feel twice your age. Basically, deal with the problem sooner rather than later.

Stay ahead of the game

Stay ahead of the game

Gone pearshaped

When an incident occurs, what happens next fully depends on the nature of the incident – ranging all the way from having a nice cup of HTFU, to getting first aid and calling an ambulance. Regardless, one should stop and consider (1) what just happened and (2) how should/can I proceed? Ignore any peer pressure to get back on the horse, as well as your ego screaming that you can take it. While it’s true that it’s a valuable skill to be able to ignore pain and go on whilst relying on pure willpower (and you may need to do so), you also need to consider the impact of toughening it out as it may take you out of training for a longer time than it would have with proper damage control. Punk out and spend the next two days recovering? Or man up until the end, and then be out of training for three weeks?

Note though that this is not black or white matter, quite often you can work around an injury (such as practising footwork when you have a sprained wrist) or catch up on other aspects of your style, such as reading up on its history. Being unable to train at full capacity is not the same as letting your training stop, you just need to be creative (and safe) in how you go about it. You also need to learn to listen to your body, as with time you will be able to tell the difference between the common discomfort as your body adapts to the training (such as sore muscles, tight hamstrings etc) and the more serious alarm bells (swollen knee, sprained ankle, that sort of thing).

Your Most Glorious Comeback


First and foremost, allow enough time for recovery. The most common mistake one does is to jump right back in as soon as possible, which brings the risks of either undoing whatever healing took place up until that point or it sets the base for a more chronic version of your injury which leaves you with a more long term handicap. So try to be patient as well as constructive – follow the advice you’ve been given by your doctor/physiotherapist etc until you’re given the green light to go back to training. Patience, grasshopper.

And when you do resume your training, ease yourself into it so that you can stay within your limits. Try to grow stronger from what just happened – remember what caused the incident and consider how to avoid it from happening again, and then spread the knowledge so that your fellow students may avoid suffering the same fate.

But be aware that things may not be the same once you’re back in training, as your injury may permanently hamper you or otherwise restrain your capability. If that is the case, you’ll need to figure out how you can work around your injury or even consider changing martial art. Either way, remember that the glass is still half full as things could probably be a lot worse – for example, my own biggest fear is becoming paralysed from the waist down. Having a messed up knee has made almost all of my acrobatics a certain no-no, but at least I can train again!

Liked this article? Feel free to share it with others. Also, see here for more advise on training.

–          Lobo

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