Monday, October 1, 2007

Martial Arts Training with an Injury

Oftentimes when a martial arts student gets an injury, whether it’s as a result of training or from some other activity, they stop training entirely while they recover. When one of my Jiu-jitsu students has an injury, I encourage them to come to class anyway. I mark their injury off with a red ‘X’ on their body using electrical tape, to make sure other students remember to be careful performing techniques that could affect the injury. There are a number of benefits to doing this.

Sure, a student might want take a day or two off right at the onset of recovery in order to allow inflammation to reduce and pain to subside to a manageable level, depending on the injury. But beyond that, it’s good to come to class and do only what you’re capable of, going extremely easy. Why? Some people are inclined to become depressed or disconnected while recovering from an injury. It’s a good idea to try and stay as active as you’re able to keep up your spirits, and so you don’t lose your training momentum entirely.

Training with an injury can also teach you things about your techniques you would never have realized while training in perfect health. For example, right now one of my students has a minor shoulder injury. A stout-hearted student, he came to class the very next day after having aggravated his injury, not wanting to miss out on class. He was working on a wrist takedown with which he usually has a tendency to overuse strength to make it work. As I watched him move through the technique during class, I was stunned when he did it with almost perfect hip motion and footwork.

“Glenn, that was great!” I commented. “Where did that come from?”

He looked at me with a quizzical expression, not even realizing how big a difference there was in the execution of his technique. “I don’t know. I was just being careful not to hurt my shoulder, so I was using less strength.”

I slapped him on the back, pleased with his progress. “You should injure yourself more often!”

Another added benefit to training with an injury is how it develops your versatility in defending yourself. In a real self-defense situation, you won’t likely be able to ask an aggressor not to attack you right now because you have an injury. You have to be able to improvise and use your body and any other tools you have at your disposal to fend off the attack, handicap or no handicap.

While there are many benefits to training with an injury, students should still exercise due caution though to make sure they don’t make the injury worse. I’ve seen a number of very optimistic students over-extend themselves during their recovery period, causing re-injury of their wound. I, myself, have made this mistake before. We all want to get back to training at full capacity as soon as possible after an injury, but in the meantime, we should practice another very important aspect of martial arts development: patience.

No comments: