Tuesday, March 4, 2008

When Knee Meets Groin

This image shows the back of my dojo's club t-shirt. It is tongue in cheek, but I feel it is pretty relevant for pretty much all martial arts training. Last night, I failed to adhere to one of these tenets with disastrous results.

In my Jiu-jitsu classes, groin protection is mandatory. When I do my MMA training, however, I don't typically wear my cup. I usually wear a rash guard and a pair of grappling board shorts.

Well last night, I brought along one of my Jiu-jitsu students to my MMA training session so that I would have a partner that doesn't outweigh me by 130 lbs. During the session we worked on the knee kick. To do this we held up a padded stomach protector to our bodies while the other person drove their knee into the pad.

We were using a Muay Thai style knee kick for which you lean back in order to drive your knee harder using your hips. This worked quite effectively. It was particularly effective when my partner's knee slipped down the pad and landed square on my unprotected pelvic bone.

I yelped in pain and dropped in a similar fashion as you would expect a man to drop, clutching the effected area. My coach immediately ran to my side rolling me onto my back telling me, "Bring your knees up to your chest and breathe, Lori."

I knew exactly what he was doing. "Mark, I'm not a man! There's nothing down there that that will help!" The collective laughter of everyone in the room ensued.

My coach was acting on instinct. He was trying to get me to do the only revival method he knows for a kick to the groin. By rolling me on my back and having me raise my knees, he would have helped me to lower my testicles back into their rightful position, theoretically relieving the pain. I couldn't help but be amused by this even in the state of unbelievable pain I was in.

What is really ironic is that in every martial art style I've ever trained in, I wore my cup out of force of habit. MMA is the only exception. But after this incident, I will be operating under the following mentality:

"It's better to have a cup and not need it than need a cup and not have it."


Anonymous said...

This is a very funny story, good thing to know for women it hurts too to get hit down there (lol). Being a man I know all too well how nauseatingly painful it can be: I used to do judo and at one time we practiced uchi-mata.

As a ju-jutsuka you probably now it basically means to reap the tigh, this time he sort of miscalculated and hit my groin instead. Now in judo it’s very rare to wear a cup since strikes or kicks are simply not allowed and I basically slumped to the floor, gasping in pain. Then sensei did something interesting: he removed my gi, rolled me unto my back and started massaging two points about an inch from the spine just above the hip-bone and guess what: the pain went away almost immediately.

I don’t know if this will work for a woman too but it should be worth the try. The technique is called ‘katsu’: a sort of therapeutic massage or accupuncture without needles (using the fingers, fist, knee…) in order to alliviate pain or revive people.

In practising ju-jutsu or any other martial-art I always use a cup, however a few months ago my old one wore out and I had to train two weeks without it since I was too lazy to get a new one.

Of course this is very unsafe and if I had taken a groin-shot it would have been my own fault but the interesting thing is that it does teach you to be more mindful of protecting that particular area: in reality you will most likely not be wearing any sort of protection (not unless you were looking for trouble or you’d like to walk around with a bulge in your pants) and it is a fact alot (if not most) experienced street-fighters at one time or another will go for the groin (most likely in the beginning of the fight).

Now if you haven’t trained to defend that type of attack (and most martial-artists simply do not train it since it is illegal in most arts/sports, especially in sparring) it will mean your downfall: if you get hit there you will go down (and lori proved conclusively this applies to both men and women, thank you lori lol) and then he can basically do as he pleases (knees to the head, kicking while you’re down…).

I think the best way to learn to deal with it is 1) maintain a good fighting-stance (this means the lead-leg should be bent slightly inward so he doesn’t have a clear straight-line to your groin), 2) in controlled exercises leave the cup in the locker (this forces you to move back or defend while he kicks) and 3) spar with a cup but allowing light contact to the groin. Aslong as you do not go all-out the cup should hold and your family-jewels will be spared. It teaches you to both defend properly and to go for the groin yourself (very, very useful in a streetfight). The groin is one of those area’s you cannot possibly strenghten (unless you’re some chinese weirdo who can actually retract his testicles into his abdominal-cavity) and no matter how often you get hit there (not something I’d recommend) you simply will not get used to it (unlike getting hit in the head for example).

Another ancient training-rule for your t-shirt should be: protect the holiest-of-hollies/family-jewels/center-of-the-universe at all times! Whatever formulation you like, you get the idea.

Have a nice day,


Lori O'Connell said...

Interesting comments as usual, Zara!

In regards to your comments on defending against attacks to the groin, I agree that maintaining a good fighting stance is important. I also have my students include the groin as a target in sparring (orange belt and up), without going full out on the groin. We don't teach sparring for competition purposes anyway, so it makes sense.