Wednesday, December 16, 2009

How to Train through Injuries

Last night, I was feeling good. I had enjoyed one of my first training sessions at my dojo since Chris came back to teach (he was on hiatus for the last month as he prepped for his black belt grading. Then it happened. After class I was grappling with one of my students and there was an unfortunate slip that led to me getting injured. Now I'm suffering from a hyper-extended elbow.

When it comes to injuries, obviously you should rest or take the necessary time off until you can train safely again. But I can walk. I can move. I just can't use my left arm right now. So instead of taking a break, I'm going train in how I would defend myself if I couldn't use my left arm.

Chris is teaching at my dojo tonight with his shiny new black belt. I'm having him teach a special Shorinji Kan Jiu-jitsu class to my students to pay homage to his recent achievement. As a gesture to me, he is teaching the entire class on doing one-armed defense. I am grateful for this gesture.

But if you have a particular injury, there are always ways to train around it. Like, for example, you could do defense from a chair if you can't use your legs for some reason. Obviously, not all injuries permit this. Neck, back or hip injuries, pretty much limit your options for safe training, but the next time you have an injury, ask yourself: How would I safely defend myself if someone attacked me while I'm still recovering from this injury? It's a good exercise in creativity and it might lead to some interesting training.


Mariedke Dalman said...

another thing for students to consider: if they can't physically train, it doesn't mean they can't sit on the sides and observe the session(s) anyway... it's amazing what we pick up when we become observers. A student of mine couldn't train due to complications from her pregnancy, but she found that by watching she was able to see the 'bigger picture' of the techniques, and how stance and position really do make a difference to technique. She also did visualization, and when she was able to get on the mats again, she didn't feel as rusty as she might have had she not attended at all.

Lori O'Connell said...

Excellent points Mariedke!

Anonymous said...

Training in the martial arts isn’t without risk, even when training with responsible people and in the proper environment. I remember the time when I suffered an elbow-injury: I was a green belt back then and some numbskull decided to use force to make an arm bar work and my elbow got hyper extended too. I was out for quite a while and to this day I can’t straighten my arm fully (only until 175°), like I said accidents do happen but when it’s due to irresponsible behaviour it’s totally unacceptable.

As to defense with one arm: that is one of the things I have to know for the Shodan-test. It’s not easy but as you said it’s a good preparation for when you injury one arm (during the fight itself or due to some previous accident) and have to fight with the other. What I found is that it’s better to stick with kicks and strikes since a) it’s difficult to lock or throw someone with just one arm and b) you don’t want to get entangled with someone’s who clearly has the advantage. Things you have to train are proper footwork (even more so than usual) to avoid and disengage, emphasize kicks to keep an opponent off you and hard blocking with one hand followed by immediate counterattack making sure you do as much damage as possible (eyes and throat are good targets and legally justified since you’re obviously disadvantaged when you can only use one arm). What have you come up with?


PS: must be bloody difficult to teach with just one arm. Or type for that matter. said...

Good post! I agree completly. In your case, there is no reason why you should not train. Of course the intensity will not be the same but, this may help you to think about training more thoughtfully (not saying you dont by the way).

Myself, I still train through injury, avoiding using the injured part of my body as much as poss. I slow the training down and concentrate 100% on positioning, timing, distance etc. All the little things that sometimes get over looked when one trains intensely.

Lori O'Connell said...

It seems now that my elbow injury was only a minor strain as its condition is improving. Not that I can use it fully and I certainly can't do breakfalls using it, but I managed to have a good training session last night.

I did all my breakfalls using my good arm or doing rolls when landing on my bad side. When doing punch defenses, I preferred to slip or duck under rather than block as this kept my good arm free for striking. And there are a few throws takedowns, even locks that can be executed with only one arm in use. It was a lot of fun! I should get injured more often. ;)

Anonymous said...

It is possible to lock or throw with one hand but it makes it much easier for your opponent to counter you (can’t block quickly, can’t transfer to another hold quite so well) and as I said before it’s best not to get entangled with him: if he grabs you or takes you to the ground you’ll have a hard time defending, at least it’ll be more difficult than usual. Keeping your distance and striking gives you space to maneuver and makes it harder for him to control your body. What is possible is not always practical or safe. A throw that would be practical would be to block his ankle with your lead foot while pressing down onto his knee causing a fall, it’s always possible to lock someone wrist with one hand but it requires precise body-mechanics and a thorough understanding of the technique but then again one-handed defense is pretty advanced material.

With punches I’d like to block with a hammerfist (knocking the arm away), following up with either a second block to his other arm or one aimed at the face. Couple this with a lowline-kick and other strikes and you’ve got a pretty potent defense.