Here’s an uncomfortable fact; if you study a martial art, you’re going to get injured.
As instructors we do everything we can to minimise the chance of injuries happening, but the nature of our training means eventually you will suffer some level of pain. The injury may be self inflicted through poor preparation, pushing too hard or going too far. Alternatively it could come as a result of getting hit by someone else. This may be of your own making, or you may have been completely innocent in your actions. Our training puts us directly in the way of strikes, punches and kicks, so it is inevitable that sooner or later someone will get hit.
The important thing to be clear about is the severity of the injury; is this something that needs to be dealt with by a medical professional, or is it something that you can manage yourself? There is no hard and fast rule on this, and is something each student makes a decision on based on past experiences and through assessment of the nature of the injury. Discussing the injury with an instructor or other students can help, however the decision to act, or not, needs to be made by the student. Some injuries will obviously require medical assistance, such as open wounds, broken bones or dislocations and generally any injury to the head and neck.
The first thing you need to do is acknowledge you’ve been injured. It might not dawn on you until the morning after a heavy training session, or it might be painfully obvious the minute it happens. Give your body an opportunity to recover from the initial shock or trauma of the injury. This could include stepping out of class for five minutes to assess the injury and determine your next course of action. It might also include taking a couple of days away from training to allow the injury to settle down and/or seeking professional medical advice. It is important however to let your instructor know the extent of the injury, and then decide on your return to training. Not if, when.
There is strong evidence to suggest continuing your training throughout the recovery of an injury is more beneficial than waiting it out by sitting on the couch, watching Netflix and eating your body weight in chocolate. The secret here is to be smart about your training, and not to assume you can continue in the same manner as you did before the injury. The term ‘train smarter, not harder’ rings true here, and if you decide to ignore this rule, you are destined to enter a never-ending cycle of injury-upon-injury.
Our style of martial art, and the philosophy we take to our training, encourages students to train well past their peak physical ‘best before date.
Our style of martial art, and the philosophy we take to our training, encourages students to train well past their peak physical ‘best before date’. Take a look around the dojang, and you will find very few students fit into the 16 - 30 year old ‘athlete’ category. We attract students from all walks of life, and as such there are myriad variations of ability and limitation. Don’t take a week off just because your injury restricts you from being able to kick over knee height; the person standing next to you may never have been able to kick over knee height, but they’re still training.
Injuries also don’t have be to all bad news. Often an injury results through the repetition of poor technique. Yes it may take a few years, but eventually our bad habits catch up with us, and your injury could well be the alarm bell sounding on a certain skill or movement that you need to fix. Once you have the injury under control, work with your instructor to identify the cause of the injury, and develop a plan to avoid it happening again. Not only will you prevent further injuries, you’ll also improve the technique that created the problem. You will also have a greater awareness and understanding of your own body mechanics; knowledge you should then start applying to all other areas of your training in an attempt to identify future injuries before they happen. These small setbacks need be looked upon as opportunities for greater, long term growth.
If you’re injured, or returning from an injury, it’s best to discuss your return with your instructor who will be able to help you with your recovery. If you decided to ‘tough it out’, ‘suck it up’ and ‘soldier on’ on your own, then it’s exactly that; you’re on your own. Your instructor is there to help you and to ensure you get the most out of your training, so include them in your rehabilitation. In the end you only have one body, so listen to it. But at the same time, don’t let that little voice in your head convince you that your sore knee is career-ending. Unless it’s a highly trained medical practitioner, that voice is nothing more than the phenomenon of human laziness crying out for more couch-time and less dojang-time. Banish it, grab your dobok and head to the dojang.