Injuries can be some of the most frustrating obstacles a Martial Artist, or anyone for that matter, can come across.
Given that most reality based or combat sports Martial Arts training involve explosive, high energy activities that involve hitting and getting hit, it’s no wonder that physical damage of all sorts are common place. Ranging from sprained fingers to bruises to pulled muscles and countless others.
Furthermore, injuries have effects on all levels. Physically, injuries hurt, limit range of motion, reduce speed, strength and quickness, they might even hamper stamina etc. Mentally, they affect concentration and create seeds of doubt which fester into over thinking, uncertainty and hesitation. On a spiritual/emotional level, injuries summon fear, depression, frustration, anger and even hopelessness.
If an acute injury becomes chronic, the long term effects are even worse as they become rooted and set. Overall behavior, temperament, and physiology changes to accommodate the new burden which also becomes mental and emotional weight, in turn, leading to new injuries and a vicious cycle.
“Again! Again! We don’t quit!” -Detective Clouseau (from The Pink Panther)
All too often, Martial Artists buckle under the stress and throw in the towel on their training.
Frankly, this is a cop-out.
I’ll be the first to admit that knowing when to stop has it’s place, but running away from challenging issues does not eliminate the source of difficulty — you. Moving on because something no longer has value for you is one thing, but quitting is saying no to life.
It’s a hard pill to swallow, but it’s an empowering one. It’s kinda like taking the red pill in The Matrix in that the reality might not seem pretty at first, but the freedom, potential, and ultimate fulfillment that it offers is unlimited.
“If life gives you lemons, make a margarita” -Chris Howard
In 1970, Bruce Lee hurt his back during an overzealous strength training session and was bedridden for months. He was told that Martial Arts training would be difficult at best and that he would never be able to kick again. Rather than accept the prognosis of failure, Bruce Lee took the opportunity to train his mind and spirit, delving deeply into Martial Art through writing.
It was during this period of convalescence that he filled multiple volumes with notes and diagrams explaining and exploring his art of Jeet Kune Do. The end result — a Martial Arts legacy that has inspired millions and lives on to this day.
So then, assuming you’re willing to take the red pill and claim your power, what can you do when injury strikes? Here are three key strategies that can quickly resolve your Martial Arts injuries and get you back to training.
Pain is your body telling you that it doesn’t like what you’re doing. That’s all. It’s simply a signal for you to stop doing whatever it is that caused the pain and injury.
Barring emergencies and severe trauma, rest is the first and most important treatment to any injury.
The “No pain, no gain” maxim, does not hold water here. Pushing your limits beyond your threshold without proper guidance and support will only lead to chronic injury and burnout.
If it hurts, stop and your body will take care of the rest.
That nagging pain in your knee, or the tightness in your back probably didn’t appear suddenly and without warning. Listen to your body.
Allow enough stillness within your mind and spirit to really feel yourself.
The noise caused by the usual hustle and stress of modern life is like a mute button on your internal systems diagnostic, so make it point to take a moment and listen.
In the case that the injury did suddenly manifest due to an accident or other event that seems outside of your control, keep in mind that there are always other issues that directly or indirectly relate to the injury that are within your control. These issues could be emotional, mental, physical, or any combination thereof.
Did anger or frustration at work leading to tension and strain during practice? Is preoccupation about a relationship sapping your focus and causing carelessness? Either way, just relax and be still. Reflect on your condition and performance on all levels.
Remember that all injuries involve physical and non-physical elements. Be honest with yourself and take a step back to have a “conversation” with your body.
Be like water. The concept is simple but the practice can be very challenging.
The idea here is to try something different. Physically, this gives your body a chance to heal in one way and develop in others, given the adapted action is not aggravating the injury. On a mental level, you now have the opportunity to acquire new skills and expand your horizons. Emotionally, you’ll be stepping outside your comfort zone and growing as a conscious being.
For example, if you hurt your primary defensive hand, start working on your other defenses like evasions and footwork, or simply use your other hand. This simple change will deepen your understanding, improve awareness and sharpen your skills in unexpected ways.
Injuries and illness happen to the best of us, but they don’t have to be sources of limitation. Instead use them as reminders to nurture and bolster your health. Transform negative events into opportunities to expand your practice and grow your potential.