Friday, May 7, 2010

Training with injuries

I was reading one of J.C.'s posts about pain and dealing with injuries and it got me thinking. See his article here.

Anyone who has trained for an extended period of time has likely suffered from and struggled to deal with some sort of injury. Managing injuries becomes part of our training. No matter how careful you are, if you train hard, from time to time you'll get hurt.

It's difficult to train with an injury. We want to keep training, but we also don't want to aggravate an injury or hurt ourselves further.

Usually we are our own worst enemies.

Does this sound familiar? You have an injury. You tell your Sensei about it. Your Sensei instructs you not to do anything that aggravates it. You agree. Class starts. You start training and all of a sudden you find yourself doing things that you know aren't good for your injury.

Why do we do this? I think it's because we don't want to be labelled that guy (or girl) who stands off to the side while everyone else trains hard. In truth, I imagine we build this up in our own minds. Personally, I've never felt this way about someone else if they're injured, but for some reason when I'm injured I feel like all eyes are on me. The rational part of my mind tells me it's silly, but the not so rational part still makes me think I shouldn't be off to the side. I'm pretty much over this now but it's taken a bunch of years and a bunch of nagging injuries to come to this point.

Years ago, I had injured my shoulder in training. For several days I couldn't raise my arm. I knew enough to take a couple weeks off training. In my late teens or early twenties, this would likely have been enough to heal up but as you get older, weeks turn into months. I returned to training and told the Sensei about my injury. He did as expected and told me not to do anything that hurt. The class was doing rolls and break fall drills. I stood off and watched. No problem. I took part later on where I could. The next week in class I was standing off and the Sensei said, "Oh, are you still injured?" Sadly, he said it in such a way that I felt he either didn't believe it or that he felt I should be taking part. Now it's possible he didn't mean either of these things but it had a significant impact on me. Because of this I didn't go back until I was nearly healed. I missed out on a bunch of training as a result of an insensitive comment.

I mention this to illustrate just how much of an impact the words of a Sensei have on their students.

A good Sensei won't let you aggravate your injury. He/she won't let you take part in activities that will likely hurt you further.

One of the greatest things my Sensei does for me is not to let me do too much when I'm hurt. He pays attention to my physical condition and knows about any injuries. He watches me and on several occasions has made me stop doing something that he knows will make things worse.

This does two important things. #1. It stops me from injuring myself further. #2. It stops me from feeling like I'm not doing enough. Being told out loud not to do something stops you from feeling like you've let the class down. It also reminds your training partners of your injury, increasing your safety in the class.

My Sensei works with me on how to adjust techniques to compensate for injuries. From this I've learned that it's possible to improve while injured. I had a hand injury once so we focused on one handed techniques. It's very possible in a real confrontation that you could lose the use of a hand or limb. Being forced to improvise has enormous benefits in training.

Always train hard. Know when to stop. Find a Sensei that supports you and is sensitive to your condition.

Train safely and have fun.

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