Friday, September 20, 2013

Injuries in the Martial Arts


The bane of the martial artist. 

Most people who stay in the martial arts for any period of time get injured.  Look around any dojo or martial arts school and invariably, you’ll see the long term students taped, bandaged, bruised, with ankle or knee or wrist or elbow wraps.  It’s a sad reality.  Smart and responsible training goes a long way in preventing injuries, as does proper warm up drills and stretching (within reason).  Self-control during application of techniques helps too.  Proper diet and nutrition and lifestyle also play a huge role.

Beyond all that, sometimes shi_!!! happens and your find yourself hurt.  It could be martial arts related, or it could have happened in some other area of your life.  It sucks. 

And it happened to me.  I’m (fingers crossed) getting better, but I’d been dealing with pain for months on end, had trouble sleeping because of it and generally was feeling miserable.  The nature of the injury has prevented me from training for several months, the longest I’ve not been able to in many years.  A side effect of getting older, as I’m learning, is that you heal more slowly as the years go on.  This adds to the frustration of it all.

Life goes on, of course, but I was so pissed off (I know, not very Zen…) that I just sort of checked out of the martial arts world for a bit, even neglecting this blog. 

Now that my head is getting back in the game, I’d like to share some lessons learned by dealing with an injury.

    1.  If it hurts to train, don’t train. 

It may sound trite, but it’s true.  I trained once or twice while injured, and, careful as I was, made it worse.  There are times you can train with injuries, and times you can’t.  Figure out the difference.

2.  Take the time you’re injured to pursue something else that interests you that you normally don’t have time for.  Do something different.  I’m convinced it’s good for the soul, can open up new doors, expand your horizons, that sort of thing.

    3.  Booze and anti-inflammatories are great for pain, but will give you acid reflux if you use them for too long.  Oh yeah, and neither is good for you if used long term or in large amounts…

4.  Try not to dwell on your injury too much.  Don’t obsess (like I did) over not being able to train.

    5.  Supplementation with quality fish/omega oils really helps the joints.  Do your research.  Go for the liquid.  Pills and capsules are largely a waste of time.  And you get what you pay for, within reason.  There’s a whole host of other benefits too.

6.  This stuff about mobility exercises and functional movements and core stability?  It works.  You’ll be better off for incorporating some into your routine, in the dojo, gym or home.  Take care of your joints and they’ll take care of you.  In my case, more mobility work in advance might have reduced the severity of my injury or prevented it altogether.  

We live in a world of increasing inactivity and repeated unnatural movement patterns (sitting at work, in the car, hunching over cell phones, tables, laptops etc).  It’s important to do what you can to reset your body’s natural alignment.  

About a third of my workouts now (outside of martial arts) are mobility movements and stability movements.  I wish I had bought into this stuff a decade ago.  Maybe I wouldn’t grunt each time I get up…

Those are a few of the things I’ve learned from this process. 
How about you?  Any other tips for dealing with injuries?


  1. I'm sorry to hear about your injury but I'm glad to hear you are getting back into things.

    I remember reading one of Lowren Christensen's books in which he describes a time that he had to use a walking cane due to a leg injury. So what did he do? He studied how to fight using the cane!

    As for myself, I am conservative when it comes to injuries and tend not to train the part of my body that is hurt if that part involves a major joint (knees, shoulders, elbows, etc). I can recall getting my kneecap accidentally blasted by a gedan mawashi geri during a belt test and for about a month I refrained from training that leg at all and instead focused on my upper body - free weights, punch drills, etc.

  2. Thanks for the comment. Your advice is rock solid, of course. With me, the nature of the injury kind of made most stuff impossible for a while. While there were still a few things I could do, it was harder being in class and not taking part.

    Having said all that, I once had a hand injury on my strong side. Training with my non dominant side for over a month did wonders to even out some of my imbalances.