Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Benefits of Being Injured

The Benefits of Being Injured

    If you're doing martial arts, you are going to get injured.  Hell, if you are alive, you're going to get injured.  But, this doesn't have to be a completely negative experience.  You can look at this as a unique opportunity to do somethings you don't normally get to do.  First it depends on the injury, and the severity of the injury.  I break my maladies into two categories: on the mat, and off the mat.  On the mat injuries are smaller, and I can still participate in class.  Off the mat means I'm out of commission for a while and can't do my classes.  As with any physical situation, you should get the opinion of a trained medical professional (i.e. NOT me) before ascertaining any activity.

Off the Mat Injuries

    Sometimes there are things that prevent you from getting on the mat normally.  Could be something as severe as a broken limb, or as simple as a bad head cold.  This gives you two kinds opportunities.  First, if you can go to the dojo (again using the Japanese terminology), you should use this time to watch class.  Watch the instructor not from the point of getting the technique right, but instead look at all the other things they do.  Pick one small aspect, like foot angle or shoulder position, and watch that point through all the technique applications.  Try to notice the little, subtle details of each time they demonstrate the technique, let alone between different techniques.  This would be a good thing to record in your martial arts journal.  By staying back, and looking at the whole picture, you can sometimes see things that you normally miss up close.  Use this time off the mat to practice this wide focus of learning.
    Second, If you are laid up at home, then use that time to study the other aspects of the art.  There are huge amounts of history and philosophy to sift through in all martial arts.  I'm an avid reader of martial arts books.  I read books on the arts I practice, I read books on martial philosophy, and I read books on other martial arts.  They all build my own understanding of my personalized art.  If you are unable to go to the dojo due to injury, you already have that time set aside in your schedule.  Use it to read up on your favorite subject.

On the Mat Injuries

Not me, but how I feel today
    There are a lot of small injuries that though painful, and irritating, are not debilitating.  Make sure whenever you are injured, you let your practice partner know of the injury.  In some dojo, I've seen that use black tape on the gi to indicate an injury.  This is the type of injury that brought up this post.  I'd hurt/strained a muscle in my lower back (getting old sucks, avoid it if at all possible).  I actually was doing an aikido technique, and my sore back was irritated every time I did a technique.  It was a technique that, like much of aikido, was not supposed to be using any strength.  I realized from my back telling me so, that I was using muscles to pull the opponent around instead of using their own motion.  If my back hadn't been sore, I wouldn't have figured this out.  It is possible to learn through these small injuries.

    I don't hope or wish injury on anyone, but when the do happen, and they will, find a way to make a positive, learning experience from them.


  1. I experienced a pretty bad "off the mat" injury early in my training - a torn calf muscle - and I was basically unable to put weight on my leg for a little over a month.

    I spent that downtime on the sidelines in class (when I couldn't participate - some things I could do sitting in a chair), reading "Modern Arnis: The Filipino Art of Stick Fighting" by Remy Presas and learning various techniques using the descriptions and pictures. There were several techniques we didn't usually cover in class in the book.

    I was able to share what I'd learned when I returned to the mat. So it wasn't all wasted!

    1. Exactly, this is what I'm talking about. Being injured sucks, but find a way to use it to your advantage. Study some other part of the art. Look up other arts, listen to martial arts podcasts (I recommend Martial Thoughts or Hiyaa).