Saturday, January 4, 2014

Injury: The Nature of the Beast

This is a picture of when I didn't block a strike properly one day, and I got a rattan stick poke in the eye.

It tickled, I swear. *sob*
The truth is, I got lucky.  Very lucky, indeed, as it hit me on the ridge of bone just below my eye, so all I ended up with was a black eye versus a far more serious injury.

Martial artists, like athletes in general, risk injury every time we set foot on a mat.  It can be even more dangerous when you work with weapons, like I do, and you forget a basic 101 thing, like blocking the stick that is coming very fast at your face.

This is not the first - nor my worst - injury I've suffered doing the martial arts. The worst was when I was doing a very simple drill - a sumbrada, the most basic "3-8-12" version - and I stepped forward to deliver an overhand #12 strike to the top of my partner's head after defending against a low #8 strike to my knee. (To see a short video on what the strike numbering system we use so that last sentence makes more sense, click here.)

As I stepped off my back right foot, I had a calf muscle spasm and I tore the muscle, just like that.  I yelled a very bad word, fell down, and I ended up on crutches and awesome painkillers for six weeks.  It was one of the most painful things I've experienced, right up there with childbirth and a ruptured appendix. As far as injuries go, I do not recommend a muscle tear.

I've been hit on the knuckles - the occupational hazard of a practitioner of a Filipino Martial Art - about a jillion times at last count, and yes, having very swollen blue and purple knuckles is something I'm quite familiar with.   Here's what my arms looked like after the last seminar I attended:

You can tell how much fun I had
by counting the bruises I acquired.
It's not just me getting hurt in the family.  My husband nearly separated a shoulder doing a very simple shoulder roll and landed on his clavicle and it took a very long time to heal. My daughter once got hooked like a fish when she was hit in the face with a demo kama - luckily it did not result in any permanent harm.

New martial artists - or people considering the martial arts - are justifiably afraid that they're going to get hurt.  We tend to downplay the risk a bit, because we don't want to scare off the newbies, but the truth is, it will happen, eventually.  It is the rare martial artist that escapes very long without some injury, even if it's a simple strain of the hamstrings or Achilles tendons, or a good deep bruise from a hit when sparring.

I think the fear of the injury is actually worse than the injury itself, like any fear of the unknown. So here's what I'm wondering - what can we do to help the newbies overcome their fear of getting hurt?

We've thought of doing things like the first time a newbie gets hit on the knuckle hard enough to bruise, they get "initiated" into a special club to acknowledge they are now a real arnisador ("the purple knuckles club").

So what tips and tricks do you have?

Because they will get hurt - it is, after all, the nature of the beast.