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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

More On How to Get Hurt in the FMA's

Getting hurt is always a concern of people wanting to get started in the martial arts.

All martial arts training includes a risk of strains and minor injuries, like every other sport or activity that gets you off the couch.

With the martial arts, though, the additional concern is getting hit by a punch or a kick. Is that going to hurt? Will I hurt someone else?

Put a stick in someone's hand, and the worry about injuries skyrockets.

The truth is, we actually don't get injured as much in FMA's as I think folks do in the empty-hand arts. At least, I haven't seen it as much in my personal experience versus what my friends in other styles tell me.

This is partially because Arnis training in modern times very much has safety in mind from the get-go. We do not hit the body as hard as we can (and we often hit the stick as a substitute for a strike to the hand/arm). While we're learning techniques we go slower and we hit the stick softer than we might in a real situation, in order to get the technique down perfectly.

Y'know, like almost every other style does, but with the awareness that a mistake on our part could be more serious if something goes wrong.

That being said, we do get hurt, and it's more common than we'd like, especially when training with new people. Not injured, but hurt, as in "Ow! That hurt! Gimme a minute, then let's keep training!" kind of hurt. A bruise here, a strain there.

I have explored this topic here on the blog before. I wrote 3 Ways to Get Hurt - Or Hurt Others - in the FMA's and The Purple Knuckles Club. But this is something I get asked about, or have students ask about, or I have to tell students about so often, I thought I'd explore this topic a little more. It's a longish one, so settle in.

So, more ways to get hurt in the FMA's. Here we go:


Poor targeting - not putting the stick where it is supposed to be during a drill - is maybe THE most common way to get hurt.

If the stick isn't where you expect it to be while you are learning, your block might be too high or too low (or miss entirely). That can result either partner getting hit, on the hand (most often) or elsewhere that's more risky (like the head).

This includes not only being too high or too low, but at the incorrect angle of attack. Some things we do work better against some angles than others, and it's important to feed the one we expect when doing training drills.

If any of these are off, it increases the risk of getting hit.

I'm pretty sure the vast majority of hits I've taken in my time are due to poor targeting by myself, or by others.


Ever have someone attack but they hesitate? I don't mean that they wait too long to attack; I mean they start but think twice or second-guess themselves, and just stop for a split second before continuing the attack?

If done on purpose, it's a fake to draw you out of position. When done accidentally, it make it really difficult for the defender to learn what they're trying to learn. Their timing is off and they can block/respond poorly.

We don't want to fake people out in cooperative training, especially at the beginning (later, sure). We want to help each other learn. Hesitation in this way puts people in the wrong place in the wrong time, and can end up getting someone hit when we don't intend to hit them.


By "low energy", I mean not applying enough force in striking and not using proper body movements and footwork.

Most people feed with a light touch - slow, and usually without a lot of power - at first. Over time, as they trust themselves and those they train with, they'll speed up a bit, and hit with more power. Combined with correct footwork, this has a lot of what I call "energy".

Of course, they're not usually hitting as hard as they possibly can much of the time, but going really light when you feed - having "low energy" and not putting your body, footwork, and technique into the feed - is a huge mistake.

Not only is the feeder not practicing all they can with their side of the drill, but the defender gets a false sense of security in blocking. Their timing isn't right, their power in their own block isn't right. It'll be too light, or too slow, or both.

Then this person pairs with someone with higher energy, blocks a technique... and their partner goes right through the block, or their block will rebound back into their own face.

I speak from experience on this one, y'all.


This is a side effect of low energy feeding. People can get lazy and complacent in their blocking.

They don't block it "for real" every time someone throws a stick at them, for whatever reason. Then, the one time someone comes with more energy...


You end up with a bonk on the noggin, or worse.

The one time I ended up with a black eye that wasn't sparring related was when I lazy blocked and almost got my eye poked out. I got ridiculously lucky it was just a black eye.

The photographic evidence. DO NOT LAZY BLOCK.


I can't count how many times we've prevented someone from walking straight into someone else's stick because they were on the floor and not paying attention.

I have rarely had a time in training where we had plenty of space. If it's indoors, we're almost always crowded on top of one another.

Get people having side conversations, and losing track of what's around them, and it's easy to turn around and walk right into someone else's strike.

When you're training, always be aware of the many dangerous sticks swinging around in your general vicinity. Don't let your chit-chat distract you from it.

Now let's get into the more universal, not-specific-to FMA's things that I have seen in training.


In any physical endeavor, it's always possible to strain or even tear muscles, tendons, cartilage, sprain something, break a bone, etc.

I tore my calf muscle once by stepping off my right foot at the wrong time (when I was having a muscle spasm). It could have happened any time; it was just bad luck it happened while I was training.

So be prepared to strain muscles and have a plan to take care of that. I know - I KNOW - most of you want to train right through those because I do, too. But a smart person - I never claimed to be that smart, y'all - a smart person will go ahead and take a short time off to heal up properly vs. struggling with it hurting for a much longer time because they won't take a break.

I've seen sprained wrists and ankles a few times, lots of pretty big contusions (bruises), and a couple of broken bones (fingers and toes - toes are why I wear mat shoes).

Again, it's not any MORE likely than any other physical activity (except maybe the bruises), which is kinda crazy when you think about that, but that's how seriously we take physical safety in training usually.


This one is hard to avoid, but here's what I've seen most.

Tennis elbow - strains in the elbow, usually on the dominant hand. I got this a lot more when I was having to swing at empty space vs. hitting something like a bag or a partner's stick.

Bursitis - hip, shoulder, elbow. There's physical therapy exercises out there that can help with this and you should seek those out. I have struggled with hip and shoulder the most.

Arthritis - activity over time is going to wear on your joints, kids. Mild arthritis is not uncommon at all while we age, especially for those of us who are physically active.

Joint Replacement - the one I'm facing myself. I cannot tell you how many martial artists I personally know who have had hip, shoulder, or knee replacements. Knee/hip is more common among my friends who do a lot of kicking (go figure). As we age, damage can creep in and require this surgery. Luckily, almost every person I know who've had it say it was awesome after they healed up (I'll tell y'all if that's my personal experience in a future post).

There you go, more on how to get hurt in the FMA's. Did I miss any big ones? How do people get hurt in YOUR style? Let us know in the comments!

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