Injury: Just Train
Updated: Jul 7, 2021
One time I had a student who seriously injured his left hand. I mean, in-a-cast, shattered-bones, yikes-that-x-ray-is-gnarly injury.
Besides being incredibly painful, he was thinking that there was no way he could train while he was injured. After all, we do stuff like this:
When he came by to tell us what had happened (it was completely un-martial-arts related) and tell us he wouldn't be able to train, I could tell he was pretty upset to think that he'd be out of training for months. Not only was he in serious pain and upset about it all, but he was facing never being able to use that hand the same way again.
He was not in a happy place.
So, I grabbed a soft stick (we use Action Flex) and got him - slowly - to use his uninjured right hand, and learn how to hold his left out of the way as to minimize the risk of getting hit - and we started training.
We're working on classical strikes of Arnis - ocho-ocho, banda y banda, abanico, and the like - and I had him hit the bag. Not hard and fast, but slowly, focusing on technique, footwork, and targeting.
Now, this student tended to be very concerned about power, sometimes to the detriment of his technique. He was always trying to force himself to make the optimum strike as hard as he could, versus taking the easiest shot possible and follow up with more hits.
He came from a martial arts background that is more in the "one and done" school of thought. The thing is, when you are working with a lighter weapon than what he was used to, no matter how sharp, you can't depend on that strategy. It has to be more like "Hit them until they quit wiggling".
The point of the exercise was to get him to slow down and work on our basics of technique and to show him that he didn't have to stop training, even with his seriously injured left hand. His progress didn't have to stop.
Not only that, the nature of his injury presented him with an opportunity to grow by leaps and bounds than he might have otherwise. He had to focus on protecting his injured hand, his footwork, and his technique vs. just hitting stuff as hard as he could.
I had a lot of sympathy for this student, as I once was also in the same situation pretty early in my martial arts life.
About two months into my martial arts training, I had an incredibly unlucky day and I tore my calf muscle in class. I yelled a very bad word, fell straight to the floor, and ended up on crutches and very, very powerful painkillers (tearing a muscle SUCKS).
I didn't miss a single class. I got hurt on a Wednesday, and I attended a seminar on Saturday (my first seminar ever). I sat on the edge of the mat, watched the other students, I did what I could sitting in a chair, and I read through Professor Remy Presas' "Pink Book" and "Yellow Book", doing sinawali and such in the air without weapons. It took about two months before I could actually fully participate in class again.
I didn't progress as fast as my classmates, but I did not STOP progressing. I actually learned a few things that my husband, who started in Arnis the same time I did, still doesn't quite get the way I do thanks to those two months on the side of mat.
So don't tell me you can't train when you're injured. I did it as a newbie, y'all.
You can do the same thing in your art, when faced with injury.
If you do a striking art, and you hurt your hands/elbows/shoulders/arms - why not work on footwork? Ever do a kata footwork only? How about footwork only and backwards (last movement first, and so on).
If you do an art that really requires you to stand up and you can't - why not sit down and work on your hands? You can practice some of the motion of striking - slowly, you don't have to do it with power, pay attention to mechanics.
If you injure your strong hand, train with your weak hand (and of course, vice-versa).
Get creative. Don't focus on what you can't do - focus on what you CAN do.
At the very least, attend class and pay attention to what is being taught, even if you can't physically do it. You won't lose too much ground mentally, and you'll still feel like part of the community that is your training group.
Short of being laid up in a fully body cast, there's just no reason to avoid martial arts class.
Do you have advice on how to work around injuries in training? Let us know in the comments!