If you’ve been training for a span of more than a week, you know all too well that injuries are a part of life in training. They range from the minor (scratches, bruises, and bumps) to more serious (breaks, fractures, pulls, tears, and the like). Whenever I am injured, in or out of class, one of the top three questions that pops to mind — frequently the top question, actually — is “how will this affect my training?”. No, I am not obsessed, living for my training. I do have a life outside the dojo, a job, and a great family life. But for me, Krav Maga and exercise is a lifestyle that I am very passionate about. It’s only natural that this involuntary thought flashes in my mind. If I can’t train, I fall behind. I also lose conditioning, muscle mass, valuable time to work on my motor skills and techniques, and even social time with my compatriots. Having talked to others at the school, I know that this is a common thought in many students’ heads when they get injured too.
These are just the temporary injuries — the ones that fade over a short period of days or weeks. There are also the other, chronic injuries that many of us have to deal with such as back or neck pain, arthritis, and ghosts of injuries past. I have a bum right knee, for example, that causes me problems and threatens to go out on me on occasion. These kinds of injuries are the ones that we all have to live with and work around, not only because it will ‘keep us in the game’ but also because this is the body we’ve got.
Regardless of whether you are dealing with a short-term or chronic injury, the thing to consider when you are in pain is whether or not you should make the trip to the dojo to train. What if it hurts a lot? What if you can’t perform to your fullest potential or abilities — and it’s test day? It all depends on the injury, of course (duh), and it also depends on the person. Different people have different pain tolerances and varying degrees of ability to work around injuries. I am a firm believer that (assuming the injury will not be aggravated and made worse!) one must push through injuries to keep the training going. Learn to defend yourself by being forced to switch your stance, use another technique, come up with creative alternatives, etc. I remember a class a few years ago where we had to immobilize our right arm by sticking it between our waist and belt and doing a drill, simulating a broken or otherwise useless arm in a fight. Similarly, in a recent re-reading of Rory Miller’s excellent “Meditations on Violence”, I read that he never stretches or warms up before training. He explains that being stiff with cold muscles is likely going to be your state if you ever run into trouble on the street. You obviously won’t have time to limber or warm up and it’s “Go Time”.
Why is all this so important? If we should ever be attacked in the real world — in a bar fight or ATM mugging — it is this same body we need to use to defend ourselves and our loved ones. We can’t call a time out and switch into our Combat Model body that we carry around in a knapsack.
This is it. Your body is your tool. Make the best of it as well as your opportunities to train.