Scenario: You were sparring, or pushed yourself too hard in training. You got injured. You then go and see the physiotherapist or the doctor. They diagnose you with – insert your favourite injury here – and tell you to take X weeks off training. We all know the butterflies in the stomach, dry mouth and horrible thoughts racing through your mind waiting for the examination to finish and the verdict be given to (FYI - this is also a form of adrenal dump). At which point, you are left with two choices:
The first is that you take a couple of days off, use RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression Elevation) for a couple of days and then shrug it off and go back to training even though you are not at 100%. Most people I have trained with have done this before, usually leads to recurring injuries within a short time that will force you out for even longer than first anticipated.
The second option is that you listen to your doctor and take time off. This also means your skills may deteriorate a little bit, your cardio capacity will diminish and your monthly fee will go to waste. Also, you will have to deal with the psychological effects of not training or doing physical exercise for a while – anything from boredom to anxiety to depression to lethargy - which can be even more furstrating than the physical symptoms, particularly to those who train very often.
What do you do?
Faced with these options, it is not uncommon for a lot of people to choose the first option the first time they get injured… And the second time… And the third time and so on.
Throughout the years I have asked myself, and repeatedly ask my teachers, peers and students why they often come back to training before they are physically ready. The most common answer always ends sounding something like this:
‘I’ve been training hard lately and I’ve just started seeing some real improvement. If I take time off I’ll have to start from the beginning again. I would have wasted my time’.
At this point I would like to point you towards a different way of training.
The Samurai of ancient Japan firmly believed that in order to be a first-rate warrior, you had to be well educated. Not just in the ways of strategy and combat, but in affairs of state, the arts and more. They believed (and rightly so, in my opinion) that the principles of strategy could be applied not only in battle, but also in the study of practically every other topic in our daily lives.
Whilst this does not mean that in order to practice your favorite martial art you need to have a university degree, there are some benefits to this way of thinking. When you think about most art disciplines, this is an important part of learning curve and syllabus. For example, music students have to learn music theory and music history. Business-management students have to learn the different theories about management and how they developed over the centuries. This principle can be applied to any field. In order to be proficient, you need to have sound knowledge of both theory and practical applications.
So how does this tie in with being injured?
An excellent way to improve your knowledge, understanding and ability to apply techniques is to learn the theories behind martial arts and to understand the history of the system you are studying, develop knowledge about the environment for which it was originally created, as well as to learn how it has developed over the years. For example, if you are studying Krav Maga or other combative systems, you would do well to know about the founder of the system; To know about the environment in which it is used; To learn about the legal aspects of self-defence in the country in which you practice the art; To know about how an attack is likely to happen; To know about the effects of adrenal dump; To know about the patterns of attack and behaviour of attackers, to understand why specific techniques work and how they use body physiology, etc.
And when is the best time to do this, you ask? You guessed it - when you are injured and can’t train. If you usually train for 3 hours a week, then when you are injured spend 3 hours a week reading and writing about issues, theories and current affairs relevant to your training. Not only will you enhance your knowledge and skills, but you are likely to feel like you are not wasting your time and that will help you maintain a positive outlook until you are physically capable to train again.
Let me make something clear – theoretical knowledge cannot replace physical training and frontline experience and I am not suggesting that you replace one with the other. What I am saying is that the two go hand in hand and complement each other to great effect.
I have found this to an invaluable tool in my development as a martial artist. In fact, I have found that some of the biggest improvements and breakthroughs I had in training came during periods of recovery from injury, where I spent the time studying at home. I also found that it made me a much better teacher.
In the next post I will suggest a good framework for enhancing your training via education and reflection, one that is used by some of the leading martial artists, business people and innovators in history.
Stay tuned, stay safe.