Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Budo and injuries

So, the Tuesday before Christmas, I went to Judo and had a great practice for the first 88 minutes of the 90 minute practice. Then I proceeded to bend my right knee 45 degrees to the right while failing to throw my partner. I discovered that my knee does not like being bent in that direction. In the aftermath, I am having to put into practice some lessons I've picked up over the years of budo training.

The first is RICE. We've all heard it. When injured Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate the injury. It's easy to do all of these right away, when the injury is still agonizing and the knee in question looks more like a grapefruit than a joint. It gets tougher to follow through with the prescribed treatment as the injury improves though. This is where other budo lessons come into play.

The second is LISTEN TO SENSEI. You might not realize it, but in Japan, doctors are addressed as "Sensei" just like teachers. Just as we learn to trust sensei's greater experience and knowledge in the dojo, we have to trust the doctor's greater experience and knowledge about the injury. Actually do what the sensei is telling you to do about your injury, don't just listen and ignore the parts that you find inconvenient. Sensei would not approve.

PATIENCE is the next lesson, and this one is tough. It takes years of training to advance in the martial arts, so you'd think we'd be pretty patient about rehabilitating an injury. Amazingly, I've known a lot of martial artists who's sole focus is getting back to training as soon as possible. What this really means is not "As soon as possible without risking re-injuring or permanently injuring yourself" but rather, "get back to training as soon as I can stand the pain, because I'm too tough for the consequences." I'm a little too familiar with this approach, having been a strong advocate of such stupidity when I was in college. Fortunately, I had teachers who would sit on me to keep me from going out on the mat for judo until after my ribs had finished healing. All that patience we learn as we work to polish our techniques over the years comes in handy while waiting a few weeks for an injury to heal.

Healing injuries need to be rehabbed in the right ways. The basic stretching and strengthening exercises are boring. Really boring. They can make kihon practice look fascinating (which it should be, but that's another post). Be persistent in doing the stretches to keep the muscles loose and healthy. Do them just like the therapist says. Do any exercises too.

But have some DISCRETION. Just because a little stretching and exercise are good for rehabbing an injury, it doesn't follow that a lot of stretching and exercise are better. Listen to your body and do the the exercises that are recommended, but don't overdo them. I know this is tough for a martial artist. Martial artists love to overdo training because it is the macho thing to do. That's part of why we learn so much about being injured. Have the good sense to balance any recommended rehab exercises with lots of rest.

TAKE IT SLOW when you start back. This is more patience, but it's worth repeating. You aren't going to master your art next week, so don't push your body to do things next week that it isn't ready for. Patience, discretion and listening to what your body tells you will carry you a long way without injuring you.

These are all lessons we're supposed to absorb from budo practice. Are you ready to prove that you've grown and developed these parts of yourself in addition to polishing your uchi mata?