Martial Arts: Recovery from Injury

Like many sportsmen and women, martial artists suffer injuries. These often come along with the negative associations of being hurt. Terms such as “side-lined”, “surgery or therapy”, or even “restricted” are hard to accept, and often the martial artist is faced with a whole new type of opponent, one that often seems, at least at first, unbeatable. Here we look at the effects of injury, and how to deal with the occurrence of an injury and all of the associated negativity.



Injuries are most often physical, but the impact can be felt much deeper by anyone practising martial arts. Just as you would look to protect your hands by wearing the relevant martial arts equipment, it is wise also to strengthen and protect the mind. Often the biggest fight is not the recovery, but the lack of routine.


Knowing that you are unable to train can hit people hard, especially when coupled with the actual pain of the injury that acts also as a constant reminder of your physical limitations. It is easy to feel that you have lost out on all of the recent hard work that you have put into your pastime, and that you will be missing opportunities simply because you are unable to train. In addition, that well known endorphin rush that comes after training will go missing, and that in itself can cause withdrawal symptoms. It is critical therefore that you keep a healthy mind when trying to recover physically, otherwise you will suffer for longer and more intensely too. So what can we do when we are injured?


How To Cope With Injury

First and foremost, you must accept that there is a problem. There is of course the difference between being a little sore after a good workout, and having an injury. But if you truly know your body, as martial artists should, then you will know the difference. Once accepted, you can think about resolving the issue.


You must never simply give up, thinking that you will never recover. Such an attitude will ultimately lead in you achieving that very point, as you will quit. Instead you need to accept that it is your responsibility to heal and get better and moreover get back to training, and your efforts should be proactive – you need to create a plan of recovery and get as much information as possible, from colleagues, fellow students and of course medical professionals. This information can then be used to enact your plan.


Sitting still, physically and mentally is not going to work. Think whether or not it is possible to work around the injury. For example, if you injure your knee, can you still train your shoulders, work on your technique, your core strength or other areas of fitness. Are there alternatives to your normal workout, such as swimming or yoga/stretching? Ask for advice on how best to rehab and work this into your plan.


Perhaps work on your conditioning, focus on your nutrition, your flexibility, whilst giving proper and considered rest to the injured body part, allowing it time to heal. As time passes, acknowledge the progress that you have made, and perhaps even document it to see that your work is paying off.


Often, martial arts is about structure, balance, repetition and of course hard work. These are the reasons that you enjoy it, so factor these into your recovery and you will soon get back to where you were before. Think of the injury as an opportunity to refocus on other areas, to develop other skills and to target other body parts. If you practice martial arts long enough, there will be tough times, as in any sport. However your past efforts and achievements should have already given you the willpower and determination to get back training, as well as the mental fortitude and focus to recover fully from your injury before you do. Be guided by your training and see it as a gift rather than a punishment. Above all, remember that it is important, at all times, to look after the two most important pieces of martial arts equipment that you possess, your mind and your body.

Martial arts equipment

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