I made a comment to my wife recently that when I reach a point, defined by just a few goals I have left to achieve, I am going to quit all martial arts except Taijiquan and just go full-bore on that. My reason is simple; I am tired of injuries.
Over the years I have been pretty rough on my body. In addition to regular beatings in various training halls and tournaments, I also spent some time working as a professional wrestler, a bouncer, and hanging around some shady people who let me experience some fairly violent situations.
When I wake up in the morning, most of the time, my entire skeleton hurts. Bones and joints snap crackle and pop as I shift from lying to sitting and eventually standing. Making my way downstairs is always tricky, and more than once I have stepped down with my knee improperly set, and had it fold wrong and send me down the stairs in a crumpled heap.
With enough coffee and aspirin in my system I am able to negotiate my way to work and teach my classes. Kids being kids, it is not enough to tell them how and what to do; they need to be shown, repeatedly. On the plus side, I get to burn a lot of calories during the day by performing martial arts techniques and sets over and over.
With the work day over, I make the hour + drive home. By the time I get home, my left knee is always swollen out of proportion, and sometimes my right knee joins in on the fun. My lower back gives me fits most days and every evening.
All of this is in addition to minor issues with my ankles, hips, elbows, and shoulders.
I attribute much of this to a mindset that I held in my youth. I remember well performing shoulder rolls and falls on concrete garage floors with only a sheet of cardboard for padding´(it really padded nothing, just prevented most of the chances to bleed). We just had this Samurai attitude of never admitting to fatigue, pain, or even injury.
Madness and stupidity
Sometimes I see instructors who were trained as I was, pushing young people through the same nonsense. It doesn’t make sense to me at all. And justifications fly when I dare question the necessity of the practices.
“You have to respect tradition!”
“Are you going to be a part of the group watering down the martial arts?”
“Kids today aren’t tough enough; we need to make them tougher.”
Here is a fact; you can train in a real martial art, become brutally effective in it, and not destroy your body in the process.
Modern training methods and sports science have come a long way since the days of ballistic stretches and salt pills. When I hear a 24-year-old Black Belt talking about how severe their hip pain is, I feel bad for them; they have a lot of years ahead of them and things don’t get better. Traditional or not, we have better training methods today, and we should rely on them.
As far as the kids being too soft, kids today are babied way too much. And there are parents out there who are intent on bulldozing a smooth path for their kid, effectively setting up their child to be traumatized when the real world shows up, but pushing kids into physical injury is wrong and stupid.
But the question comes up; “How can I certify them as a Black Belt if I don’t know if they can defend themselves?”
Unless you are actually teaching self-defense, this is a BS excuse. And if you are teaching self-defense, then the biggest challenge is testing the student’s ability to stay aware, avoid situations where violence is likely, set their hormone fueled ego aside and de-escalate tense situations. Are these being taught and tested?
And one last comment; it really irks me when people justify hurting students under the name of tradition. Traditional martial artists for centuries used the best training methods they knew. They were not hitting wooden dummies out of tradition, but because it was the best their style knew to do. They did not seek out fighters from other systems because of tradition but because it was the best way they knew at the time to test their skill.
We have access to great training methods as well as a wealth of knowledge on injury prevention. We should be using it.