Blue Belt Health Considerations

Beware of Serious Health Risks

The martial arts are, predominantly, a contact sport. You will have contact with others when you practice. You will also have contact with the floor and perhaps one or more walls or other structural elements. Where there is contact there is a possibility of contact injury. You need to keep this possibility in mind constantly and do whatever you can to reduce the possibilities that you will suffer from these injuries.

Series injuries may result from contact to the head, ribs, joints, large muscles, connective tissues, and vital organs. Being in good physical condition may help lessen the risk of some injuries, but it does not offer you full protection. Protective equipment and prudent practice routines can provide a significant additional benefit, but nothing is foolproof.

As many athletes involved in other contact sports have discovered, repeated contact injuries can have permanent debilitating effects that may not be detected for several years. If you believe you are too strong or too skilled to be affected by these types of injuries please allow me to point out that you are wrong. It is a fundamental axiom that the more abuse you subject yourself to now, the more you will suffer later in life. Do whatever you can to limit, reduce, and eliminate serious impact injuries.

Dealing with Injury

When you are injured it is important to seek medical advice. If the injury is judged to be not serious then you will likely need to spend some time recuperating before returning to any activity that may stress or perhaps cause additional injury to the same area.

If you suffer an injury that causes short-term swelling then applying ice or other cold substances may reduce blood flow to the area and therefore limit the amount of swelling. It is important to limit the amount of cold applied so you do not suffer any cold related injuries to the skin or underlying tissues. This can be done by keeping a towel or other thick cloth between your skin and the source of the cold. You will also want to limit the duration over which the cold is applied. If you are using a gel pack then you should follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. If you are using ice then you may wish to limit the application duration to fifteen minutes or less.

If you have an injury that has become stabilized then applying moderate heat may increase blood blow and thereby improve healing. You should consult with a physician before applying any topical remedies to ensure that it will not cause unwanted problems or side effects.

Anything that might qualify as a serious injury, including but not limited to severe muscle strains, sprains, concussive injury, broken bones, uncontrolled bleeding, organ damage, or joint injuries should be examined by qualified medical personnel. It is far better to verify that an injury is benign than it is to assume that it is not severe and to discover later that you were seriously mistaken.

If you come to class with an existing injury it is important that you inform your instructor of the nature and extent of your injury. This is so the instructor can structure your training to help limit further injury and to avoid potentially painful activities.

It is also important that you ensure any injury that might potentially bleed is well-bandaged such that blood will not be deposited on the floor, walls, instructors, or other students. Your instructor should be informed immediately if you have accidentally caused blood to be deposited on any surface in the Dojo.

Dietary Supplements

We are neither proponents nor antagonists of dietary supplements. We do not promote nor discourage their use. Using a dietary supplement is a personal choice that only you can make.

We will point out that nearly all of your nutritional needs can be met with a sound and balanced diet. This means that in normal situations you probably do not need any form of dietary supplement. But if you have specific goals and feel that a dietary supplement is the best way to accomplish those goals, and if a physician has indicated the dietary supplement will provide those benefits without associated risks, then we do not feel it is our place to advocate against dietary supplement use.

Nor do we feel it is your place to promote dietary supplement use to others in your Dojo or in the Tensoku Ryu community. It is not necessary that you keep your dietary supplements a secret, but we do not think it is appropriate that you promote their use to others.

Relieving Stress

We all experience stress throughout the day and at various times in our lives. It seems that some stress is quite beneficial, but too much stress is quite destructive. Like everything, some balance is required in your stress levels.

This means there will be times when you have a need to reduce your level of stress. A good workout can help you accomplish this fairly quickly. Kicking a bag, running, lifting weights, and doing calisthenics are all proven ways to relieve stress. Naturally, if you take up an activity you have never done before then you might find your stress levels increase rather than decrease until you become accustomed to a new routine.

But you can relieve stress without resorting to an intense workout. Spending some quite time meditating, working on a hobby you enjoy, doing crossword puzzles, reading a good book, or talking with a cordial friend can all help you reduce your levels of stress. It is probably beneficial to have several different methods for relieving stress so that you can find relief in a larger variety of situations.

Stay Relaxed

Related to relieving stress is the ability to become and remain relaxed. This can be difficult, especially if you are a high energy person. But it is possible to train yourself to be relaxed. Relieving stress is one way to help in this training. Conscious exercises to work on both detecting moments when you are not relaxed and then adopting a more relaxed condition can be quite beneficial.

From a martial arts perspective it is important to be relaxed. When you are relaxed you move more freely, expend less energy, have better breathing, and remain much more mentally alert.

There are many ways in which you may be able to remain relaxed even in a quite stressful situation. The first is through training specifically to remain relaxed. This involves first identifying and then focusing on parts of your body that are tense. Once you are aware of tension in your body you can begin to relax that area. This process takes quite some time, but eventually you will have the ability to know when parts of your body have become tense and you will immediately know how you might generate a more relaxed condition. It is a feedback process. The first step in that process is recognizing when you are tense.

An exercise you might try to get you started with this process is to lay on the floor (or in a comfortable bed) without moving. Focus first on achieving a relaxed rate of breathing. Once that has been established, focus on each toe of each foot in succession. If a toes is tense, work to relax it. If you cannot relax it, wiggle it gently and then try again. Flexing a muscle will often then allow it to return to a more relaxed condition.

Next move up to each foot. Relax all the muscles on each foot. Wiggle your foot or compress and relax specific muscles if you are unable to relax your feet. Now move up the leg to your ankles and then your calves. Working upward, focus on your shins, thighs, rear, hips, lower back, abdomen, upper back, chest, neck, shoulders, arms, and finally the head and face muscles. If some portion of your body that was relaxed becomes tense again, return to that area and relax it again. When you are done you should be overall quite relaxed. Enjoy the moment.

This is providing you with the skills to both notice when an area is tense and to relax that area deliberately. As you gain experience try to use the same skills when sitting and ultimately when standing. Obviously you can’t relax everything when standing, but any part of the body not required to support your posture can be relaxed.

If you get good at relaxing in nearly any posture you will now want to try to relax yourself when sparring or participating in drills. Consciously pay attention to any feedback you receive about tensions in your body. Work to relax these areas as soon as possible so you are better able to deal with the situation before you.

Another way in which you can learn to remain relaxed in a stressful situation is to practice skills in a stressful situation. If you are very experienced at dealing with skilled attackers who place you under constant pressure then you will eventually develop confidence that you can deal with nearly any eventuality in a calm and relaxed state. This helps to build confidence, which can make you much more relaxed. Just be careful that you don’t become overly confident. That has its own problems.

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