Monday, February 27, 2006

Injuries and karate

I've been thinking alot about a friend of mine that is hampered in his efforts to train by injuries.

Can one train in karate when injured? Is it a smart thing to do?

The very first moment that I walked into the dojo, I started with a previously damaged right hip. It didn't bother me until I attempted my first roundhouse kick. I lifted my right leg, and pain shot through me. Just lifting my leg to the side was enough, I didn't even kick out yet. I had to take it slow, and easy. I used the wall for balance, and guiding my leg with my hand I gently lifted it into position as far as possible (until pain started), held it, and brought it back down to relax. Without being consciously aware, I was doing physical therapy on myself.

With time, persistence, and effort, I have been able to increase the flexibility of my hips/legs. I can perform a roundhouse kick without pain, at about chest height. I feel that this was of great benefit to me. Instead of my flexiblity lessening as I progressed in age, I've increased, and developed myself.

On the other hand... Lately, I've injured my left shoulder. Don't ask me how. I believe that I had done a technique improperly with full power, and somehow pulled one of the muscles connected to my bicep muscle. Although I've been gentle on my left arm for the past month and a half, it doesn't seem to be improving. The injury that I sustained on my right wrist two years ago ( a sprained wrist) still rears up and complains as I train. I've also injured my right middle knuckle on a punching bag, and there are times when my knuckle will swell, and make crackling noises.

So... I've gained in some areas, and lost in others. I believe that I'm not alone. As more and more people train in karate into their mature years, they have to balance the benefits of training, with the fact that injuries can, and may happen as we train.

How do we know if we can keep training with an injury?

For those moments when we fall, or get smacked hard by our opponent, and we feel that nasty feeling that something went "OUCH" more than it should have, I present this quote:

"Robert Nirschl, M.D., assistant professor of orthopedics at Georgetown
University, in Washington, D.C., offers this advice: "Look for signs of
inflammation such as swelling, redness, tenderness, fever--generalized or
local--or pain that persists with or without continued activity." Any of
these signs--or others, such as decreased mobility or weight-bearing ability
of the affected limb, or a "popping" or "snapping" sound--indicates the need
for immediate treatment."

Should you take aspirin, or other pain relievers when training with an injury?

"Mirkin went even further in cautioning injured athletes about using pain
relievers at all. "They stop the pain," he explained, "but the
prostaglandins that cause the pain are part of the healing process. There
have been studies indicating that blocking prostaglandins may inhibit
healing. . . . You're better off taking nothing." He recommends rest and
keeping in shape during recovery with a sport that stresses uninjured parts
of the body."

Should you use one of those creams like Tiger Balm?

"Experts are even less enthusiastic about topical treatments such as creams,
ointments and liniments in treating injured muscles. FDA categorizes these
treatments as "topical counterirritants": "externally applied substances
that cause irritation or mild inflammation of the skin for the purpose of
relieving pain in muscle, joints, or viscera distal to the site of
application." In other words, the burning of your skin takes your mind off
your aching muscles. As Geismar puts it, "It's like pinching your big toe so
that you forget about your headache."

There is no scientific proof that topical treatments, even those that contain
aspirin, ease aching muscles, though the rubbing or massaging of the area can
itself be soothing. Since the medications often contain irritants, such as
menthol, the labels caution against bandaging the applied area tightly or for
too long. "

So what can you do if you injure yourself?

The R.I.C.E. method will help. R. is Rest, I. is Ice, C is Compression, and E is Elevate. Do not Ice the area longer than 10 or 15 minutes.

What is the goal in training with injuries?

I would suggest that we adapt to the need of the injured part with an attitude of humbleness at accepting the truth that we are not invincible. Perhaps one could tie a colored ribbon around the damaged limb to remind their kumite partners that they are continuing training to keep up their skills, but that care needs to be given to any techniques sent in that direction until that limb heals. Exercise is good for the limb. It promotes blood flow, and strengthens the muscles around the injured part. It would not be a good thing to stress the injured part to the point where damage is increased rather than decreased.

We need to be aware that healing takes longer for the older body. A young karate ka can submit his/her body to some strenous regime, and survive, even thrive. An older karate ka has to change the type of demand on his/her body. Doing one type of training on one day, and then giving that part of the body a rest, and focusing on another part of the body the next day. This would be similar to weight lifters that do Upper body training on Monday, and Lower body training on Tuesday.

I would encourage prevention of possible injury as the main focus of a karate ka. "Not only should your entire fitness program start out slowly and progress
gradually, but each day's regimen should include a warm-up that gently brings
your body up to a level where it can do vigorous exercise, and then a
cool-down to return to a normal activity level." Also, very importantly, make sure that you are well hydrated before you exercise. Your body needs water to move well. One should be sure to have had at least 2 glasses of water about 2 hours before training, and another glass of water 15 minutes before training.

Train hard..yes.. but train smart!

All quotes taken from:

Friday, February 24, 2006

Using Japanese, Korean, or Chinese terminology

I've been thinking about how martial art students are asked to train, and learn all the difficult stances, kicks, strikes, and patterns, and in addition to this, (in some dojo) they are asked to know all of these things in both their native language, AND in Japanese (Korean, Chinese, etc. depending on their art). Of course, I had to ask myself if I thought that it was a worthwhile effort to learn everything in Japanese. I like to be in agreement with what I've been asked to do. There are alot of reasons why people have learned the Eastern terminology. One reason is that it is good to be familiar with the words in case you wish to compete or train internationally. I can see the value in that.. even if each country will have a different accent to the term Tsuki.. there is a chance that there would be interactive communication when placed together. Personally, I do not ever assume that I will be at such a high level that I'd be interacting internationally with other karate-ka... other than on the internet. Another reason is that it continues the tradition from the country that originated the martial art. (similar to how latin, and Greek terms are used in music, or French is used in Ballet) I like this idea, but it doesn't motivate me to put forth the effort to learn all the complex terms. For me, learning Japanese is a way to train my mind. I have to find a way to learn, and remember those words, what they represent, and when/how to use them. As a mom, I rarely get academic stimulation. It has been shown that one has to use their memory, and mind to keep it young and active. "As we learn new skills and concepts, the brain sparks development of synaptic connections--the electrical /chemical circuits that link neurons, the brain cells. Each cell in the brain can potentially be connected to thousands of others. The more connections, the more dense the brain, and the greater the intellectual capacity. For most of us, the brain is thoroughly stimulated well into our 50s thanks to jobs, continuing education, relationships, child raising and so forth. But people who become less mentally active as they grow older often don't receive--or seek-the stimulation needed to continue forming synapses. Karlene Ball, a psychology professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, worked as a lead researcher in a major federally funded study of people aged 64-96. The study proved beyond a doubt that the cognitive functions of the elderly can be enhanced through demanding activities that forced them to reason and react quickly. Better news still: A follow-up 5 years later showed thai participants retained their cognitive abilities--even though they hadn't performed any practice exercises." Training in Karate is the elixer of youth for the mind of a person, we are constantly challenged to learn, react, and learn more! Adding the study, and memorizing of kata, history of the art, and it's founder, and learning Japanese/Korean/Chinese terms enhances the mental training offered to us to help us keep sharp, and focused.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Kung Fu.. the original series

I was able to borrow a 6 DVD set of all the original episodes of "Kung Fu" the t.v. series starring David Carradine as Caine.

This was the first time that I've ever seen the show. Sure, I knew about the famous "snatch the pebble from my hand, Grasshopper" quote, and a couple of other little scenes just from watching other entertainment. I was astounded by the quality of the show. I feel that this is a creation that will transcend into the future. The magic of the combination of wonderful cinematography, poignant acting, great directing, awesome scripts, and storylines, amazing sets.. oh gosh.. I was entranced.

I found that I enjoyed each part of the series. I LOVED the flashbacks, I found myself looking forwards to them. I could see a thread of a positive moral lesson contained in each episode. One was able to see the worst in people, and at the same time you could see the BEST of people, and in the center of it all, solid, and calm as a pillar in a swirling ocean was Caine.

The deeper inner thoughts of a martial artist striving to follow the "way", "Do", or "Tao" were poetically expressed in simple words that would be difficult to understand if you haven't trained in the arts. My children turned to me more than once saying "What did his Sensei say? That made no sense..." I would just smile, and say "Oh.. it's just martial arts stuff.. You have to think about it."

What I found MOST interesting is how little "martial arts" there actually was in the show itself. The martial arts part was not the main draw of this show. It was there.. sure... but there were many times when it only made up less than 5 percent of the show. I found that I ended up that I didn't really care how well performed, or accurate the fight scenes were, I was so involved in the storyline... However, I have to admit that more than once, my heart surged with the action, and I admired the ability of the artists performing. I really enjoyed the fact that they put some of the more complex movements into slow motion. I would name the techniques as they happened "AH! A backfist to the head, followed by an elbow strike to the middle.. oh wow.. look he swirled him around, and did something that I haven't seen before.."

I saw the quality of the show improved with each successive episode, and when I watched the last show on the set, I found myself longing to see more. My found that the director that appealed the most to me was Robert Butler. There was a special feel to his work that rang within me.

My favorite episode from the first season was "Chains" . Robert Butler directed it, and it aired in March 1973. "Imprisoned in an army outpost, Caine escapes - chained to his hulking, mountain-man cellmate.... and pursued by a relentless sergeant determined to collect the $10,000 reward offered for Caine's capture." I found myself reacting to each moment of the show from the very beginning when I first meet the mountain-man, all the way to the end of the show.

I am grateful for the gift of this show's existence. It is no wonder that it has inspired so many martial artists of today to start walking the path.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

How long does it take to get a black belt?

"How long would it take me to get a black belt (or it's equivalent)?

As long as it takes, no longer and rarely sooner."


Food for thought.

The first question that I hear from a person considering entering the path of martial arts is "How long before black belt?" I believe that this is the prevailing attitude, but it goes totally against the real goal of training in the arts. If the color of black is what is desired then the easiest method of obtaining that is to go to the local Martial arts store, and pick one up for less than $10. However, I believe that what the person is really hoping for is to have the skills of a black belt, and that will only come through personal effort, dedication, and training. It is really up to the person as to how long it takes. Although.. the body can only strengthen, and learn at a certain rate. Today, I can do 2 push ups, tomorrow perhaps 3.. with alot of consistence I can get up to 10 push ups in about a week. It would be rather impossible to suddenly be able to do 100 push ups after only a day of training... unless you really, really cheat.

Is it worth it though? To lower the amount of expectation so that you can get that black belt around your waist sooner? Not in my eyes. The belt does not make the artist.. it is the artist that brings worth to the belt.