Injury is a part of life. While our bodies are amazingly adaptable and adept at healing, they all break down on occasion. When this happens, we may need to adjust our actions to give ourselves time to heal. As martial artists, this goes against our instinct to push ourselves and test our limits. We push ourselves to work harder, train longer, kick higher, and push-up, well, lower. We resist the idea of slowing down or going easy.
But as hard as it may be, we must learn to listen to our bodies. We must learn to recognize the difference between pushing for growth and pushing beyond what is healthy. And when we recognize a limitation, we must respect it. However, respecting a limitation does not mean training needs to come to a halt.
When you first become aware of a physical limitation due to an injury or medical condition, notify your instructor in writing. Let your instructor know what you know, including any diagnosis, planned follow-ups, and medical instructions as it pertains to what you do in class. Even if you do not believe your in-class activity will change, it is important that you let your instructor know.
If your limitation will have an impact on your class participation, you and your instructor can come up with a plan together. In-class modifications can range greatly. You may do fewer sets of aerobic exercises, shorter stances, only one side, limited mat-work, etc. Whatever your limitation, your instructor can work with you to find a plan for your class participation. Even if your doctor advises you to have no physical movement while you heal, you can still come to class and watch; take notes and practice mentally so that you don’t fall as far behind. Coming to class and doing what you can is always better than a prolonged absence.
In addition to having a plan for modified activity, you may need to make additional adjustments in class. This is true for everyone, not just students with a known injury. Your instructor’s job is to push you and the class to new levels. Your job is to go as far as you can safely. If you are ever concerned for your health or safety, it is up to you to act. You can do this without disrupting the class; if you have a medical reason not to do something, then don’t do it! After class you can let your instructor know why you made the adjustment.
Proper and smart modifications will help you get the most out of your training. While you may be tempted to just push through the pain, this may limit your ability to heal and ultimately increase the length of your injury. On the other hand, using any ache as an excuse to miss class means you never grow and progress. Whether it’s a minor discomfort or a real injury, your in-class training should continue no matter what. Injury may be part of life, but for a student of martial artists, training is too. Come to class, train smart, and modify if needed.