Why training with an injury is some of the best self-defence training you will ever get.
This is not an article for “gym bros” or anyone who wants a temporary injury to become permanent by continuing to strain an already weakened muscle or joint. If you’ve torn a ligament, if you’ve fractured a bone – it should be immobilized to give it the time it needs to heal.
However, training self-defence isn’t the same as lifting weights to bulk up biceps or going for a trail run or hitting the bike.
Immobilization of an isolated joint doesn’t mean the only muscle that should be exercised is the one that presses the TV remote buttons.
Also, entirely neglecting one side of the body – the upper or the lower, the left or the right – because of an injury is not ideal and leads to physiological imbalances in power and strength, which are likely to lead to further injury in future.
In the same way that life goes on in spite of, and with, an injury, self-defence training should too.
Here are the reasons why.
1. YOU WON’T BE ATTACKED ON YOUR BEST DAY EVER
Over the years, we have heard from hundreds of students who have been attacked in a variety of situations. From schoolyards, to bus stops, to alleyways, to their own homes.
Experience tells us that attackers will not target you if they believe they will fail. It’s not rocket science, it’s common sense.
Predators choose a target they think they can conquer.
This is the classic predator-prey functional traits in practice. In the same way that an animal predator targets what they perceive to be the most vulnerable prey. You are, in fact, more likely to be targeted when weaker because of an injury.
Any attack, verbal or physical, is not as random as we may believe.
It is the product of a primitive calculation that the brain of the attacker makes: the way you walk, the way you look, whether or not you appear as though you are vigilant and aware, whether or not you look like you could fight back.
It’s also based on past experience – if an attacker has been successful against someone who looks like you before, you become a more likely target for them.
Remember, attackers attack because they believe they will be successful in getting what they want – whether that means your wallet, your car, or your life.
If you are having a bad day, if you’re distracted – and certainly if you are injured – you become more vulnerable, and it follows that in those circumstances, you become a more likely target.
2. YOUR INJURY WON’T BE RESPECTED IN THE STREETS
We are yet to hear anyone tell us the story of an attempted attack that was de-escalated once the victim let the attacker know that they were nursing an injury. It just doesn’t happen.
The streets are unscrupulous, street fights have no honor, and attackers have no problem making sure your temporary injury is made permanent – by them.
3. LEARNING TO NOT FAVOR A SIDE WHEN FIGHTING AND DEFENDING
While we know that we are supposed to train both sides, left and right, both from Orthodox and Southpaw stances, the reality is that we all subconsciously preference a side. This “default” training becomes impossible if our favorite side happens to be injured.
If you can’t bear weight on your right foot, guess what? You’ll be consciously nursing it while training, which means your left foot will do much more work than usual.
Training around an injury is a chance to become a truly ambidextrous defender and fighter.
Any type of injury means that your training will be different in some way. You’ll need to learn to work around the injury and adapt your movements, your techniques and tactical decision making, and your approach to all attacks, accordingly.
This is some of the very best training you can get.
Not only will you strengthen your skill-set in a way that would take incredible self-discipline to do when you’re not injured, but it will make you mentally stronger and more resilient.
You are guaranteed to surprise yourself with what you are capable of doing, especially when the naysayer voice in your head is telling you that you can’t.
That said, there are a few golden rules of training with injuries that you absolutely must follow to make sure that your injury doesn’t suffer and your recovery process doesn’t take longer than it needs to.
tell your instructor AND training partner that you are training with an injury
This point is incredibly important. Your instructor will help you change up the warm up routine to make sure you aren’t exacerbating your injury. Your training partner must also be mindful of your temporary loss of speed and coordination, considering you are likely learning and getting comfortable with a different range of movement than you are normally used to.
There may be some defenses you should not execute at all. There may be times when you should let someone else hold the kickshield for your partner.
Remember, your instructor and your training partners are on your team. They’re there to help you stay fit, stay sharp, and get better.
But you absolutely must let them know.
DON’T PUSH BEYOND YOUR NATURAL LIMITS
There is good pain, and there is bad pain.
Good pain is the pain of muscle fatigue – it aches, you’ve pushed past it before; it is the sensation of weakness leaving the body.
Bad pain is pain that doesn’t feel like that at all. It’s sharp, and very uncomfortable, and just doesn’t feel “right”.
This rule is as important in preventing injuries altogether, as it is for those who train around theirs: if you start to feel the bad kind of pain, stop what you’re doing and reassess.
Remember, you are no good to anyone if you’re out for the count for longer than you need to be. Focus on staying strong, but keep within the lines of your natural limits.
There’s no glory in pushing beyond pain that extends your recovery time. Leave your ego at the door and train responsibly. You don’t have anything to prove to anyone.
Some of the best training our instructors and experienced students have ever had has been while they were injured. The benefits of the experience makes them sharper fighters, and stronger, more confident individuals.
Injuries aren’t commonplace at our gym, and most happen while students are lifting weights or visiting other gyms, and we want to keep it that way.
But it means you won’t often know that someone is training with an injury unless you happen to partner with them.
Remember, an injury doesn’t define you. It’s just one part of your body. The rest of your body is still fully operational and should be used accordingly.
Come in for training. Let the instructor and your partner know what you’re working around.
Surprise yourself. You’ll be so much better for it.