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BellaOnline's Martial Arts Editor


Restarting Martial Arts After an Injury

Guest Author - Caroline Chen-Whatley

Recently, I had a shocking discovery... I’m getting old!!

Okay maybe it’s not that shocking to most of you but along with the idea of getting old, my body doesn’t seem to work as well as it used to. The hardest part was when I decided, oh so wisely, to lift something incorrectly. Suddenly my back was a flame of pain and the simplest tasks became excruciating.

As we get older, life throws things in our direction and, as my father would say, “The body doesn’t work as well as it used to.”

One of the hardest parts about being a Martial Artist is to get back to our art after suffering an injury. So I thought I’d share my own journeys after this back injury in hopes it may help others.

My back injury made it really difficult to even think about trying to do Martial Arts. But my body and mind literally craved getting back on the floor and doing something. I remembered how wonderful it felt to be on the floor doing my routines and how alive my body felt after each session.

But the simplest of exercises that I used to laugh through easily, like doing a butterfly stretch, became a torture of wills where my body didn’t listen to my mind saying, “Come on! You used to be able to fold right in half.” It became very hard and depressing to keep wanting to work.

If you’re struggling the way I was, here are some tips/hints that may help you get through it.

Give yourself permission to take it slow

Often after any life altering event, we try to rush back to the way things were. There’s comfort in the familiar and we’re operating in an unfamiliar territory. Unfortunately, the body (and the mind) needs time to recover and return to a “normal” state. And that normal state may be different from what it was before the event. We need to visualize and give ourselves permission to take the time to discover what the new “normal” is and get there.

All yourself to mourn and then move on

Before my back issue, I maybe… just maybe had a chance of executing a hurricane kick. I probably could work towards it and get a few off. But now, I’m pretty sure at this point and time there would be no way I could execute such an aerial attack. I may be able to someday, but right now it’s not in my best interest to attempt it.

In many ways it makes me sad that I can’t do it. There’s a level of the mourning process that we go through as a result of any major event in our lives. If you understand the mourning process, you’ll understand that you can’t let yourself get trapped in the sad/depressed state or you will never move forward. At the same time, many of those really smart psychologist types have told me that you have to go through the mourning process to make to the other side.

So allow yourself to mourn and find a way then to move forward.

Uncover the way forward through continuing to try

The worst thing you could do in this situation is to stop trying. The longer you stop the harder it becomes to pick back up the pieces and routines that make Martial Arts part of your life. If Martial Arts is truly part of your life (as it should be with all true Martial Artists), you will be losing part of yourself in the process.

So even if you can only do a little bit, get back to the floor or school as soon as you can. Just being around others who are practicing will feed you the energy and support you need to get back.

Also, take a moment to realize that “back” may not be exactly the same state as it was before. Whenever our bodies become injured, that area of our body will always be weaker. You may need to learn how to do things differently or take special cautions around that area. But talk to your teacher because Martial Arts is flexible to accommodate all types of people and situations... if you know how.

I hope this helps some of you out there struggling like me to get back on your feet. As for me, my progress is slow but I’m hopeful to really get back to what I love. And I know that some things may change for me as a result of these back issues and I will need to be more conscious of what I do going forward. But Martial Arts is in my blood and system and something that if I don’t get back to I will never feel like myself again.
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Content copyright © 2015 by Caroline Chen-Whatley. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Caroline Chen-Whatley. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact BellaOnline Administration for details.


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