Hi, Everyone: Here’s a really informative guest post from writer and trainer Krisca Te. She provides us a thorough exploration of how to make martial arts safe for all ages. This post is probably more geared to those with less experience, but even a master can use a reminder now and then. Feel free to share this post with people looking to start training! – Bill
Safe – Despite the Warlike Name
As you may or may not know, “martial” is a word derived from Mars, the name of the chief Roman god of war. So, basically, martial arts comprise the skills used in warfare or combat. Despite that derivation, of all the contact sports, the risk of injury when practicing martial arts is relatively low. Most forms of martial arts are suitable for most ages, starting from five years, and all degrees of ability, but check with the association of your preferred sport. There is a slight variation in degree of risk for the martial arts in all their forms, including: Karate, Kickboxing, Aikido, Ninjutsu, Kung Fu, Fujudo, Hapkido, Savate, Jiu Jitsu, Tae Kwon Do, Sanshou, Tang Soo Do
TIP ONE – Instructors and Techniques
- Instructor Responsibility for Safety
The primary responsibility for safety lies with experienced instructors. They will teach at a level appropriate for a student’s age, maturity, and ability. Lessons should emphasize technique and self-control. Experienced instructors will carefully advance students through more complex training. Visit a variety of instructors and ask about their experiences with students and their teaching philosophy.
- Instructor Responsibility for Technique
An instructor’s emphasis on technique and self-control is very important in limiting the risk for injury. Students should be taught techniques to punch and kick with their hands and feet in proper position and using the appropriate amount of force. Kicks and punches with the hand or foot in the wrong position can cause injuries to fingers and toes. Punches or kicks that are too hard can cause pain or bruises.
- Instructor Certification
New or novice participants should be involved in an accredited martial arts school to learn appropriate skills and technique. There is a much greater body of scientific knowledge available to instructors today than when many of the traditional martial arts were developed. Some modern martial art instructors are taking advantage of various fitness certification programs to utilize more modern training methodology. Martial arts training should produce healthy and strong individuals, not leave one with a broken body.
TIP TWO – Facility and Equipment
- Check Out All The Clubs
Visit all the local clubs for at least one session each. Look for the best club rather than the particular discipline, if you’re a beginner. You can specialize later when you know the ropes. Avoid the clubs full of people with ‘something to prove. Most instructors will let you sit in on a class.
- Padded Surfaces
Getting slammed on the floor is a serious business. Gaps between mats can cause sprained ankles. Even if you are using gym mats, they may not be enough. Mats and floors should be safe to play on. Traditional tatami mats or new-age padded surface can help cushion the fall. Wall pads should be available in close confines.
- Equipment and Headgear
Protective headgear should be worn for sparring or for activities with risk of falling, such as high jumps or flying kicks. Community safety gear should fit properly, be sanitary, and be well maintained.
- Body Pads and Mouthguards
These help protect against scrapes and bruises and limit the pain from kicks and punches. Arm pads, shin pads, and chest protection for sparring. Sparring, kicking, punching require mouthguards.
Wet or worn floors can cause slips and falls. Check for basic sanitation or unsafe conditions.
TIP THREE – Individual Responsibility
- General Doctor
If you have a medical condition, are overweight, are over 40 years of age or haven’t exercised regularly, see your doctor for a check-up. If you are thinking of enrolling your child or yourself in a martial arts program, consult with your doctor. A medical check-up can help identify any particular injury risks.
- Eye Doctor
You need your peripheral vision. If you have good hand-to-eye coordination, you are less likely to get hit. See your optometrist for information on how to improve peripheral vision.
- Warm Ups and Cool Downs
Warm up thoroughly beforehand. Most martial arts disciplines recommend sustained stretching for at least 15 minutes before any kicks or punches are thrown. Allow time to cool down afterward. Stretching is an important part of a cool down routine.
- Hydration and Nutrition
Drink plenty of water before, during, and after activity. Be sure you have eaten some carbs and fruit an hour before training. Eat a healthy meal as soon as you can after training.
Wear appropriate protective equipment such as helmets and mouth guards.
Try to put the emphasis on fun rather than competition when participating in martial arts.
TIP FOUR – Train by the Rules
- Obey All the Rules of the Martial Art
Make sure you or your child understands one of the main rules of all the arts is that playing through pain is wrong.
- Strengthen Your Core
It pays to have a strong core. Tighten or contract your midsection when you roll or execute a break fall. This allows you to have control over your body as you do the technique. A strong core aids in proper posture and body kinetics.
- Practice Slowly
Practice slowly and be aware of your body’s movement. What you are trying to build here is muscle memory. You must be consciously aware of your body movements.
- Over Training
Training too much and too often can lead to a wide range of overuse injuries. Martial arts training can include activities and exercises that put unnecessary stress on joints or soft tissues. Long term exposure to this training can break down the body rather than build it up.
- Poor Technique
Holding or moving the body incorrectly can put unnecessary strain on joints, muscles and ligaments. Seek advice from your martial arts teacher if your techniques needs improving.
- Using Excessive Force
Failing to pull a punch or kick can inflict injury on an opponent.
Beginners are more likely to get hurt because their bodies are not used to the demands of the sport. Train to improve yourself in all aspects of your life, not break yourself down.
TIP FIVE – Ukemi, Ukemi, Ukemi
- Receiving the Technique Properly
Probably the most important aspect to understand in martial arts so as to avoid injury and stay in the game is Ukemi. It is called something a little different in each martial art and each may have its own variation, but the essence is the same – RECEIVING THE TECHNIQUE PROPERLY. Yes, this most important rule of the arts is to actually be passive! Properly falling or breaking the fall is essential – regardless of what technique is being used against you. It is one of the first lessons taught and it is often practiced for weeks before any other training takes place.
- Take It Slowly
There’s no point in practicing ukemi hastily. When ukemi becomes ingrained in your system, you can drastically improve your chances against injury and improve your chances of being a winner. There is a right way of falling and rolling and there is a wrong way. Arm position, angles, and even the way your body contacts the mat are crucial in the proper execution of ukemi. Pay close attention to even the tiniest detail.
TIP SIX – Response to Injury
- Concussions Most Serious
A concussion is any injury to the brain that disrupts normal brain function on a temporary or permanent basis. The signs and symptoms of a concussion range from subtle to obvious and usually appear immediately. With most concussions, the player is not knocked out or unconscious. Returning to play after a concussion can lead to another concussion or death.
- Most Injuries Inflicted by Opponent’s Hand or Foot
1. Treat all soft tissue injuries (ligament sprains, muscle strains, bumps and bruises) with rest, ice, compression, elevation (raise the limb above your heart).
2. All scrapes and cuts should be washed with soap and water and bandaged before returning to activity. Bruises are best treated with ice applied for 20 to 30 minutes. They will slowly get better and fade over 2 to 3 days.
3. Any injury that is associated with a dislocation, deformity, inability to straighten or bend a finger or limb, or with significant pain should be examined by a doctor.
- Seek Prompt Treatment
Early management will mean less time away from your sport. When sorely injured, seek immediate help from a Doctor, Physiotherapist, or Optometrist.
- Always Call an Ambulance in an Emergency!
The martial arts should be art forms that you, your child, or any family member, regardless of age, could keep yourselves fit and ready for almost anything without sacrificing safety.
Krisca Te works with Open Colleges, Australia’s leading provider of TAFE courses equivalent and fitness courses. When not working, you can find her actively participating in local dog show events – in support of her husband.