It’s a question almost as old as martial arts itself: “What happens if I get hurt while I’m practicing?”
The thought comes to all of us at one time or another – even those of us who have been part of the sport for decades. After all, mistakes happen. They’re a part of life. So, the best answer to this question is that, sooner or later, you may just have to deal with it! (But in a healthy and educational way.)
Avoiding Injuries in Martial Arts
In your daily life, you likely do plenty of things that could be considered just as, if not more, dangerous than any martial arts you take part in. Activities like crossing an icy street, driving a car, or running up a flight of stairs – all of these can easily lead to injuries.
But do you avoid them altogether? No! You simply take precautions to minimize your chances of getting hurt: you look both ways, you stay aware of your surroundings, and you use the handrail. The same philosophy can be applied to martial arts like kung fu. You train carefully!
Teaching Kung Fu Safely
Minimizing injuries should always be your #1 priority, whether you are training by yourself or with others. A good instructor will also be incredibly safety-conscious, often seeing scenarios that even you may not be aware of. Like many activities, training in kung fu can be extremely safe or extremely dangerous, and this tone is set by the quality of the instructor. It’s not just about the technique, the fun, or the form; it’s also, always, about safety.
With that said – an instructor can only do so much, and truly safe training is something that you must also take responsibility for. Be aware of your own limits, and when you are training with someone else, ensure that you take great care not to hurt them. After all, you want them to take the same care with you in return.
This is often a matter of listening to your own body and its signals. When your body says stop, don’t try to push it – just stop and let yourself recover. Things like ego or pride can often get in the way, and cause people to try and “power through” the situation. Learn to recognize if you are doing this, or if someone around you is doing it.
"Realistic" Fights in Martial Arts
Another cause of totally preventable injuries while training is the pursuit of “realism”, or sometimes, even just “fun”. Even here in our controlled environment, we see people get hurt because they “just wanted to have fun” or wanted to “try that cool move for real”. To put it bluntly, if you try a spontaneous backflip or a roundhouse kick because you saw it in a movie, it won’t be nearly as fun or cool as you think. Guaranteed.
A good instructor knows that this kind of fun and realism come second to safety. Martial arts are not boring to begin with; it doesn’t have to be dangerous to be exciting, and such realistic and fun simulations can be done with little or even no risk. Managing that approach and that risk level is key to preventing injuries, and no amount of fun is worth the potential of intense harm.
So, what can you do? If you’re in a situation where you think yourself or someone else will be hurt, stop immediately. Your instincts are there for a reason, and one of them is to prioritize safety over everything else. Put safety first, quality second, and happiness third.
What to Do for Martial Arts Injuries
Now the big question: what if you do get injured? If you do kung fu for long enough, this will happen to you – or anyone else – who does the sport as an adult.
The first and most simple thing is to STOP training immediately. There is no use in pretending that you are invincible, trying to “push through the pain”, as it will only do more damage and set you back further. In fact, unless you are in a life-or-death situation, there is no reason to keep going. Remember, your pride can heal a lot faster than your physical injuries.
Next, do a quick check of the injury, which you will likely do instinctively anyway. It may be something small, like a pulled muscle that can be addressed with consistent stretching, or an accidental cut that needs a bandage. If that’s all, great! You know your body well, so if it doesn’t interfere with training, make the decision on whether to continue.
However, some injuries may end up more serious and affect you for the long-term, requiring methods like physiotherapy and ongoing muscle management. In the Shaolin method of fixing injuries, you move against the pain very gently, slowly allowing your tissues to recover over time, and even this should only be done after speaking to an instructor directly (as they will give you advice specifically to suit your exact injury). Meditation can be a great tool for pain management, and for some people, it has aided them immensely in their journey back to health.
With all that in mind, these techniques are not a replacement for a visit with an actual doctor. If you are injured – see a professional! It’s free in Canada and they will be able to help diagnose and treat minor and major injuries alike. Remember, an injury may set you back for a while, but an injury that is treated improperly will set you back for much longer. Use every resource available to you so you can get back to what you love – training in the martial arts!