August 2011

Patience and Rest as part of the Injury Recovery Process in Martial Arts.

Inevitably as an athlete, particularly if you are a martial artist or combat sport athlete, you will incur injuries.

Hematomas’, strained muscles, torn ligaments and tendons, and even broken bones are typical of the injuries that we encounter.

Given time and correct treatment the majority of these injuries repair, and cause little, if any, further problems.

Most of us experienced athletes understand what treatment is required for these injuries and we either put ourselves through the necessary regime or consult a health professional for the more severe injuries.

The I.C.E. (Ice, Compression and Elevation) protocol is our standard treatment, at first, followed by resting, together with light stretching over a period of about 3 weeks. This protocol is successful for the majority of muscle and ligament strains, and hematomas that we get in martial arts training.

When we get a more severe ligament, tendon or muscle tear, or a bone fracture, the injury will require a longer time and will usually require the assistance of a professional.

However, there is one crucial factor which, as athletes, many of us struggle with; the necessity for patience and rest to enable the recovery process to complete its work.

However, many times we ignore our own advice and adopt an attitude that we’ll train through the injury and the body will adapt, and sometimes we get away with it.

Many of us, who love our martial arts training, find it extremely difficult to give it up for a few days let alone 3 weeks, but if we want to give ourselves the best chance of recovery we have to.

And while taking some time out to heal might seem, to most of us, a completely understandable undertaking, hardly requiring any further mention, many of us, the writer included, totally ignore advice and continue to train, exacerbating an already badly compromised physiology.

While in my 37 years of martial arts training I have incurred many injuries and flouted this requirement for rest and patience and got away with it, recently I severely damaged a shoulder that did not respond so quickly to recovery.

Following surgery I was back weight training and grappling on the mat within 4 weeks, as usual, ignoring the advice that I was given by my surgeon because previous experience had demonstrated that I could push myself a little harder than was prescribed.

Everything appeared to be under control, as I was building everything up slowly.

Unfortunately, my unwillingness to take time out to allow the process to fully heal the shoulder ultimately cost me.

After a week of particularly aggressive MMA grappling and a “black swan” event (an extremely violent 6.8 earthquake that tore my home city apart)in which I stressed the ligaments and muscles beyond what they could withstand, in their weakened state, my shoulder and bicep tendon became so badly damaged I could hardly lift my arm under its own power.

This was devastating, both physically and mentally as I just could not perform any form of upper body BJJ, MMA grappling, or weight training movement. In addition it was my left arm and so I was unable to execute a Jab or left hook, or hold pads for Muay Thai training.

As an instructor and fully active BJJ, MMA and Muay Thai practitioner I was forced to come to the realization that if I did not rest and take time out I might never be able to train in martial arts again. One doctor even said that, given my age, perhaps I should consider giving it away and going onto other things. Fortunately he was not my usual physician and I had little time for such opinions that are based on average, usually quite senescent, people.

However, I was also aware that I was not a good patient and I had better get someone to guide me in the recovery and caution me on being too aggressive.

I therefore consulted my physiotherapist who I had known for over 20 years and he told me that, yes, it was repairable but it was going to take time; a lot of time, over 6 months of careful work .

It was tough, watching my upper body atrophy and my weight drop by 5 kgs (that was lost muscle, as I don’t have a lot of body fat) and watching my students train and not being able to hit pads or grapple with them.

I was doing negative curls with 2.5 kg dumbbells and performing negative, lateral raises with only my own arm weight.

During this time I hit my legs, lower back and abdominals really hard which gave me some satisfaction.

Mentally it was tough as I had deep doubts about ever being able to grapple, fight or lift weights at the level that I was used to.

However, finally after 3 months I was starting to lift heavier weights and doing light, controlled BJJ and MMA grappling. Now, 5 months later, I am coming back to full strength, grappling, and working the Muay Thai pads again. My Jab is almost back fully and my upper body musculature returning.

This has been a severe lesson to me and one that I am still coming to terms with as I must continue to restrain myself and just let the healing process complete itself, otherwise I will be right back where I started.

I felt that I must write this as a reminder to myself and also a lesson to my students when they incur an injury.

I know that many of us dedicated athletes continually struggle with the healing process and find it hard to just rest and give ourselves a chance to recover.

Many times all we have to do is give an injury time and it will come right, our bodies have an incredible capacity to heal they just need time and rest.

In addition don't forget to check out my Online Thai Boxing Course at http://www.muaythaitrainingsite.com/ (available at a discounted price for Academy members here) and my No Bullshit Guide To Street Fighting & Self Defense Ebook here http://www.learnselfdefenseprograms.com/

Working the Jab

Over the years I have learned, drilled and taught numerous combinations. The majority of which, begin with the Jab.

This is the most important tool, together with footwork, in your Muay Thai technique arsenal.

This applies both, when on the offensive and the defensive.

If you have not got a Jab, then you had better spend the time and effort to develop one, as its versatility is unmatched by any other strike in martial arts fighting systems. This is something I discuss in detail in my Online Thai Boxing Course which can be found here.

With that point made, I would like to make the point that a single jab, used as the set up strike in a combination, is of very limited value.

I would like you to think for a moment about how many single jabs have you ever landed, as an attack and particularly as the set up strike of a combination.

One instance, in which a single jab does work well, is when it is used as a stop hit which interrupts the opponent’s movement forward and/or committed attack.

When setting up an opponent with a jab, as the opening strike of a Boxing or Muay Thai combination, or using the Jab to interrupt the opponent’s attack, and then setting up a counter-attack; using a single Jab will usually result in the opponent moving back or stopping at a range, that an immediate follow-up strike will require another set-up strike

In order to make this a fluid part of your fight game you need to drill multiple Jabs.

Here are some tips on developing more successful setups with your jab:

  • When training your combinations, work them with multiple jabs and fluid footwork.
  • Train them to flow from the jab/ footwork setup.
  • Practice varying the speed, length and tempo of the jab, so that it is difficult for the opponent to time it.
  • Certainly, when first learning and developing your combination repertoire, train the combination with it’s basic sequence.
  • Then, once the combination is learned and you can perform it fluidly, add multiple jabs, with footwork, to improve your setup execution and consequent success.
  • Utilize the jab both on the set up and during the recovery, once the attack has been completed; this is where the retreating Jab is of value.
  • Spend a lot of time honing the timing, speed, precision and fluidity of your Jab.
  • Develop the ability to use it, while moving in any direction.
  • Train it so that your body maintains a well balanced posture, that will allow you to immediately follow up with a combination, if the set up is successful and puts the opponent in a vulnerable position, or allows you to retreat or move on an angle should the opponent counterattack and force you on to the defense.

In summary:

If you want a complete fight game in whatever striking martial art you practice then you must develop a good jab.

Single jabs have limited value except as a stop hit to interrupt an opponent with a committed intent to attack and/or move forward.

Train your jabs with footwork moving, forward, back and sideways.

Throw multiple jabs and train to vary the speed, rhythm and length as they are thrown.

For a detailed breakdown of the jab and for the best online Thai boxing instruction available check out my Online Thai Boxing Course at http://www.muaythaitrainingsite.com/.

Training Skills in Martial Arts – Technique Flaw Correction

We live in a fast paced age with a huge amount of information available to us, in which the majority of the population wants something, that they desire, now, and the long hours of drilling to develop efficacy in anything is avoided.

One of the main problems many aspiring Muay Thai and MMA fighters have is keeping their focus on the development of the basic elements of their various techniques.

When the technique is first learned it is novel and drilling to develop a level of efficacy, which will allow them to use it against opponents who are unfamiliar with the technique or who do not have a high level of skill, is not too difficult.

They will get away with making small mistakes in the execution of the maneuvers and settle for a less than optimal execution.

As the level of competition gets harder, and more experienced opponents are encountered, the techniques that have not been drilled with a focus on the essential elements of execution will fail.

I recently noted such an error with one of my MMA fighters and his shooting technique during his last match.

In my match analysis and debriefing I pointed this out – that we had to work on improving his entry and execution of the shoot for his takedowns – and that we would address this in the upcoming MMA fighter’s classes.

I was alarmed when, a couple of days later, he told me that the way to get his takedowns better was to spar rounds to the takedown, then start again.

While this is certainly true, if you have your shooting and takedown technique correct, it is not the case if there are flaws in your basic technique, which was the case here.

Skill development in any discipline, not only martial arts, requires a breakdown of the technique into its basic elements and drilling of each of those elements; then bringing those elements together, at a progressively increasing rate and degree of complexity.

Then the technique is drilled with a cooperative opponent, at first, who then gradually increases the level of trying to stop the technique.

Finally, the technique is put into the sparring situation – this is the final step, not the first step in correcting a basic flaw.

Research has found that when we learn a technique the motor neuron pathways are set up and are set. The more we drill the technique the stronger the connections in the pathway become.

The only way we can do the technique differently is by learning it again in the correct manner. Then reinforce that pathway so that it dominates the execution of the intended technique. In time the old way of doing the technique fades.

Again research suggests that it takes 10,0000 hours  of training and practice to master a discipline.

What is often missed, when contemplating this finding, is that it is 10,00 hours of quality training and practice to master the technique.

If we have a basic flaw, in our MMA or Muay Thai technique’s execution, all that we are going to do is reinforce and master poor execution.

The message is simple; slow down, take your time and work at drilling a little at a time until you have mastered it to a level that you can perform it well. Then proceed to add another technique, increasing your available techniques a little at a time.

Focus on a few elements at a time, not a large number.

The road to mastery is a slow step by step procedure, drilling with repetition, in a manner that progressively increases the complexity, speed and level of risk.

It is a combined mental and physical effort and must involve both working together at a pace that allows you to develop the correct technique. The brain requires time to process the incredibly complex muscle firing patterns that are required for complex technique. This is especially true with martial arts techniques in MMA and Muay Thai used in real fighting as the components of timing and distance must be integrated at a high level when fighting a skilled opponent.

An Olympic gymnast does not work on the whole routine if they have a flaw in one maneuver. They work on improving that maneuver with a series of drills to get it right.

A sprinter will spend hours just developing the take-off from the blocks without running any more steps, other than what is required to slow down.

A boxer will spend many hours just perfecting each punch before using them in sparring, if there is a fault.

Summary:

Take your time, make every practice count, and you will benefit in the long run.

Perfect practice = perfect performance.

Chunk the technique down and develop drills for each chunk.

Then fit them all together in a progressive manner.

The more advanced that you are in your development, provided that you have learned the technique correctly, it is more likely that it is only a part of your technique that is flawed, not the whole thing. However, that flaw is upsetting your whole technique.

Just training the end goal of the particular technique, whether in martial arts or any other discipline, will not correct this flaw. It will just exacerbate it and make it more difficult to correct in the long term.