Training Safely in the Martial Arts

OK so I write this post for strong personal reasons. A very unfortunate accident happened to my friend recently, this accident has left her with a torn Cruciate ligament, unable to train for potentially many months. And to make things worse, the accident was totally avoidable. Now so I am clear, I am not throwing blame or guilt trips around. I know the other person involved feels genuinely very upset about what happened. However it is an extremely good example of what can happen, and if someone else can learn from this incident then some good may still come out of it.
Most accidents can be avoided by training safely.

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The situation

The focus of the class was a simple and relatively safe takedown from the rear of your assailant. The class was very quiet and there were literally only seconds left of the lesson. So she was repeating the drill again as practiced multiple times that class, her training partner had taken her back and was ready to do his takedown, so she shifted her weight onto the appropriate foot in anticipation of the takedown and…….. Unfortunately in that moment her partner decided to stray from the given instruction and attempted a takedown he remembered from years ago (and possibly hadn’t practiced since all that time ago). Due to the destructive nature of the unexpected takedown, her weight was on the wrong leg and it all went wrong from there!!Class structure – enforcing training safely
There are many reasons why kickboxing class structure is important, some of the main ones are:

  • The instructor can keep track of what was taught and when.
  • The instructor can see everyone doing the same technique and therefore it is a simper task to identify any improvement that need to be made by students.
  • It makes things clear and simple for all students to follow
  • It allows for everyone to be training safely

Basically with no structure or focus everyone is free to do what they want. That does not make for everyone training safely and that leads to accidents happening. Which leads to student getting injured; which in turn means they have to have time out from training to heal and recover.
One kickboxing class instructor said, ‘In situations like this, the instructor is bound to feel bad, even guilty. Despite doing everything correctly and giving student clear concise instructions on the work they have to do.’

When there is an accident it is very hard not to feel empathetic towards the injured. Often a feeling of guilt creeps in with the question “Was I as clear as I needed to be, was that accident possibly my fault? It looked like everyone was training safely“.

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The injured parties, will obviously feel pain due to their injury, but they may also potentially:

  • Lose some confidence over the accident,
  • Lose confidence in the technique they were learning,
  • They may have to take time off from work to recover – which can not only effect them financially but mentally recovery can be tough.
  • Not being able to do all the things you want to do or even need to do, can be devastating mentally,
  • I have even heard of a few people sinking into depression during their recovery,
  • They may fall behind their peers in class and miss out on new techniques and information or even a grading or 2.

The rest of the class suffers because nobody feels comfortable knowing that someone has been hurt. Some students may quite likely miss out on some of their class due to the accident.
Ultimately the club may suffer because the injured individual may leave. The other person(s) may also leave due to feeling bad, guilty, responsible or all 3. If accidents are a regular thing then the reputation of your club as being unsafe will soon spread through other students, and potentially spread further afield being not only a potential problem for existing students but a huge barrier for getting new students.
So all in all, potentially everybody suffers if you aren’t training safely!!

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Partner respect – Training safely

It is very important to remember to respect your training partner(s) at all times. When you are training with someone they are basically giving you their body to use as a training tool. They are putting a huge amount of trust in you each and every time you perform a technique together. The salute we give at the beginning and end of every class, and the salute we give our partner(s) again at the beginning and end of every round is extremely important. It signifies that you understand the risks yet trust each other to be training safely, as you mean no harm or malice to each other. This sentiment is vital, particularly when you may be training something a more destructive technique in nature.

Training safely – unavoidable accidents

I have suffered a few injures in my time training, and they have all been through accidents. My most frustrating was a broken wrist I suffered a few years back. I was training for my black belt in Keysi Fighting Method (KFM), due to the level of the grade and the nature of the system, the level of contact was very high. Anyway to cut things short I accidentally broke my wrist, and had to spend ages trying to let it heal and rehabilitate. Unfortunately despite wanting to “man up and go for it” I had to step out of the grading. I not only missed out on the chance to grade in front of the systems co-founder Andy Norman, but also the very last KFM grading in the world that I know of. I missed out on a black belt that I had spent many years striving for, and will never get the opportunity to get agin. And I also still have ongoing pains and issues with my wrist. This injury was through an unavoidable accident as we were all training safely and respectfully of each other, it was just one of those things.

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