Monday, August 23, 2010

'Ouch' is not a Judo term

If you've studied martial arts at some point in your life, you're probably somewhat familiar with the anecdote that I've titled this entry after. I think that 'Ouch' (as I will now say in reference to the above phrase) is mostly used to try to explain part of having indomitable spirit to students; when you're knocked down, get back up as soon as you can. Martial arts hurts sometimes, and to have indomitable spirit is to push through the pain because even though it hurts, it will eventually make you stronger. I think that this is a good thing to teach, because with it come the lessons of determination, commitment, and patience, along with the perseverance of getting back up time and time again.

But if there's a student in the class like me, who tends to take things a little bit too seriously at times, bad things can happen with this phrase. Although they are usually said with humor, I must admit that I tend to take phrases like 'Ouch' a little too much to heart.

On more than one occasion, I've used 'Ouch' as an excuse to keep going when I've been injured. I suppose some people like to keep going when they're clearly hurt because it gives them an ego boost, but that's not really why I tend to want to continue as normal when it happens to me. The reason I keep going is because I don't want to quit having fun. I love martial arts. I love training. I love almost every part of it (even push-ups and straddle-splits, on occasion). Sitting out  for me is almost like being the one sibling who has to sit in timeout in the car while the rest of the family enjoys the carnival.

But today my sensei said something very wise.
I had accidentally kicked a fellow student too hard in the thigh, triggering a charlie horse, and he (wisely) took a few minutes to rest. Something similar happened to me, later on, as my foot (which I'd injured over the weekend) started to really hurt when I put weight on it. I however, unlike my wise 9-year-old friend, did not take a break.

At the end of class, I received a bit of a reprimand for not taking care of myself when my foot started hurting. Sensei said that it's usually good to keep going, but sometimes when we get injured, it's not easy to just get up like nothing happened. He said, "Sometimes it's a good idea to get the hurt out, and then get back up. I don't want you to push through it and not rest, thinking you'll be fine if you just ignore it. Get the hurt out first and really make sure that you're okay before you continue training. We don't want a little problem to turn into a big one."

Very wise words. I needed to hear them.

It's so easy to get caught up in the 'I'm-a-martial artist-and-I-have-indomitable-spirit-and-therefore-I-am-invincible' mentality. Nobody is invincible; it's really easy to get seriously injured while training. Being careful is important; more important than being the most 'advanced' student; more important than being 'tough'; more important than having fun, even. After all, if you seriously injure yourself while training, you have to stop training! That would be like an endless time-out session for me. Not desirable at all.

But my favorite thing that Sensei said was, 'Get the hurt out, first'. It sometimes seems like (in martial arts and in life) we're pressured to hide our pain; to keep fighting; to continue to 'push through' serious pain by ignoring it or pushing it away altogether. We say, "Well, maybe if I pretend it's not there, it won't be. And then I can get on with more important things like training and being happy and having fun."

That's just like ignoring a broken arm. Or a foot injury. If I 'push through it' and keep fighting without stopping to assess the damage, my small problem can quickly turn into something serious that could put me out for months, maybe. I now have to deal with a big problem that could've been avoided if I'd simply listened to and respected my body (or mind) in the first place.
Tonight was another night for learning. There seem to be a few lessons that keep popping up during my training. They are:
  • Tap when it hurts (or, know when to stop before you're seriously injured)
  • Don't take things too seriously
  • Take care of yourself (specifically, don't ignore a problem and expect it to just go away. Acknowledge it and react appropriately)

All three are important lessons that can be applied to pretty much anything in most lessons learned on the mat.
I'm gonna close out this entry a little bit differently than usual. I found a video called, "The Top 10 Worst Freak Injuries in MMA". In some of the footage shown here, the fighters continued fighting through their injuries, but all of the matches were called off as soon as a medical problem was identified.

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