Staying Safe during Martial Arts Training
An old Chinese proverb tells us A thousand mile journey is begun with a single step. At Yong Studios, we believe that after taking that first step to learning martial arts, the journey is then a life-long endeavor. Learning how to keep your journey injury-free will help keep you on the path. These are a few basic safety concepts we emphasize at Yong Studios:
1. Clear The Slate.
This is, in our opinion, one of the most important things you can do to train safely. If your mind is not present and focused on what you are doing, you risk injuring yourself and the other students in class. Settle down. When you bow into the Dojang, its best to leave the outside world and all of its problems outside (as you know, the world will be waiting for you after class). Use the opening meditation at the beginning of class as an opportunity to quiet your mind and clear the slate for learning. Had a bad day at work? Receive a bad grade at school? Got into an argument with a friend? Let it go. Its time for Tae Kwon Do.
Physical activity requires extra fluid consumption to keep you hydrated. Drink water before and after you come to class, throughout your day. Make it a habit. There is loads of information and theories available on how much water a person needs (everyone's needs are different), try this hydration calculator for fun to help determine how much water you need per day: http://nutrition.about.com/library/blwatercalculator.htm
3. Check Your Ego.
Allow learning and improvements in your techniques to occur over time, not in a day. Be patient with yourself, why hurry? What may come easily for others may be extremely difficult for you. Its a waste of time to compare yourself with someone else's progress, everyone is on their own training path. Attempting to force a technique that you are not ready for, physically or mentally, will inevitably lead to injury. Whatever you do, respect and listen to your body.
4. Physical Health.
Every once in a while we run into someone who no longer practices martial arts due to some kind of injury. But when probed further it usually turns out that the person developed their injury as a result over-training in some other activity such as football, marathon running or yoga. Injuries can occur with any physical activity and for a variety of reasons. With that in mind, we've listed a few things to be mindful of to ensure your overall physical safety:
Keep your knees healthy. Make sure that your knees are always aligned with your toes. For example, when performing traditional stances check that your knees are lined up with your toes. While in front stance check to see that your front knee is not pointing inward or outward, but rather the knee should be lined up with the middle toe of your foot. Another important time to check for knee/toe alignment is while pivoting to kick. The knee on the non-kicking leg should stay in line with the toes of the supporting foot that is pivoting. Also make sure to actually lift your heel off the ground when pivoting to avoid putting extra stress on the knee joint (don'€™t drag your heel to pivot).
Maintain a healthy weight to reduce stress on your body, especially your knees (common sense to us, but often overlooked).
Warm up before class. Warming up increases your heart and blood flow, loosening up other muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints. And some of us even need to start warming up prior to the actual class warm-ups. Get to the studio 10 - 15 minutes before class and gently warm up your body. Move to allow all of your joints to go through their entire range of motion. Gently rehearse the motions of the activity to follow. Slow kicks are an excellent warm up and cool down.
Stretch (see # 5 ). Stretch mindfully (see # 3!) If you attempt a stretch or level of hip/kick flexibility that you are not ready for, your knees or another part of you may pay the price. Pay attention to what's happening with your body in class and any other times you may practice.
In addition to preventing injury, regular stretching increases the flexibility of your joints and muscles, gives you a feeling of overall wellness, improves body awareness and focus, and will increase your energy. As flexibility is an important part of martial arts training, we utilize many different types of stretching at the studio. Be present during this part of class. Listen to the instructor carefully for alignment cues to receive the most benefit.
If the instructor runs out of class time before stretching, make sure you stay after class to cool down and stretch (if you need additional help stretching, ask an instructor). We have added additional Mind/Body classes to our schedule to help you with this.
6. Listen to Your Instructors.
Listen to your instructors. Come to class regularly. And of course, always consult with your doctor about your level of physical activity and especially when your training involves any kind of injury.
And its worth repeating, you are the best judge on how to stay healthy and injury-free - whatever you do, respect and listen to your body.