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ralph haenel, hänelwingtsun, wing tsun kung fu instructor, author, publisher, self-defense expert Sifu Ralph Haenel, learning and teaching Wing Tsun Kung Fu since 1984
Changing lives, one punch at a time.
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Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver Blog
Thursday, 7 January 2010

Wing Tsun Kung Fu Seminar Sept 2007 in Vancouver, BC with Sifu Ralph Haenel, www.wingtsunkungfu.com

To Kung Fu or not Kung Fu! -
Should I train with injuries?

As a Wing Tsun instructor, I have often been asked about the ramifications of working out while being injured. Interestingly enough, the full 100% of injuries students have suffered, always originated from non-WingTsun activities. Most of them happened while playing (dangerous sports like) tennis, soccer, volleyball, snowboarding, hockey, jogging and yes, injuries caused for example by office and garden work related accidents. Knock on wood; in my 25 years of learning and teaching Wing Tsun Kung Fu, all I have seen in my classes are bruises here and there, sore muscles, and the rare bloody lip or nose. Never anything serious.

Here we are talking about questions I have received from members after having suffered a dislocated shoulder, pulled muscles, or while experiencing problems arising from “tennis-” or “golf-elbow”, or carpel-tunnel syndrome. Before any physical activity, always ask a doctor first (disclaimer). I do not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment or prognosis.

My personal experiences are based on what I have done in the past and how martial arts colleagues, fellow Wing Tsun trainers worked around injuries in order to resume their training.

What I am talking about is what I have done, would do so again, not what I expect what someone else should do! I tell my students that it is important for them to know that I am OK with whatever they decide to do. What counts for me personally? Getting slightly older, past the age of 40, I just too often see people wasting their valuable lifetime with excuses in many areas of their lives: if it is business, personal, hobby ... or (martial arts, fitness, etc.) training.

So, you talked to a doctor, you are motivated, you have goals, you don’t want to waste time and you absolutely don’t want to face the dangers of slowly morphing into a lame couch potato. What are your options? Here a few ideas, pointers that may help you.

1. Enjoy a short limited break from weekly activities. Read a good book, or two, or more. A couple of weeks, a month or so of a break is OK, and often even needed. It gives a fresh new perspective, instils new motivation. Reload your batteries! In the past, after a couple of weeks off, I absolutely had to resume my training. I simply couldn't stay away any longer.

2. In “our case”, our Wing Tsun form training offers many opportunities, better than ever. An injury might just be the right means, to train more careful, to listen more closely to the body. Hey, it’s yours, study the manual!
After all, in Wing Tsun as true as in any physical activity: "Use it, or lose it!" I often say that Kung Fu should not just destroy but also heal. To stop training does in most cases do more harm. Train with care and support the healing process.

Kung Fu is not just a form of martial arts, it's not just about the exercise, it's a lifestyle!
If you cut out part of your lifestyle, how would that help your injury recovery?

Everyone I have seen so far, who stopped and didn't train at all for a long time, just masked the symptoms, resumed training eventually and suffered the same injury again. Use your body, learn to work around the problem. Create awareness and improve where muscles, ligaments, tendons didn't do their job. Figure out the reason, why the injury happened in the first place and how to train, so that it doesn't happen again.

3. In case of shoulder, elbow, wrist problems, there is a multitude of exercises that can be done with only one arm, which offers a focus that many miss out on, as long as they can use both arms equally. Being healthy, they rarely restrict themselves. Having an injury can actually be a blessing in disguise as even my Sifu often said. You do things, you train in ways you ordinarily wouldn't.

Yes, it is easy to get swept away in the moment while being in class, wanting to train harder and then in the end possibly realizing that it was too much. So, discipline is needed, to keep the group class workouts light and to maintain control.

4. It is OK to train light, as to not doing any more harm to the injured area. Training light does NOT in the slightest have anything to do with not training seriously. Most guys think that light training is not manly enough, an attitude for which I have quite a few words ... :-)
Working out lightly, with little strength and also moving slowly, does not mean practicing a ineffective workout routine equal to wasted time and money. It is in effect one of the best workouts that many just do not do as long as they can work with strength.
Following a light workout routine, one can continue classes without losing months of valuable training time and at the same time give the injury time and opportunity to heal. Even or especially when certain injuries take more time to heal.

  • You have to be in control of what happens and how it happens.
  • You have to give your training partner exact details of how you want to train.
  • Even if not injured, make yourself aware of which muscles move when and how.
  • Do not hesitate to ask your training partner to:
    1. repeat a movement,
    2. to slow down even more,
    3. when to stop or to resume,
    4. which direction and how to apply force.

5. It is OK and extremely helpful to stand or even sit down at the sidelines. Watch your usual training partners work with each other. Finally realize the instructions you have heard so often, but never really "got it" until viewing the class mates working out. Get literally a different viewpoint.
It is a fabulous opportunity to sit down, watch, listen, and take notes. However, I have to admit; almost no one ever does it. Well, only the very few who get really good, become successful because of using times of injury for sessions to analyze their own and the training of others. Enjoy being one of the few who will be successful. Or admit to yourself that you are lazy.
If you have a long drive to your school, counting in the cost for gas, it might not be economical, to come to classes just to take notes and watch training scenarios. This is one and only one of the many ways to work through a time period of injury recovery, instead of not training for many months.

Posted by ralph haenel at 2:02 PM PST
Updated: Tuesday, 29 August 2017 12:59 PM PDT

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