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Learning Krav Maga ensures you will acquire bruises of all shapes, sizes, and colors. Injuries (mostly minor but rarely major) come with the territory. Self-defense is a high risk endeavor, and training for all types of scenarios means bumps and bruises are inevitable. Fortunately, our gym is safe; major injuries don’t happen often, if at all, because our instructors are adamant about safety in training and training with control. No one expects you to block every single strike that comes your way (because you’re learning), and your partner should not be throwing hard enough, and with little enough control, to injure you when you do misread a strike.
With that said, I have had aches and pains galore since joining KMS. Those aches and pains are both from practicing skills and from just misjudging my own movements (one such injury is from jumping to high five a tall person. Yes, that was a thing that actually happened). I have always tried to be overly cautious about what my body is telling me for several reasons: the first is that I don’t want to deal with the heartache and frustration of recovering from an injury. Secondly, I know that minor injuries can turn into major injuries if they are not cared for properly. My wrists and ankles have been a particularly sensitive area for the past six months or so. I have always had weaker wrists (most likely from sprains I never let heal properly), but my ankles are a new issue. I baby them when I know one is acting up. I will modify certain movements and exercises on those days to prevent aggravating it more. Most importantly, I love Krav Maga. I love what it does for me. I love what I can do with it. I have goals I want to reach, and I can’t reach those if I get injured.
Most of the instructors at KMS have gone through some sort of major injury. We could collectively cover an entire body’s worth of injuries between all of us. My biggest injury thus far was a concussion about a year and a half ago. This was during a sparring session in Advanced Fight. I misread a strike and stepped into a hard right hook rather than away from it. My partner was also hitting a little harder than he probably should have been. Collective mistakes. I didn’t get knocked out, but I was a mess for the next two days. It has taken me a long time to recover physically and mentally. Sparring (specifically head shots) still makes me nervous and anxious, and I’m still feeling the ramifications of that concussion. I get dizzy much quicker, headaches much easier, and I struggle to articulate myself verbally more than I did pre-concussion. Since then, I try to avoid getting hit in the head harder than a nudge every so often. I can finally take nudges here and there, but I couldn’t for a long time without headaches for hours afterward. Now, I have to ask my partners to be gentle with my head during particular drills. I won’t be able to keep doing Krav Maga if I keep getting knocked around too hard, and I ask my partners to respect that when we are doing things that could potentially rough up my brain.
Krav Maga is a rough martial arts system. We take shots in places other martial art disciplines mark as off-limits. There is a reason why our gym advocates for protective gear but please note that protective gear only goes so far. Headgear is not built to protect your brain from ping-ponging around your skull; it’s mostly there for the scrapes and contusions we can get from contact striking. You can still feel hard strikes through your shin guards and knee pads, but they will protect you from bruising due to the continuous impact. There are also several skills where we have to attack the attack with a little more force than hitting pads requires. We all walk away with forearm bruises when we do 360 defenses. You have to, otherwise you are not defending the attack correctly. Your body will condition itself at some point, but getting there can be rough on your body. My hands don’t bruise as much from punching a tombstone because I have been hitting them for two and a half years. I find now that most of my bruises appear in areas that I haven’t conditioned as much, like the inside of my thighs (which hurt like hell to take a shot in, by the way) and my upper arms. However, that conditioning doesn’t mean that you should try to take harder strikes, nor does it mean that your partner gets to lay into you a little more. Again, you as a partner, should not be striking hard enough or with little enough control to where you could potentially injure your partner if they misread a strike. We are all learning. We are going to misinterpret movements. Be a good partner, and take care of those areas that get a little more beat up here and there.
You have to be your own medical advocate. No one else understands how your body feels to you at any given moment. Fitness in general requires you to understand your limit better than anyone else and to know when you can push yourself through something and when you can’t. For example, I know when my ankle is sore but well enough to train and when it’s not. I either alter what we are doing at that moment or I stop training. Same for my head. I know when I have taken a nudge that will be fine and when I have taken a hit where I need to be done for the night. Several of my classmates have seen me call it quits after a particular kind of headshot. You have to know where your line is and stick to it, especially if you have an ongoing injury or are recovering from one.
With that said, the instructors at KMS are not medical professionals. We are not doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, nurses, EMTs, occupational therapists, etc. We cannot offer certified, official medical advice. We can help you work around limitations as long as you are cleared to be at KMS with those limitations. Do not go back to the gym if your doctor (or whoever) has advised you against it. If you have been told to take a six week break, then take the break. Do not put yourself, your instructor, or your partner in the position of potentially injuring you further. It is honestly not worth it in the long run. Take care of yourself, and don’t push to the point where a small injury becomes a major injury or a major injury becomes an emergency. Krav Maga will still be there when you are healed and cleared to train, and it will welcome you into its warm embrace with burpees and groin kicks.
Reminder: We do have an in-house Cyro chamber if you want to try managing your aches and pains with cold treatments. There are a lot of studies that show Cyrotherapy can help speed up the recovery process as well as manage pain. All KMS members get their first session free! Highly recommend checking it out to see what it can do for you!