Training kickboxing while maintaining low injury rate

    Image courtesy and copyright Duncan Grisby

Image courtesy and copyright Duncan Grisby

Martial arts are mostly designed and conceived as fighting systems. Fighting is about hurting other people so it is about delivering intense blows to another person; anybody training realistically risks hurting or getting hurt during sessions. Some styles like Judo were in fact conceived to reduce the risk of injuries by removing the most dangerous techniques from its ancestor: Ju Jitsu. Other styles limit the teaching and practicing of dangerous techniques to advanced students or simply avoid full contact training or sparring. Realistically speaking training with a certain level of contact and impact is necessary for anyone competing at full but also light contact level.

Training “full on” and maintaining a safe training environment creates a dilemma that troubles many martial arts clubs and some of them take one position in the spectrum of the impact vs. safety curve: some on the safe and sometimes unrealistic, particularly for those who want to use martial arts for self defence while others take it to an extreme and have a very high number of injuries some times serious ones. Kickboxing and many other styles that are practiced wearing pads offer the advantage of covering some of the “weapons” like fists and feet so that they ensure a safer training practice. In my experience of over 3 decades of training Kickboxing I definitely seen many incidents but, considering that we spend several hours per week kicking and punching each other, often at full power, the number of serious damages is negligible. In the over 13 years I have been running CARISMA, I can remember very few (3-4) broken noses, a few broken or cracked ribs (less then 10), a couple of swollen feet and very recently a broken foot. We obviously have the occasional, once per month or less, black eye and regular bruises, mostly on the arms when people receive attacks and block with their guard. All in all I am sure we are safer than most football or rugby club.

Some Kickboxing clubs spend most of their times hitting focusing mitts and Thai pads; that a great way of practicing power while minimising the risk of injuries. Personally I am a strong believer in one-2-one training combining attack and defence techniques and combinations that emulate the sparring environment. I find that pad work is mostly conditioning body and mind to simply face a passive opponent that invites you to hit a target. The pair training also helps improving defence reflexes together with blocking and parrying skills.

In my experience a proven formula to ensure a safe full contact training environment is to teach people to actively block the attacks they are subject to by using active blocks and parries rather than passively accepting blows on their guard. This last strategy is taught as the last resource that people should use when in extreme difficulty. When teaching blocks to beginners we always start from the technique with bare hands to show the exact mechanical movement involved and how to minimize the impact on one’s body while deflecting as much and possible the forces rather than absorbing them onto his/her own body. Then, when gloves are worn, they add extra safety to the whole situation and further minimise the risk of bruises and scratches. Many thousand repetitions later all movements become instinctive and automatic and they can work even at full speed and power. Sparring obviously increases the risk of incidents and injuries but, once more, if students have very clear ideas about precise blocking the whole process becomes as safe as it can be although never 100% incident free.

Training when injured

Alex training with a broken footThere is quite common saying, in traditional martial arts schools, when you hurt one of your hands or feet: “you have another hand and two feet, you can still fight!”

In today’s world of health & safety regulations and “better safe than sorry” attitude many people in position of responsibility, like doctors, instructors, teachers or lawyers tend to default toward a safe behaviour when unsure: stop training and rest until healed.

If I followed this rule I would have probably trained about a third of the total time I actually did.  When training martial arts (but also other contact sports) injuries do happen, however careful and safe you play.  Injuries sometimes occur even during simple drills or exercises, not necessarily during the toughest part of training such as sparring.

Pain exists to remind us that what we are doing is not right for our body and we should really listen to our body; training while ignoring pain could be dangerous and deteriorate the injured part with the risk of causing permanent damages.  At the same time there are safe ways of training when injured by using the body parts that don’t hurt so that you keep training them and avoid contact with the injured part.

An extreme case of this behaviour is Alex who recently broke a bone in hit foot by slipping while sparring; although with the foot in a hard cast he kept attending our classes doing stretching, press ups and abdominal exercises so to keep up with fitness and flexibility.  At some point as you can see in this video below he was even punching the bag while seated.

In over 30 years of training I was lucky enough to avoid any seriously broken bones (apart from a little toe a couple of years ago) but every time I bruised, mildly dislocated joints or strained muscles on one side of my body I kept training with the other side improving the total symmetry of my techniques.

Seminar with Bill Wallace – March 2013

BillWallaceJoin us on 20 March to enjoy for this unique opportunity of training with Bill Wallace. The seminar is open to Kickboxers (or martial artists practicing similar disciplines) at all levels, minimum experience of a few weeks is expected, as well as full knowledge of stances, kicks and punches. CARISMA members will enjoy a discount, please ask at the classes.

Bill “Superfoot” Wallace is one of the legends and founders of Kickboxing; training with him is a great experience.

Places are strictly limited to 40 people including instructors and organisers on a first come first served basis.  Book your place with the form below:


Discounted treatments from Salus Wellness

corporate-advantage-card1Extending an offer previously reserved to selected companies in the Cambridge, Salus Wellness Clinics (of which I am one of the founders and directors) is now offering the Corporate Advantage Card (pictured here on the right) to all members of CARISMA.

By registering your Advantage card on the Salus Wellness website you can get up to 20% off any treatments by simply mentioning the card when booking your appointment.  Please ask for your card at one of the classes from me or pick it up from the clinic directly in at 47 Norfolk Street.

New Year’s Resolution 2013

New Year’s Celebrations 2013 – Image courtesy of BBC

New Year’s day starts with sunny and dry weather expected to be warm-ish, at least for this season.   We truly hope you had a great break.  For many of us it is time to go back to work tomorrow and our first session starts on Thursday 3 January.

2013 starts packet with activities and events like Town Vs. Gown in February, grading and Varsity in March, further tournaments later in spring.  We are looking forward to seeing many of you back from the first lessons, training often and hard to start a great New Year’s Resolution in martial arts.

For those of you who are beginners please wait until our next beginners’ course on 22 January and we’ll make sure it was worth waiting for.