It’s not uncommon that a student who has an injury will get frustrated and come to me for advice. This has happened many many times in my career. When we finally get to the point that we have that discussion, one of the things I will tell them is:
"Slow down, make adjustments but never stop."
What do I mean when I say this? Well, in my own experience, I remember having a knee injury very early in my career. After the doctor looked at it he said you are going to have to have orthoscopic surgery on that knee. The doctor also said until we have that surgery you should do nothing related to the martial arts. Ha ha ha, obviously the doc did not know me very well. With my personality, I can’t go very long without being inside the school or on the mat. So my buddy and I came up with the idea of using heavy cardboard and duct tape to immobilize the knee so I could not bend the leg. Then I would get on the mat anyway and do what I could with the rest of my body. Of course I had to slow down and make some major adjustments. There were many things that I could not do it all. When I came to these things my coach and my teammates in class would help me train something else that was related to the topic we were working on that week.
I will also get the comment from various students about how their injury is going to allow their classmates to pass them in rank. Just like in life, you are not going to keep up with everyone. And comparing yourself to other people is never a positive lens to look through. Stay focused on yourself and your growth, improve yourself on your journey. It does not matter what the person next to you is achieving or at what rate they are doing it. The overall point is, even though I can’t perform at my best, even though I’m going through a period where I am physically unable to do a lot of things, I was still in class and on the mat. I can remember other points along the journey when dealing with an injury, that I couldn’t even do what I have mentioned above. I literally would go to class and just sit with my back against the wall and watch my teammates train as I would take notes on what they were doing. Again, slow down, make some adjustments if you need to, but never stop.
After a certain amount of time in the industry, I realize that it was going to be a common thing for me to coach students through difficult times in their training journey. So I started to come up with ideas to help them. Over the years we came up with some very interesting methods of keeping students who were dealing with various setbacks on the mat and still moving. It is my belief that a good instructor will be prepared for this and they will have the ability to help you when you’re dealing with the same potential setbacks.
Sometimes when having a conversation with the student on this topic, I have to remind them. Don’t forget the thousand mile view! What I mean by that is, don’t worry about missing a month, or six months. The real question is in 10 years are you still going to be on the mat and active in some form. In 20 years will you still be there on that mat striving for improvement in some form. Martial art is a lifestyle, it is a lifelong journey. Are you going to have to make some adjustments along the way in order to maintain the path? Yes, of course you are. Everyone who is walking in this journey will have to do the same thing. So accept it, and when that moment shows up, don’t let it soften your resolve. Don’t let it dampen your determination. Look at it as a challenge that you will meet head on, and say to yourself this is only a short period on my journey. I am going to be here in 20 years still striving, still growing on this path.