About injuries, fighting and "safe" martial arts.
Since I started with MMA, my kung fu community started to have a problem with that. Not everyone, some were actually very supported, which I am still grateful for. But many people around me kept telling me the same things: “You are always hurt”. “MMA is so violent and dangerous”.
“It is brutal. Violent. No rules!” I heard from my kung fu friends and mostly sifus. Same people, who teach how to kick the groin, stab eyes with fingers or attack the Adam’s apple on the neck. Just saying.
Kung fu is my love. There are many aspects of the art, and not everyone actually wish to fight. That is very OK and does not make anyone a lesser student. However, if you want to understand deeply and teach others, you need to study the function. I found my love in MMA too, but I’m not saying that this is the only way. It is just my way.
My sifu is a modern and open-minded person, he remembers the way his generation used to train as well as the fights, so he understands why now, in the time when most people only want to practice forms, I need to fight. He is proudly announcing it to anyone around when we visit a kung fu party. But also he hates seeing me hurt.
In fact, kung fu is much more brutal and violent than MMA. MMA is a sport. There are rules. There is a time limit. Two people ready to perform their best with the help of the other one in that cage. Kung fu is self-defense. It was never made for sport fighting. Most of the techniques of the system are dirty techniques, that are designed to work on the street. Like fingers in the eyes while throwing your boiling latte to the eyes of your opponent. It is pretty different.
But many people don’t see this. They forgot how violent kung fu is. It is an old Japanese saying, that bad violent people can be only stopped by good people with better skills in violence. Self-defense is violent. There is no consent in stepping into a fight with a chosen person, both of you ready. The fact you actually never attacked anyone with your martial skills is good, so you are on the light side of the Force. Training a traditional martial arts does not mean you need to put a mask on and go fight the bad guys. Not at all. But you need to know how to use it, if you are the sifu, or if you really want to understand the art.
I want to be able to use my sword so that I do not have to use it. Sport fighting seems to me like a much better option than a pub fight. Not even talking about how actually MMA teaches me many things technically, because kung fu burnt that bridge from the form to function, and so we need to rebuild it. That is what I am trying to do. But that is a different story.
Kung fu people (and I mean except you, you know who you are) often argue that in kung fu you don’t get hurt. Well, yes. That is true. As a kid, I had a bike. I got it for Christmas, so during Winter it was in our basement. I was “training” how to ride it, balancing on it, on spot. I never hurt myself. When Spring came, I could take my bike out and - fell off many times. Because I was using it. That brings some danger.
When you train to fight, not necessarily MMA, let’s say boxing, sanda, wrestling… there is a huge intensity. There is another person, attack you and you need to resolve that. Not everything is under your control. There is intensity and reality.
How do you know that your technique works? I was once sparring with a friend. I had MMA gloves, that type that does not cover your thumb. I hit him in his head with a hook. I had a wrong angle, I landed with my thumb joint. My thumb was painful for 2 weeks! My friend’s head was OK, he didn’t even feel it… How else would I know that I have a wrong hook technique? Why I could not realize it while shadowboxing, pads, or anything else? I needed the reality check. See, I got hurt. I hurt my finger for 2 weeks. It was a light contact, little power, under rules of a friendly sparring.
I had many injuries in the past two years. Mostly muscles, ligaments, bruised ribs. That happens, it’s normal and OK. It happened when I met with the reality. This is how you learn the correct technique.
Now imagine how many injuries I would have if there is no control of a sport fighting? These little injuries are the price I pay for not doing things correctly, which is the same as in anything else. You will spoil so many canvases before you are able to paint something beautiful. Luckily, those injuries are small. Big enough to teach me a lesson, but small enough so they are not dangerous. They happened in a controlled environment. Then also, you have bad luck, age, etc., that will bring you injuries, too. Martial arts is not a safe thing to do, but it can be safer than many think.
To sum up, injuries come when you check your technique with reality and you find out that you were wrong. They also come when there is intensity and power, look at wrestling. Even a friendly sparring is an amazing and dangerous thing to watch.
How do you know that your martial art works? Because for sure, injuries are much less to happen if you don’t do anything.
I have been practicing martial arts since 1999. It became the reason for moving to Hong Kong and it guided many of my life decisions. I am addicted to hung kuen kung fu and MMA. Follow my path to pro fighter on this blog or my social media.
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