Hello everybody! In today’s post let’s talk about, in my opinion, the most important reason for not rushing through your martial arts training: injury prevention.

Every good training regiment has its warm-ups. Well over 99% of the time, I see students from our school and other schools doing their warm ups consistently and properly. So let’s agree that that’s not the issue we’re talking about.

What I’d like to bring to the fore is the idea of learning the fundamentals and really taking the time and effort to understand them well. For this example, we’re going to talk about kicking exercises and drills.

Three common kicks in many styles of martial arts are the front stretching kick, inner arc, and outer arc. They may come by various names such as “straight kick, “inner crescent, outer crescent,” etc. In these kicks, typically the leg is kept straight and the goal is to have the straightened leg go as high and fast as possible whether it’s straight up or in the arcing patterns. Although this may seem a simple exercise in simply getting the leg muscles as flexible as possible, there’s actually a few other things going on. Although it’s easy to write these off as “hamstring stretches,” in actuality it’s helping to train the hip muscles to be strong enough to go through the full range of hip flexion. Because it’s very easy to pay attention to what the leg it’s doing, it’s very easy as a student to forget about taking their hip motion into consideration as well.

Now if we just left it at these kicks and did nothing more complicated, that wouldn’t be a problem by itself. The problem arises as folks try to move onto more complex techniques such as rear arcing (also called wheel kick), jumping sidekicks, whirlwind, etc.

Many of the more advanced techniques are predicated on the assumption that not only are the legs, hips, even ankles have been properly conditioned, but also that the practitioner has gained the ability to control these parts of their body and to run them through a coordinated sequence as well. It’s easy to assume that because the kicks go so fast, you don’t need to be actively controlling them but this isn’t entirely true.

Here, let’s use an analogy to better explain. When you’re riding a bike, the chain runs over the gears and those in turn get the wheels going. Now, if ONE of those chain links came off and was slightly misaligned, you might be able to get away with it. Every time that one link had to go over the gears, you might hear a clicking sound but otherwise it’s a rather smooth ride. However, if another link came undone, and then another one after that, eventually the whole chain falls off and the bike no longer works.

If the legs and hips aren’t properly built up and a student keeps trying to “force” a more advanced technique, the technique might look alright for the most part, and if used in sparring could certainly do damage. However in the long run, it’s only a matter of time before another “chain link” comes undone and then another one, until the whole system (the practitioner’s body) is finally injured. Proper time spent training and understanding each individual technique is crucial in this process of not only preventing injury, but in building a truly robust foundation for future techniques.