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How prepared is the average martial artist for REAL contact? Whether it be on the tournament floor, on the street, or even in a drill with a partner, a practitioner had better be prepared for contact just about anywhere on his body. If he is not, even those incidental bangs while executing the finest technique, can be damaging.
It does not seem logical to spend one's time and energy getting "beat upon" during Karate training but that is the very thing that brings a heightened awareness in the individual of the frailties of the unconditioned flesh. The fear of blows to untoughened body areas instills a fear which in turn activates an instant withdrawal reflex. Proper conditioning results in the direct ability to absorb or deflect incoming strikes and to meet a confrontation with a much greater degree of confidence.
The theory of conditioning is simple. By gradually working parts of the body with pressure or impact exercises, the body reacts by desensitizing, strengthening, and toughening the tissues in those areas. A classic example would be the carpenters' or masons' hands versus the clerks', or consider a baby's feet as compared to an adults feet after years of walking, running and jumping on them.
Your training is not complete until your conditioning is done. The purpose of conditioning is to strengthen, harden, tone, and desensitize specific areas of the body that may be required to endure contact in a physical confrontation.
Conditioning is a process of consistent, gradually accumulated training.
Complications of Over Training:
Bruised bones take a very long time to heal due to the almost non-existent blood supply. This can lead to some very potentially serious complications. The most unusual and worst these complications being Osteosarcoma or Bone cancer.
This is where the regenerative properties of the bone go haywire. In Osteosarcoma the cells change and go mad, proliferating at such a rate they destroy the bone they are supposed to be repairing. This very serious illness is often, but by no means always, set off by a severe bone bruise. Like all cancers, if it is not caught in time, it can be fatal and anyway it is always serious.
In young people it is more difficult to catch as it develops at an even faster rate than adults. The other serious complication of bone conditioning is infected bones, osteomyelitis.
This is where an infection sets into the body of the bone. Its main non-surgical cause is almost always trauma. The infection will eventually ulcerate out through the skin. It too can be life threatening because it can cause blood toxicity complications and very high fevers. It is always quite difficult to cure and will often break out again as the infection slowly smolders, undetected, through the bone.
Bad bone bruises can leave areas where there is too much calcium deposited or the deposits are wrongly laid down, which may have health implications in old age.
Tendons, Nerves and Other:
To avoid serious injuries it is of course prudent to avoid damaging blood vessels and nerves, however, these are mostly well placed to avoid damage except, maybe around joints, e.g., around the wrist and elbow.
It goes without saying that joints of any kind can never be strengthened by conditioning. The last major complication to be concerned about in body conditioning is in the fascia of the tendon sheaths, tendons, and ligaments.
These do not have a direct blood supply and like periosteum they collect their nutriments from the thin fluid that passes between the cells. It is called the interstitial fluid. Therefore, without a blood supply they will not bruise.
Fascia, tendons, and ligaments don’t really bruise anyway because they are made of inelastic, tightly bonded molecules of collagen. These are so inelastic that they tear instead of bruising. Small tears are not very serious or complicated and will usually clear up with some rest.
Sudden impact onto a highly stressed tendon or ligament can often cause complete separation that will require surgical repair.
Major tears, whether complete or not, will weaken a ligament or tendon and the resultant scarring will leave it susceptible to more tears. This weakening can become chronic and cause the cessation of training.
Tendons run in a protective sheath. Bruise this and you run the risk of having the smooth slippery surface of the sheath roughening, the tendon will then grate every time it moves causing acute pain
This can be seen in the knuckles of people over doing the Makiwara and punching hard objects like bricks as in Tamashiwara training. This condition, tenosynovitis, is not normally serious although it may be become chronic and require the cessation of karate training.
Why if there are so many dangers to over-zealous body conditioning do we do it at all? And indeed aren’t these dangers the reason why most systems practiced today don’t do it anyway? Well, the complications found in body conditioning are present in everyday practice when doing forms of fighting and sparring. What karate practitioner has never had a major bruise? If you are going to become bruised — and every one is — then it is best to prepare the body for the eventuality. A forceful punch that is wrongly blocked or not blocked at all will connect.
When it strikes the blocking surface it will hurt and could injure. This is such a regular occurrence that it is not even considered or thought about in most karate circles. A potentially stronger danger can come from actions such as leg sweeps and especially from poorly prepared demonstrations involving breaking techniques. Because conditioning can protect the body from inevitable contacts it should be started with the first lesson and kept up through out a karate practitioner’s life. They will then always be well protected. Protecting oneself from injury is surely the raison d’être” of karate training.
All in all, conditioning is a useful adjunct to martial arts training, giving participants an opportunity to strengthen their techniques, and offensive and defensive natural weapons. It will enable the students to come face to face with the fear of being struck and to learn to accept and overcome this fear. It will also help to avoid, in their daily training, the potentially life threatening injuries that rarely but unavoidably do happen.
Lesser amounts of conditioning in other areas that also occasional become hit, such as, the stomach, pectorals, and the latissimus dorsii muscles, is also undertaken. In Okinawa conditioning of the frontal lower throat area has been observed, the resistance being provided by forceful contraction of the neck muscles. This practice the author considers doubtful.
This and other extreme methods of conditioning seems to be a recent introduction to Uechi Ryu.
In conditioning the pectoral region of women care must be taken to avoid the breast tissue as bruising can cause fat necrosis. Besides the undisireablibity of necrosis, these post trauma, necrotic, lumps may potentially lead to a cancerous lump being missed or confused in manual breast examination.
Severe bruising is a sign of over vigorous application, if it continues with a lower intensity of conditioning bruising needs to be investigated as it could be indicative of blood or other medical disorders.
The bruising appears to be more common in students of poor physical condition and weak muscle tone. Younger students frequently achieve conditioning more quickly. Once it has been achieved, conditioning seems to last for a period of years after the cessation of active training.
The muscle tone and resistance to depression in actively conditioned areas appears to be very high. There is no sign of obvious damage and no changes in skin texture or coloration were observable.
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