training around an injury

Tomorrow is the 36th Anniversary Tournament for Seido Karate. I won't be competing this year because of an injury: last fall I injured my ankle, what I took to be a simple sprain, but it still hasn't resolved. (I am finally going to get it evaluated by an orthopedic specialist.) But I'll still be doing my part at the tournament as a judge.

I came up to New York on Friday with the intention of taking some classes at our Honbu (headquaters). As I've mentioned, my sensei is starting to talk about recommending me for promotion at the next opportunity, so besides the "it's fun and informative to train at Honbu" angle, there's a political consideration that it's good to have my face seen by our grandmaster, Kaicho Tadashi Nakamura, his son and our vice chairman Nidaime Akira Nakamura, and the senior instructors. But last week I badly aggravated that ankle, and after much deliberation decided that I need to ease up on training until I have a medical evaluation. I still went to a meditation class with Kaicho, and sort of "walked through" a weapons class (bo and jo staffs) with Nidaime yesterday, but I sat out other classes I had planned to take.

Trying to train around an injury may be one of the biggest challenges for a martial artist. On the one hand we are training for life-and-death situations, and must be able to keep fighting when hurt, not fold up and surrender; on the other we are training for life, and must take proper care of ourselves in order to still be training into old age.

There's no sense in training to protect yourself against attackers who might want to harm you, only to go and harm yourself and do the attackers' job for them. As my old sensei, Marion Ciekot, once said, "Karate should build you up, not tear you down." Trying to figure out where that line is, though, is a real exercise in self-analysis. Am I shirking, using an injury as an excuse? Or am I feeding my ego with macho BS, showing how tough and "strong" I am by tearing up my body? Neither is a wise path.

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