Due to the recent world news seen across the web at the beginning of last month it seemed like the perfect time to talk about safety in the martial arts. After 22 years of instructing and practicing the martial arts you learn a thing or two about proper practice in the arts, properly instructing others in the arts and what you should never do compared to what you should always do. But in the news Japan is quoted as saying it plans on introducing Judo into its public school curriculum as a mandatory subject soon.
Now it’s easy to see what Japan is going for, what it is that they could list as their vision because we should all understand the health advantages that the arts bring you by now. If not you can read about some of the health advantages of studying the martial arts here and here. But Japan is most likely focusing on today’s obese and truly unhealthy society. Now granted Japan does not really have to worry about that as much as the US does, but that is for now.
If you look back over our history in this country it is very easy to see the road on which we traveled to get to where we are today health wise, we are the fattest country on the planet. Japan can see the global fast food and processed food epidemic growing onto their shores and is probably trying to cut the monster of the future off at the pass before the Japanese people start looking like Americans.
Problem with this whole thing is that according to the people in Japan the government has not laid out any safety rules or regulations for their new proposed change. Pair that with the recent disclosure of how many kids are dying every year in Japanese Judo schools and you have an appetite for destruction. Well apparently the parents of that country as well as others in authority positions with schools and kids are not standing for it.
They want the government to add safety regulations so that the trend of dying youth from Judo accidents does not more than double when Judo is introduced in the schools. It’s hard to blame those that are speaking out. Just because you are a hardcore country, as Japan seems to think it is, and just because you are the founding country of an art, does not automatically make it so that you have to train 6 year olds so hard that the annual death toll is abnormally high.
But enough on that, let’s talk about safety here in the US , after all we should be a safe as possible when we practice and the schools in the US are pretty well padded when it comes to our schools. First thing is first, you should always practice with safety gear. Most Martial Arts Center’s have their floor very well padded, their walls are not usually padded which tells a parent that they probably do not have to worry about their kids being tossed into a wall.
They use full padding when they free spar, that is foot, shin, forearm, hands, chest and head protection. Some more advanced kids also wear cups for the guys and mouth guards for both female and males. As for most of the schools here in the area from visits it seems they have their training areas pretty well padded. Before you practice any art, even before just a simple kick, you should always stretch.
The schools usually teach you stretches as part of the class, it’s not to take up time and money, it’s to save you from injury. If you do not stretch then you cannot complain when you tear an ACL or a hamstring or twist a joint. There are some schools that teach meditation as part of mind conditioning, this is as important as stretches in the martial arts because if you have a restless mind that cannot focus on what you are doing when you are doing it then you are at risk for accidents from not paying attention.
Without a focused mind from the safety measure of meditation before class you will have issues like kids getting kicked in the face and teeth getting broken, as well as other injuries. But a focused mind will be paying attention to their level of contact and will understand not to apply full power when practicing throws and arm locks and such. If you are going to instruct others in a martial art, it is a very good idea to become certified in basic first aid and CPR.
An instructor that does not know how to heal as well as defend cannot be a truly safe instructor. Issues such as Asthma and heart attacks are going to happen, it could be what you do that saves a student’s life. According to the recent news, some Japanese Judo instructors do not know what to do in the case of a major injury, that’s very disturbing. Their art involves some of the most dangerous to practice techniques around.