Alive and Kicking #27 – Pain Tolerance In Martial Artists, a Breakthrough, and a Pep Talk

by on April 2, 2012

in Alive and Kicking


Alive and Kicking – Martial Arts Over 40


Monday 2 April 2012: Issue #27

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Published by Brett Kraiger. Your comments are always welcome.


Hi there!

Welcome to this week’s Alive and Kicking, the newsletter for martial artists over 40. In today’s newsletter I will be focusing on pain and injury. I’ve got some interesting observations from a sports doctor, news about a major breakthrough in my shoulder treatment, and a pep talk for older martial artists.


Martial Artists Tend To Train Through Pain
by kcxd under CC BY
Martial Artists Tend To Train Through Pain


A couple of weekends ago I attended our National Taekwon-Do camp, where a whole lot of practitioners from all over the country came together for a weekend of Taekwon-Do training. During one of the downtimes there was a session with a sports doctor, Dr Jake Pearson. Dr Pearson is a 4th Dan in Taekwon-Do and specializes in sports medicine. He also happens to be my sports doctor.

Dr Pearson gave us a talk about Pain, and whether it is our friend or foe. He sees a lot of patients every day, and of course some of those patients, like me, are from Taekwon-Do and other martial arts. One of the observations made by Dr Pearson is that the martial artists he sees are, in general, in worse condition than his other patients!

It’s not that martial artists as a group cause more damage to themselves though. What he’s realized is that martial artists tend to put up with the pain and damage to a joint much more than non-martial-artists. They tend to train longer and harder on injured joints, which of course potentially leads to even more damage.

Why this is, he’s not entirely sure, but he thinks it probably has something to do with the old-style “No Pain, No Gain” mentality that many of our instructors passed on to us. And maybe we are doing the same to ourselves and our students now!

Craig Hart, who was recently featured in our Readers Stories section, was also at the camp and has offered to do a write-up about pain to share with everyone here. So once that is done then we will be able to get that up on to the site and let you know about it.

In the meantime however, perhaps have a think about your own attitude to pain in your training. Is it something that you just put up with? Do you perhaps let the pain get worse, and don’t seek out treatment early enough? If you are just pushing through pain are you risking causing further damage? Can you modify your training so that you get the full benefit of training, but with less pain and damage?


Speaking of pain… I recently had a breakthrough on my shoulder injury. As I’ve mentioned in previous newsletters, I have been seeing an acupuncturist about my shoulder, which I injured several years ago when I tensed up while I was being thrown.

He is the latest in a long line of treatment providers who have taken a look at my shoulder. The list includes: Physiotherapy, Osteopathy, Chinese Herbal Medicine, Chinese Orthopedic Treatment, Surgery, Feldenkrais, Acupressure and even Hypnotherapy!

I’ve been seeing Scott from Qi Flow since late last year, and although we had been making progress, the results were not spectacular, and I was starting to wonder if I would have a shoulder that would allow me to do even basic blocks and strikes without pain.

We were making incremental steps, but nothing spectacular. It wasn’t 2 steps forward and one back. It seemed more like 2 steps forward and 2 steps back. Although that’s a bit harsh because there certainly has been steady progress.

Anyway, at my last treatment, on Wednesday, Scott said he’d been thinking about my case, and had some new ideas. I had noticed a change in the shoulder where the pain had become more localized into a particular area in the front of my shoulder. This is a natural part of recovery from injury – the pain will localize back to the main problem area.

The treatment he gave me was something I’d never experienced before. Basically he had me lie face down and then he used both hands to try and lift my scapula up. And I mean, he was really pulling on the thing! The sensation was unusual, but not uncomfortable, other than him digging his fingers in for a better grip.

After a few minutes of this he went back to regular acupuncture and massage treatment. Afterwards he asked me to lift my arm up again, and the results were astonishing! Totally mind-blowing.

Martial artists Shoulder Responds To TreatmentWhen I walked into his rooms that day, I could barely lift my arm past about 60 degrees. With a lot of effort and pain I was able to get it to almost vertical, but that was really pushing it. After the treatment I could easily reach straight up and also well over to the other side of my body. I have not been able to do that for years.

All my movements have become a lot easier, and although I still have pain, the range of motion is hugely increased. I was even able to demonstrate blocks in my class that I have just not been able to do for years.

This truly is a breakthrough, and I can’t wait to get back to see him again. For the first time in a long time I think I can see the end of the tunnel.

I guess the lesson from this is that if you have a chronic injury, make sure to keep persisting with treatment until it gets fixed. If you are sensing progress, whether it be large or small, stick to it.


I put a really great video in the inspiration section of the website yesterday. It is a video made by an insprational leader and martial artist, Mr Tom Callos. He’s talking about the need to keep up your martial arts training once you hit 40, 50, 60 and beyond. It’s a short video, just 2 minutes, and I strongly encourage you to watch it.

Here’s the link: Pep talk For The Older Martial Artist

My favorite bit is the following:

“You know in the battlefield, and I haven’t really been on the battlefield so I am speaking hypothetically, I don’t really think if you lose a weapon or you are somehow mildly incapacitated that you give up.

It’s not time to hide your head, it’s time to become resourceful and that’s what you have to do when you’re an athlete with a knee, back, hip or whatever injury.”

It’s also worthwhile paying a visit to his website and see the great projects he’s involved with. He’s making a difference to the world.


That’s it from me this week. I hope you are enjoying the newsletter, and I welcome your comments and feedback. Also don’t forget that I’m always interested in featuring people on the Readers Stories section. If you would like to be featured then just get in touch.

And don’t forget … we are on Facebook too.

All the best!


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Quote of the Day


The aim of the wise is not to secure pleasure, but to avoid pain.
– Aristotle

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