Health and Safety

Training Smarter

Contributed by Sensei S. Cockell


Martial arts training can be very physical and taxing on the body. When the human body is pushed to extremes it becomes very important to maintain it in the best possible condition we can. As a comparison just look at a high performance racing car, it has a whole team of mechanics and engineers monitoring it and repairing it when it is damaged or a fault is found. When we think of warfare we usually think of weapons and warriors but when it comes to healing we usually think of monks and peace. While it is true that monks did study the healing arts, it was very important for warriors to have an understanding of how to treat injures purely because their line of work exposed them to danger. This danger involved injuries that could result in death if not treated effectively and quickly.



The warrior learnt to kill his opponent but, from this understanding he learnt about his on weaknesses. There is a link between warfare and medicine; they both advanced together. Just look at modern warfare, on many battle fields you will find incredibly sophisticated hospital units tending to wounded soldiers. The warrior who killed on the battle field also had to be able to heal himself of injuries he may have obtained in his battles. It is only logical that warriors would have learnt their own healing arts that they had picked up over time from their previous experiences of injury. This would include wound dressing techniques and herbs that aided in the healing process. It is interesting to note that infected wounds lead to tetanus. In today’s world this is easily treated, but in old times this infection was deadly. The ninja used to wipe the blade of their swords in horse manure to ensure that a wound was fatal one way or another.



As martial artists we to learn how the human body works, as our lessons increase we learn movements, rolls and cartwheels. We learn strikes and kicks that damage the structure of the body, joint locks that twist and rend limbs from their aligned places and chokes render the human body unconscious. This study of human anatomy allows us to understand that if I punch hard enough here he falls down there, if I twist this part of his body like this it dislocates and if I squeeze this part hard enough he falls unconscious. Our learning serves a double purpose we learn what we can do to our opponents and what can happen to our own bodies.



I myself have had many injuries some minor and several major. I have survived and have learnt how to treat them and how to increase my recovery times; it is experience that has allowed me to do this. As the quote goes “experience is the best teacher because it gives its tests first and the lessons later”.



It is important for us to learn how to maintain ourselves physically. Ninjutsu is a life long Martial art that we can all study long into our lives and it will keep rewarding us the more we study it. Here is a little advice that can help you in your study.



When training ensure you have a good warm up, stretch and prepare the body for the physical activity you are about to undertake. Get your heart rate up so that the blood flows to the major muscle groups, this helps the body “warm up”. Remember that moving your legs is a great way to do this. Try practicing your kicks or moving in low postures before class. Sometimes the class will provide a warm up other times there will be no warm up. This serves the purpose of training your body to fight without the need of a warm up because you won’t get one in a street fight. It also tells you what you can do without a warm up. Ninjutsu is based on natural movements. It is these movements that you will rely on under the pressure of a street fight.



Train at a level that you are able to; we all want to train hard and gain skills but sometimes we have to modify our training for our own sake and that of our training partners. Not everybody can train at a 100% all off the time. We have jobs, family and lives to live outside our training. It is easy for professionals who dedicate their lives to training, they get time to recover and heal from injuries because they have the whole day to do so. However, when you have a job to go to and a family to look after you must look after yourself, as John B Will says “Train smarter not harder”, we can learn a lot from this quote.



Look back at history, the Samurai clans had retainers that tended their lands and did the mundane things that made their lives easier. Thus, they were able to dedicate themselves to the arts of combat and finer skills like painting and theatre. This is due to the fact that peasants did the every day tasks which gave them the time to practice. However, the Ninja clans were self reliant and had to plant, harvest and maintain their own lands while raising families and train in the martial arts on top of that. They clearly learnt to pace their lives so they could maintain the lifestyle they had for hundreds of years. Let’s look at a typical Ninja diet that would be taken on a mission. The food rations would consist of bleached rice, wheat flour, dried fish, dried plums and powder made from pine trees. The ninja used high energy food made from soybeans to form a curd which was eaten as a paste. They formed a juice made from unpolished rice and a mixture of plums and raw bamboo, as a sort of pick me up drink.  This allowed them to fuel their bodies assisting them on their dangerous missions. It is also known that Ninja herbology allowed them to use herbs that suppressed hunger and thirst.



Diet is important, we must balance our food input with our energy output in order be able to train effectively and on a regular basis. We must fuel our bodies so we have the energy to train and also the energy to heal. A good balance of carbohydrates and protein as well as fresh fruit and vegetables will provide the body with minerals that are needed to fuel it. Often in our lives we are too busy to follow a balanced diet, so we skip meals. This can lead to weariness and fatigue which is not good for constructive training. Supplements are available and can provide the body with nutrients it needs. The supplements come in easy to take pill form, but should never replace a healthy well balanced diet. It is in our own best interest to find the time to eat well as this leads us to better our training and to a healthier lifestyle. Hydration is also extremely important, as dehydration   can lead to fatigue during training. It is a good idea to have a large water bottle handy so you can replenish your body. The harder you train the more water you should drink.  Water is best but a wide variety of sports drinks are also available that re-hydrate the body.  They are absorbed quickly so can be drunk during training. Just do not have too much or you’ll become bloated, this does not help during intense training sessions.



Having a basic understanding of first aid these days is very beneficial to anyone partaking in strenuous activity. We can monitor signs in our bodies that tell us if we are injured and if we can go on or if we should stop. Learning to listen to our bodies is important as we can learn when we are over doing things and should slow down. Just as we feel when we are not doing enough and need to get some exercise. We as humans are designed to walk, as this is how we found food in the past. These days food is brought to us or is extremely easy to obtain so, it is all too easy to become lazy and not maintain our health and fitness levels. Although, I hate to say it sometimes it is “Survival of the fittest”.



There are many reasons for people wanting to learn martial arts therefore, it is important to consider motivation. If the new student has been bullied in the real world and wants to regain their confidence then, the last thing they need is a school that bullies and intimidates them. Moreover, on the other hand the student who wants to fight in the ring or competitive arena must be exposed to the rigors that they will encounter in that environment.



While as much care and safety is taken during training it is inevitable that injuries will occur within the training hall. When you become a member of the Maai Hyoshi Dojo’s you will be asked to fill out a disclaimer form. On this form is an area to notify us of any past injuries or ailments the club should be aware of. Please fill it out as it makes your instructor aware of any ailments that may affect your training.  Here are a few things we can do to help prevent injuries from happening:


.          Consideration of our training partners, understand their skill level, and the experience they have. Also consider their physical fitness/ability and age.


·          Protective equipment aids in safe training; a mouth guard, knee and elbow pads, shin forearm and groin guards are all available through the club or at the martial arts store.


·          Keeping your finger and toe nails trimmed and clean, helps prevent infections from spreading (Maai Hyoshi Dojo’s is a grappling school and we do not want scratches and eye injuries resulting from students with dirty and long finger/toe nails).


·          Maintenance of weapons; care should be taken in the weapons class that your training weapons are safe training weapons. For example, sand down any splinters or chips from boken, bo staff and hanbo.


·          If you are injured take the time you need to recover and don’t try to return too early, as you may re-injure yourself.  Let your injury heal properly, it will benefit you in the long run.


·          Remember to tap early!


If we are injured during training we should always stop training and assess the situation, is it a major or minor injury. For major injuries do not move the person make them comfortable and medical attention should be sort as quickly as possible, your instructors will see to this. For minor bruises and sprains we should always follow the traditional R I C E treatment which is Rest – Ice – Compression – Elevation. Allow 48 hours for your injuries to be assessed and see a doctor if there is no improvement.  A variety of balms and creams are available these days that promote healing of minor bruises and scrapes. It is best to find what works for you. I myself use Arnica cream for bruising and Tiger balm for strains and sprains.



For cuts which may occur during weapons training or contact sparring, assess the severity of the injury and apply pressure to prevent blood loss if it is serious. Obtain medical assistance as quickly as possible while maintaining pressure on the wound.  For minor injuries cover and protect the wound before you restart training.  Any blood should be cleaned from the training hall prior to the commencement of training. An antibacterial spray should be used to clean the area; your instructor should have this available.



The Maai Hyoshi Dojo’s teaches choking techniques, and as a result a person may be rendered unconscious (Note that we always encourage the use of the tap out rule).   It is important to understand the first aid procedure if this occurs. First ensure that the person doesn’t simply drop to the floor. You will feel the person go limp and become dead weight. Lower them slowly and place them on their side (the recovery position) and ensure that their air way is clear and they are breathing. The unconscious person should regain consciousness within five minutes. Important note:  this applies to blood chokes only, they take effect quicker then air way chokes and are safer. Blood chokes are taught first within the Maai Hyoshi Dojo’s syllabus. 



Eye injuries are always serious and should be treated immediately, wash the eye out and have a registered doctor assess the injury. In our experience it is best to get treatment as soon as possible.



Making yourself a personal first aid kit is a great idea; you can put it into your training bag and ensure you have first aid supplies with you when you need them. A small weather tight bag with sports tape, plasters, antiseptic cream, eye wash, bandages and some scissors and tweezers is a good idea; you can use it whenever a minor injury occurs.



The purpose of this article is to give you an understanding that safe training will benefit you in the long run. It is always good to think of yourself in twenty five years time. Ninjutsu is a life long study and can be with you throughout your childhood, teenage years, adulthood, middle age and your senior years. Always remember “You grow as your Ninjutsu grows and Ninjutsu grows as you grow”. If you maintain your health then Ninjutsu will provide you with a meaningful way of travelling through life’s wonderful path.  



The Palladium book of Weapons and Assassins, third edition, 1983, Erick Wujcik.

Ninjjutsu History and Tradition, Unique Publications, 1981, Dr Masaaki Hatsumi.

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