In Martial Arts and in life things happen; bad things. Accidents and injuries happen all the time to good people, resulting in permanent injuries and handicaps that last lifelong (I mean this in the physical sense but this can also apply to the emotional and psychological sense – think of losing a loved one or having someone break up with you). But an injury does not have to be the end of your life as you know it. Injuries and handicaps are part of life and we will at some point in life have to combat the reality of such things, accept them and then over come them. If you do not learn to do so, you will end up in a mental place that will drain you of life and make you a miserable person until you can learn to over come it.
We must always admit that, although we are ideally created equal, things befall us in life that cause us permanent injury or severe handicaps. Think of this situation: a student of the Martial Arts is offered the opportunity of a lifetime to become a professional fighter or an Olympic entrant and then the unthinkable happens – an injury sets that person on the bench with threats from doctors that the person will never function normally again. Many people have either been in a similar situation or known of someone in a similar situation at some time (be it in football, soccer or even if only on TV).
In life and in the Martial Arts we have four choices in addressing such issues; 1. we can either accept the handicap and give up- and end up living in a world of depression, 2. we can make believe we have no handicap and live in a delusional world, 3. we can overcome and adapt to our handicap or 4. we can find ways to improve other components of our being that will counterbalance our handicaps.
Some people will have certain injuries (or other distractions) at pivotal times in their lives that make continuing the wanted path impossible. Some people cope with such situations by blaming that catastrophe for everything that goes wrong in their life. I call these people blamers. Everything gets blamed on someone who, or something that, has held them back; like: an injury that has stopped them from continuing to become a pro, a decision to drive drunk ends up with a DUI (but the cop gets blamed for it even though we know who had the drinks and chose to still drive), blaming a friend for doing something that gets you in trouble. In either way, what is done is done, and we must work from the new stand point and move beyond the problem. The point here is to show that blaming our current problems on past actions, activities or those actions of others, does not help us. It is pointless to concentrate on the past. Instead we must accept that what has happened, has happened and we must move beyond it. Don’t let a past problem become your proverbial crutch for everything that goes wrong in your life, it is just one more hurtle for you to jump over, or find a way around.
Man, Know Thy Self!
In order to first overcome our injuries or handicaps, we must first accept that we have sustained them. Only after understanding our handicap can we develop methods to overcome them or to correct them. To delve deeper into this, consider the following: If you do not accept your problem, you can never seek to understand it, therefore you can not analyze it to find the way to get beyond it or the way to fix it. Without first accepting and seeking to understand the problem, you will be doomed to hit a block wall whenever the handicap causes you frustration. Handicaps will frustrate you but you can minimize the anger and frustration by understanding and accepted the reality of the thing. If you can not understand and accept the reality, you will cause yourself unnecessary duress.
With the Heart of a Lion
Some handicaps are such that the difference between permanent affliction and success recovery can be purely attributed to the heart and spirit of the warrior. That is to say, that a person can get over some injuries and handicaps by sheer hard work and hard headedness, by blood, sweat and pure persistence. I have personally known quite a few situations of such instances where people had been told that either special surgery was needed or that the persons in question would simply never be the same, some were told both. But alas, hard work and persistence paid off for those people who I have seen come back from their severe injuries, and their doctors were amazed by their recoveries.
The Blind Swordsman
There is a fictional character of a long running Japanese series called Zatoichi. The character, being blind, caries a walking cane which is actually a shikomi-zue (cane sword). I have never watched the series, but know of it, so please forgive any faults in my description. It is my understanding that the character used a reverse style of holding his shikomi-zue and is well practiced in Iaido and used his other heightened senses to make up for his lack of eye site. I only use this as an example that there are other ways you can adapt to deal with your problems. In real life, there is a man named Nick Newell who is a one armed MMA fighter (and wrestler). Even though he is missing most of one of his arms, he does not let this stop him. He and his trainers work to adapt to his special needs and he uses, what would usually be called a handicap, as an advantage in the ring.
At the end of the day my point here is that our handicaps and injuries are a fact of life and we can not allow them to stop us or be the focal point for blame. We must accept the reality of our injuries and either get over them with our persistence and training or find other ways to adapt to those injuries or handicaps to counterbalance them. To do anything other will result in depression or delusion.
Like a stream or river, one can block or clog it. But with time the stream will either redirect itself around the blockage or break through the blockage. It is up to you to understand that you are the stream and you must either remove the blockage or divert your flow of water.
I’d like to extend a special thanks to those people I have known through the years who have shown me that severe injuries and handicaps are not to be treated as the end, but merely a step in life. I do not name names here, as they may not wish to be known, but they know who they are.