This is a follow up to a post I wrote about a week ago called Keep Moving – The Importance of Training With Injury, on the topic of what one can learn from the experience of training while injured that one would otherwise miss by simply “laying off”. Today I experienced exactly this in training and wanted to pass on the example as one I value.
It’s Thursday afternoon and my first attempt at kicking on my tender shin since Monday, my first day back to training after my fight last Saturday. So it’s five days since the fight and about three days since the last time I knew for certain that I didn’t want to be kicking on them.
I finished my bag work and climbed into the ring with Daeng. I gave it a moment of thought while the clock moved through the “rest” period to come back around to the next 4.5 minute round. I made a decision based on having just asked Den to get me a fight early next week, maybe Monday or Tuesday. I’d asked for a fight this weekend, but because I’m not kicking yet and took yesterday off because I had a fever and flu symptoms, Den wanted to nix the weekend idea. So, to make myself appear as physically ready for a fight as I am mentally, I decided I’d better start kicking. I told Daeng, “left side, still no kick but right is okay.” He nodded and held up the pads for 10 right kicks that begin every round.
They hurt. On Monday, the first day back to training after the fight, I’d thought only my left shin was dinged up from blocks, so I kicked on my right side in morning training and felt a knot develop quickly, within the first round. I iced it when I got home and did heat treatment the next few days, but I was definitely still feeling it now. By the end of the first round today, I was deciding whether or not to tell Daeng I’d better stop kicking on it. I gave it a second round to decide. In this round, I experimented with angles, rolling my shin over a bit more so it wasn’t hitting the knot directly, which actually did make a difference. It felt better, but not good. I was kind of pulling my kicks because of the pain and Daeng was laughing at me because I must have felt like a fly-swatter on his pads.
So I kicked harder, trying to kick through the tenderness of the knot. It’s like how you can’t pull a tooth by gently tugging at it – you have to use the “band-aid” method of just ripping it out all at once. Kicking through the tenderness actually felt better and as I kept going something interesting happened: I started to really dig my kick. It was coming out fast and felt whippy and clean, but more than anything it felt connected to everything else I was doing far more than ever before. It felt fluid; punctuating each combination with a relaxed power that I’ve been striving for. I loved the feeling so much, I forgot all about the pain.
Well, not entirely. By the fifth round I asked Daeng if we could work on marching through barrages (from him) to land knees (from me) as a way to reduce the number of kicks I was throwing because the pain in my shin had become cumulative. I still kicked, hard, when called for but it was 80% knees that final round. When I got out of the ring I knew I owed my shins some care when I got home, ice and hot water, but I was delighted by what I’d just experienced. That kick in all its elements outside of the pain felt incredible. It felt like a model to which I wanted to return, an example set into molds in my body that can be reproduced in the future. I was just so happy I didn’t stop kicking for the sake of pain I already know how to feel, but rather was lucky enough to be able to find focus beyond it in order to feel something I hadn’t yet felt and will work to find again.
A warning: I have said in the past, and many Thais will tell you: As a rule, if your shins hurt do not kick on them, they will not heal. I relate this as a kind of advanced experience. Training and banging on my shins so much, and fighting so frequently I’ve gotten very in tune to what my shins can and cannot handle, and every now and then you have to test it to see if they can handle more. This was my learning experience walking right along that line.
If you are having trouble with healing your shins I wrote about how I treat mine in this post: Treating Shins For Recovery.