As I progress through the martial arts, I find myself accumulating the normal aches, pains and injuries that anyone in a contact sport acquires. And I wonder if there isn't something that my training in the martial arts can help me with. So I begin to dig into my memory of martial arts history, once again.
To start, historically, the Asian martial arts are probably based upon, at least in some way, the Indian art of Kalaripayat(tu). This is a system native to India, and includes a variety of animal-based forms, a number of weapons, interesting unarmed techniques (and very acrobatic counters) - but of interest in this case is the healing aspects of the system. Not only are there the usual conditioning exercises found with most arts, but also a system of ayurvedic medicines and massage treatments.
Then we consider the Chinese arts of Quan Fa and Gong Fu. There are many well known herbal remedies that were used by martial artists to speed their recovery and increase their vigor. Diet Dat Jow for those with some form of Iron Palm/Hand training is a good example.
In relation to this are the Okinawan arts, which owe a lot to their Chinese forebears. In the Bubishi, there is a list of herbs and medicines that were intended to help heal the martial artist. These have fallen out of use (to the best of my knowledge). While some cunning work by Patrick McCarthy has uncovered the formulas, I don't think they are of much interest to the majority of people.
Then there are the internal arts to consider when it comes to health. Tai Chi, Reiki, Qigong, to name a few, are all relatively well known in the martial arts community (at least) as health promoting and general healing arts.
As for myself, I have been looking more into herbal medicines recently. The use of arnica-based creams for the average muscles strains and bruising problems is a good example, but not the limit. I have also had a passion for teas, and the use of a tea to help calm the stomach or relax the body is also in my (incredibly limited) repertoire. I try to monitor my general health carefully for signs of weakness or illness coming on, so I can take preventative measures. I have found oil of oregano, goldenseal and echinacea to be very effective in this regard. I have to urge others to be cautious with this sort of medicine, and to consult a professional and educate yourself a lot about this. I am starting with a great book called Western Herbs for the Martial Artist which I recommend for those interested in the subject.
Beyond that, I have been applying simple self massage to my feet, legs, back and arms, as well as to my wife (after a strenuous workout), and have found the effects to be subtle but beneficial. Working in the direction of tendons, around ligaments and muscles around the bones in a firm but gentle manner. The relief is small but the mental aspect of helping yourself can be substantial.
What inspired today's post is an injury I sustained on the weekend, performing a simple ab workout I have done many times before. As a result, I have a slightly inflamed shoulder muscle and neck muscle (you can tell I am a real medical professional here). I forgot the most basic of first aid and health care - R.I.C.E. - Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. I didn't ice it right away, and its lingering a little longer than I would like. Couple this with another post by Mr. Wayne Muramoto about health in the martial arts, and I am inclined to take a more broad view of my health. I have decided to include some more basic weight lifting and simple exercises to increase the resiliency and strength of my supporting muscles.
Sorry for such a rambling post, I might clean it up later, but I wanted to post something about this tonight before I forgot. So what complements Karate? Conditioning to prevent injury and some massage afterwards! I think many artists can benefit from something as simple as this.