On Saturday ten of us from Mumeishi and Sanshukan dojo spent the day learning about first aid at our local Red Cross centre. For many of the group it was a repeat visit to keep their first aider certification up to date. For me it was a long overdue first attempt to learn how to cope with injuries and incidents in the dojo.
A one day course can only give you an overview of the essential dos and don’ts of first aid. Under the guidance of a very friendly and capable kiwi lady we rattled through the actions for heart attacks, strokes, broken bones and arterial bleeding. After a morning of pounding away at the Recusci Annie dummies to the tune of Staying Alive and flipping our unfortunate colleagues over into the recovery position, we spent the afternoon tying each other up in a variety of bandages. The message from our instructor was to do only what was necessary to preserve life and to make people comfortable until the paramedic professionals arrive.
At the end of the day, we were asked about the injuries that were common to kendo and these all seemed to be below the waist. Of course anything can happen in a sports environment and over-exertion can cause hearts to stop and blood clots to form, but the accidents that I have most often witnessed involve ruptured Achilles tendons, torn cruciate ligaments and ripped toenails. With all of these, the best thing to do is move the casualty to a safe spot, keep him or her warm and call the pros.
Talking between ourselves in the tea-break, we agreed that prevention is probably the best cure. A good warm-up routine will normally help avoid many of the tendon and ligament injuries that happen if you go straight into strenuous keiko. This is not always possible. At competitions, grading examinations and seminars you are often expected to start from cold after a lengthy period of inactivity. Even after an earlier group warm-up, you can easily become stiff after waiting around. In this case it is up to you to keep moving and repeat your stretching exercises as often as necessary. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, now is a good time to think about this. In unheated dojo with the mercury falling, it is essential to stay warm and flexible.
My lucky friends south of the Equator have a different set of problems. You should of course build up your heart rate and stretch before keiko, but the key task is to keep hydrated. At one time it was thought not to be the done thing to take drinks into the dojo, now most teachers appreciate the value of taking in fluid at regular intervals throughout each kendo session. North or South, most of us are guilty of not doing our cooling-down stretches after practice. We all know that we should do them, but once we get moving we like to use all of the available time for kendo. Even if these are an afterthought and we do them in the changing room, we should add cool down exercises to our New Year’s to-do list. It may stop some aches and pains between sessions.
One piece of good news! When I arrived at Mumeishi dojo on Sunday, I found Takeo bleeding profusely from a cut-toe. After getting him to mop up the blood on the floor, I put my new taping skills into effect. Other than stabbing him with the scissors I did quite a good job