We had to stop keiko three times on Sunday to mop up blood from the dojo floor. I would not mind so much, but it was my blood; having received a more severe than usual spiking from an opponent’s toe nail.
In spite of lots of first-aid TLC from Holt sensei and Yoshikawa sensei, every time we thought the thing was under control, blood re-appeared on the floor, causing time out for cleaning and for me to get a bigger and more leak-proof dressing.
In my experience, injuries to the feet are by and large the most common mishaps in kendo. I have had two broken toes, well to be honest, the same toe broken twice, but as it happened once in Japan and once in the UK; so I am pretty sure that it counts as two injuries. The nail on my right big toe sees itself as visitor rather than as a permanent part of me. I lost three nails last year as a result of people viewing my foot as a target for their hardest fumikomi. My average big toenail tenure is a mere four months.
Add these to the less exciting but more common occurrences of cracked heals, bruised heals, fasciitis, hard skin etcetera and the feet start to lead the table for the most abused body part in kendo.
As well as teaching us about the recovery position, stemming blood flow and CPR, every kendo first aid course should include modules on Chiropody and Podiatry, ensuring that the right creams and foot softeners are rubbed into our poor tootsies.
Whenever I see TV commercials urging people to get their feet ready for summer and I hear the preposterous suggestion that feet can be soft and attractive, I immediately look at my own misshapen hoofs to realise that a lifetime of shuffling bare feet on a hard wood surface would not be viewed as foot care by most right thinking people.
I do occasionally complain about sore feet and aching knees to my doctor, and to be honest, as she and I are in a similar age group, I expected some sort of sympathy. Not a bit of it! As a former army surgeon, she has seen worse feet than mine, and as she rightly points out “if you were not regularly in the gym torturing your feet, you would be sitting on your backside letting your heart age prematurely”. So much for sympathy!