Monday, August 02, 2010
This Brand of Honesty Has Been a Long Time Coming
I had an interesting foray into combat arts...boxing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, to be specific. I even participated in an amateur boxing match, 'though I realized afterward that I was woefully unprepared for it, despite working incredibly hard.
At the time, I got very caught up in the excitement and physical and mental challenges that those sports offered. I learned some interesting lessons from the experience, 'though not all of them were intentional, or for the best.
I went into both ventures wanting to fulfill a certain need inside myself, and there were certainly moments when it felt like that might happen, so I stuck with it for a while, despite having no natural talent in these sports. I believed that perseverance would get me to my destination.
But, alas, in the long run, it didn't work out.
I want to make it clear that I think the people who ran the particular programs that I joined do, at the base level of it all, have very good intentions. They want to help people empower themselves, improve their physical strength, and be able to defend themselves in dangerous situations. That is the experience of many people who participate in these programs.
However, I found myself extremely disappointed with the details of how these folks tried to accomplish this. I suppose, underneath it all, everyone comes to the table with their own personal agenda, whether it's explicit or not. If you're signing up and paying your money for such a program, you need to do your due diligence to ensure that someone who is teaching you shares similar (or higher) values as yourself, or you'll find yourself eventually at odds with your instructor, and you'll experience diminishing respect for them.
You also need to ensure, especially when getting involved in an activity that involves some level of physical danger, that your instructors don't just throw the concept of safety around loosely. Make sure they practice safe behaviour, and enforce it stictly in their environment. Don't listen to their words. Watch their actions. Carefully. Question anything at all that doesn't look right to you. If they're legit, they will be patient with you.
Make sure that the instructors are appropriately educated in the area they're teaching too. Their knowledge should extend far beyond some basic skills and drills, or a certification course offered by a sport organization. I acquired that certification myself, and it didn't take much effort or knowledge at all (one weekend, that's it!). Your coaches need to understand the human body, its limits, and the risk for injury. They need to be well-versed in general training techniques, sport psychology, nutrition, wellness, first aid, and sports medicine, and they need to encourage you to seek medical advice when an injury occurs. Any time that you trust an instructor who treats injury casually, you are putting yourself at risk of permanent injury and disability, or possibly worse.
I was the victim of such a situation. Inside my head, I questioned the safety of a situation, but I didn't speak up. For that, I blame myself. But I also blame my coaches for not having adequate knowledge, and for instructing myself and others to do things that put us in danger. I also blame them for not encouraging me to seek medical assistance, instead saying "It'll be fine. Just give it time." I was told later by a third party in the medical field that coaches are often fearful of insurance issues, and will try to play down injuries, so you don't pursue legal action. I hate to believe this is true, but it is very plausible.
Here I am, almost 3 years after I gave up boxing, and 2 years after I gave up BJJ, with what is almost certainly a permanent shoulder disability. Basic living activities are difficult and I experience pain every day. Even though I live in a country with social healthcare, and I have additional health insurance through my employer, I have spent thousands of dollars of my own money for various types of treatments and therapies, to try to relieve my pain. I've regained all of the weight that I lost on my sporty journey, and have acquired several additional health issues along the way.
I've learned lessons, but far, far too late.
I will move on with my life. I will work really hard to fix it again, but it will be even harder this time. I'll be much more careful about who I seek advice from.
I hope that you do the same.