I practice Aikido, Wing Chun kung fu and Tai Chi. On two occasions, I have found myself in A + E with an injured hand. The first time was an avulsion fracture on my right thumb incurred during Aikido. I literally chopped downwards onto someone’s head. (they were supposed to duck, but didn’t. Bone on bone – ouch.) The second was a less serious but at first equally inconveniencing and very stiff torn muscle in my palm. (Caused by an intense boxing session without warming up the hands first.)

 

Both times, casualty staff looked at me as though I was mad when I explained that yes I did rough ‘contact sports’…and was also  a professional pianist and guitarist. Their faces actually showed  far more pain than I was in. I wanted to say, ”no really, it’s all alright – and here’s why!” For me there’s a natural, mutually enhancing relationship whereby martial arts feeds directly into music and back again. I’d recommend every aspiring martial artist study some sort of musical discipline and vice versa. A martial art, like dancing, requires a strong sense of left/right brain and body co-ordination. You combine an alphabet of set moves, with wider principles and patterns. At best, you want to be able to improvise communicate and express, solo and with others. In all cases, hands are of vital importance, so is breathing. Professional singers know that our craft involves athletic levels of abdominal support and breath control. The language of music and fighting can overlap in ways both metaphorical and concrete. MCs can ‘battle’ on the mic. Boxers can spar with broken rhythm, lyrically or poetically. Or box in phrases (punches in bunches). Negotiating the industry requires ninja stealth and courage, stoic resilience, patience, timing, Yoda-like calm and the ability to strike when the iron is hot. Some tips for basic hand maintenance include: soaking your hands after training in hot water after training. This is also true after marathon gig or practice sessions. Always take time to rotate wrists in circles before martial arts training. Visualise  energy evenly distributed throughout the hand and whether it is a palm strike or a fist that you are using – make it neat. Stray fingers bent back or caught in someone’s Gi, belt or nose, really hurt like hell! If like me, you have classical guitar nails, wrap them with the wonderful invention that is micropore tape. Massage the fleshy parts of the palm before boxing. When you box pads or bags remember to employ technique, not force and again visualise your energy evenly distributed, like light or plant sap through your forearm. Forearms and the tendons they contain are very important. Bruce Lee’s notebooks have whole chapters about them. He did ‘Zottman curls’, which I recommend. Holding a reasonably heavy dumbbell in each hand, and keeping the arm still, rotate slowly and evenly from the elbow in a clockwise direction. Alternate sides so that you have room to do it! The trick is to do that descending curve nice and slow. If you have played guitar for a long time, your forearm tendons will be in pretty good shape, but I do like this extra exercise. Avoid hard/hard contact such as knuckles on heads or other knuckles. If you do break or strain something remember that as a martial artist your pain threshold might be too high to realise it. Especially if you are flooded with endorphins and adrenaline, therefore know your own limits and warning signals.

 

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Some resources if you injure your hands:

Musicians Benevolent Fund

Musician’s Clinic

British Association for Performing Arts Medicine

Musician’s Union

I include this for fun – an example of 3 musicians displaying warrior prowess and a study in hand and wrist mastery. The Trio Project  (Hiromi Uehara,  Anthony Jackson and Simon Philips) live at the Tokyo Blue Note. The Trio project will be playing at Cadogan Hall here in London, 13th/14th/15th April.

 

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