I wrote in my last post that part of my passion for BJJ stems from it being an arena where I’m able to experiment with my mind/body philosophy. I feel that my body is a significant and not an incidental aspect of my existence only in relation to BJJ. It is the only arena where my body is not a mute vehicle that needs maintenance to keep my mind going and allow me to work, study, talk, think; nor is it an aesthetic object to be looked at from the outside. Injuries are one type of event that highlight the increased significance of my body.
Beyond the common cliché that one should treat injury in training not as an enemy but as part of life, I found that through injuries I remap my body and connect to my body in more meaningful ways than I did before. When all of my abilities are intact, and I experience no pain or limitation in movement, I tend to take the body for granted. My body is transparent to me. It is as me/I as it can be. When an organ is injured, it’s instantly rendered alien to me. The extent of alienation usually corresponds to the extent of pain, damage or limitation. The organ no longer submits to my will, to my mind. It keeps me (my mind) from doing things, from fulfilling my will. I’m usually frightened and uncertain- because I lack the unmediated connection I have with my consciousness is lacking when it comes to my body. I can’t look into my body, and medical imaging technologies will not tell me anything. I can’t know for sure what has happened to me and what awaits me.
But when my body heals itself, I somehow love that organ more than I did before. I look at it, from outside, but differently. That organ is more mine then it had been before. It bears more significance for me, through my memories and the traces of time. I wrote before about how I feel a unity with my right arm. A few months ago, my right wrist was inflamed so much that every movement hurt and the hand got swollen. It has turned alien, and when it healed, it became more mine than it had been before. I remember the pain associated with my wrist, the limitation in the skillful execution of my will. Now my right wrist serves me again.
I another incidence I hurt my toe. It became blue and swollen to twice of its original size after a few hours. It was painful to step on that foot for about two weeks. After a couple of months, that toe still doesn’t look like the other one. It’s shape may have changed permanently. It now bears significance and memory that it hadn’t before.
But these are examples of very small injuries in peripheral organs. As much as I need my foot for my balance, I can do pretty much everything with a very painful toe, and I’d suspect, even if I had lost my toe altogether. My right wrist is important for many mundane activities, but pain in that organ does not influence major activities such as standing, walking, running, stretching. Sparring around injuries that are located in more central parts of the body- such as the rib cage or lower back, organs which pose more severe limitations and influence major activities such as breathing or walking- is more challenging. After you’ve healed enough, you want to go back to sparring. But you know that if you put pressure on that organ you risk flaring the injury again. So, in order to spar painless, you need to keep the hurt organ all the time at the back of your mind. You have to remember to avoid certain movements that will burden this organ. This means that you may have to be creative ( to find alternative movements), that you have to concede more (to voluntarily assume a passive position), that you will react and play defense rather than offence, and that your training partners may try to correct you- as they don’t have the corporeal responsibility you have to remember the hurt organ and avoiding gestures that burdens it- all the time. But somehow, sparring around an injury feels more intimate to me. It augments the intimacy between me and my body. We share a special bond when we (me and my body) spar and train around a central injury. I accept the limitations it imposes on me and it lets me do what I love best.