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Brachial Plexus and Subclavian Artery

Brachial Plexus and Subclavian Artery

Martial artists often train in a posture that I refer to as the “closed chest, inside fighting” position. This involves tightening the abs, flexing the pecs, serratus, teres major, lats, and obliques, while rotating the shoulders forward and pulling them down. This position makes the ribs much less vulnerable to strikes, and although it restricts breathing, it does make it much harder for someone to knock the wind out of you.  In some schools this is the principal posture from which techniques are practiced and executed. While this sort of training can be very useful,  it can cause or contribute to a number of problems including shoulder impingement, neck pain, head aches, carpal tunnel syndrome, and thoracic outlet syndrome. Falling, as when taking ukemi, can have similar consequences. Active measures should be employed to ensure that one can maintain good posture when off of the training floor, and to maintain mobility in the thoracic spine and shoulder girdle.

Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) can cause chronic pain, weakness, or  numbness in the arm and shoulder. Here are a couple TOS related sites that you should take a minute or two to read:

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

From the “Your Orthopaedic Connection” site.


Thoracic outlet syndrome gets its name from the space (the thoracic outlet) between your collarbone (clavicle) and your first rib. This narrow passageway is crowded with blood vessels, muscles, and nerves. If the shoulder muscles in your chest are not strong enough to hold the collarbone in place, it can slip down and forward, putting pressure on the nerves and blood vessels that lie under it.

Read the rest here.

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

From MedicineNet.Com


What is thoracic outlet syndrome?
Thoracic outlet syndrome is a condition whereby symptoms are produced from compression of nerves or blood vessels, or both, because of an inadequate passageway through an area (thoracic outlet) between the base of the neck and the armpit.

Read the rest here.

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
From the VascularWeb.Org site.


What is thoracic outlet syndrome?
Your thoracic outlet is a small space just behind and below your collarbone. The blood vessels and nerves that serve your arm are located in this space. Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) is the presence of hand and arm symptoms due to pressure against the nerves or blood vessels in the thoracic outlet area.

Read the rest here.

Here are some videos of exercises that I recommend to my students to help them maintain good posture (the first one gets TKRI props for using tape and tennis balls):

Want to improve your overall athleticism quickly? Add balance training to your workouts.

Balance Training and Proprioception
How to improve performance and reduce ankle sprains
from the About.Com Sports Medicine Page


Pain caused by sprained ankles, and a variety of other injuries common to highly trained athletes, often have nothing to do with strength. They often have little to do with flexibility. And rarely do they have anything to do with endurance. More often than not, sprains and strains have to do with balance. Proprioception, to be exact.

Balance training better than tai chi at improving mobility among older adults.

From the Bio-Medicine website.


ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Physicians and physical therapists in recent years have explored whether tai chi, balance programs and fitness routines can help decrease the likelihood that older adults will fall and injure themselves. Many of these programs have shown promise, but their relative value is still open to debate.

Here are a few videos that can help you get started:

And one for Randy (our resident DIY expert):

Have fun.

The way our bodies move is the basis of all karate technique.  Our training should include methods to correct postural imbalances, which inevitably inhibit movement.  Too many older martial artists cripple around from years of abusing their bodies and just “pushing through” the pain.  That’s not fighting spirit, it’s just stupid.

Correct alignment, or being “stacked,” is the beginning of efficient body use. We have to learn the feeling of being truly balanced.  I used to think having good balance was a technique, like juggling.  If only I practiced enough, I would get it.  That’s not the case.

Everything about our posture and movement has to do with muscle conditioning.  Without using muscle, we would just be a pile of bones on the floor.  Our bodies are designed to function a certain way.  If muscles are too tight, they can limit our range of motion.  Also, we get in the habit of using the wrong muscles for a particular movement, because the right ones aren’t strong enough.  The more we move that way, the worse the problem gets.  It’s a vicious cycle.

Irregular movement patterns, or “compensations,” are signs of dysfunction.  I’ve been working with Bob to correct the problem of my right foot turning out.  This occurs primarily because I’m using my hip flexors, instead of glutes and hamstrings to stabilize.  So, we begin with SMR (Self-Myofascial Release) using the foam roller and stretching to “turn down” those hip flexors.  Then, we do specific exercises to strengthen the “underactive” glutes and hamstrings, like Romanian deadlifts.

My balance has improved, and I feel less strain in my knees and hips.  Ironically, as my muscles become more conditioned, I experience fewer “feelings” of muscular strength.  When things are working the way they’re supposed to, I’m just moving around fluidly and not really feeling where my power comes from.

Unfortunately, this condition is not permanent.  We must continually maintain proper function and work to correct any irregularities that arise.  Fighting is tough.  If we train realistically at all, our bodies will have to endure a certain amount of punishment.  And, we are likely to develop some new bad habits down the road.  It’s an ongoing process.

Overtraining syndrome

Published on the Sports Injury Bulletin Web Site

by Heidi Meehan


At some point during their career, a number of endurance athletes report experiencing a suppressed athletic performance, often in conjunction with one or more other physiological and/or psychological symptoms. Among others, these symptoms may include chronic fatigue, disturbed mood states, increased susceptibility to upper respiratory tract infections, changes in resting heart rate and disturbances in sleep patterns. Athletes experiencing such symptoms may be suffering from, or are at increased risk of developing, the overtraining syndrome.

Perfect Peaking Part 1: Overtraining and Its Prevention In Mixed Martial Arts Conditioning

Published on Grapple Arts web site

By Stephan Kesting


Many fighters find that they always come down with a cold or injury before a competition. This is often attributed to bad luck, but luck actually has very little to do with it. Most of the time these setbacks are due to overtraining, which is defined as a systemic deficit resulting from the stress of excessive training. In plain English this means that training is breaking your body down faster than you can recover from it. The pernicious pre-competition flu, therefore, is due to overly severe training and/or insufficient recovery, reducing the body’s ability to repel infections.

The purpose of this article is to investigate and summarize the phenomenon of overtraining, particularly with regard to combat athletics. One important goal is to alert you to some important signs and symptoms of overtraining, allowing you to cut back on your training before it is too late.

How to Prevent the Negative Effects of Overreaching and Overtraining in Athletes

Published on SIRC web site

By Craig Angle ME.d ME.d ATC, CSCS


A major sports challenge for coaches today involves helping their athletes develop an effective balance, between their training, competition, recovery, rest cycles. The balance challenge consists of determining the amount and type of training stress, competition stress, recovery, and rest away from a sport, an athlete experiences. An imbalance in the cycles described above, in combination with non-athletic stress, such as that experienced at home, work and/or school life, can lead to overreaching and eventually overtraining.

Click on the titles for the remainder of the articles.

Follow this link for a few suggestions for exercises that may help you prevent, or deal with a shoulder injuries.

Female Athletes And Serious Knee Injuries « Her Fitness Hut Blog.

Karate people spend a great deal of time punching. Punching requires stable shoulders. When the chest is overdeveloped in relation to the back, the shoulder may actually loose stability. This is especially true if the joint is not properly stretched. Many groups do a cursory shoulder stretch before an intense workout, this can cause even more problems.

My shoulders are grindy garbage from years of judo, aikido, and karate. In the last few years, thanks to some very helpful coaches and personal trainers, I have learned to spend as much time taking care of my shoulders as I do abusing them. They still flair up from time to time and I end up looking like a bad Irish clogger when I am on the dojo floor (no arm movements and no rhythm either).

Here are a couple of sites that you may find beneficial; Shoulder Exercises/Shoulder Injury Prevention, and Rotator Cuff Exercisers.

The site Shoulder Exercises/Shoulder Injury Prevention contains a discussion of shoulder stretching as it relates to training and conditioning about halfway down the page.

If you spend time in a local gym, find one of the certified personal trainers and arrange an appointment. Most gyms have them. There are differences in quality between the various organizations that certify personal trainers, however I have found that most of them are pretty reliable as far as communicating the basics of rc injury prevention. They can be expensive, but a one off in which you tell them about your training and ask them for suggestions, is likely to be well worth the expense.

I do not think that being traditional means we have to ignore good sports science.

The CDC has a good pack on Concussion in Youth Sports, as part of their campaign to raise awareness about Traumatic Brain Injury. It includes check-lists of what look for and how to respond if someone gets hit in the head, as well as information on how quickly an athlete should return to the fray, and when to send them to a doctor. If you’re a coach for youth sports (or even a karate instructor with some youngish students) you can get the pack for free from this website. They can also send posters, fridge-magnets and a funky looking Concussion Clip-board.


"Try to see yourself as you truly are and try to adopt what is meritorious in the work of others. As a karateka you will of course often watch others practice. When you do and you see strong points in the performance of others, try to incorporate them into your own technique. At the same time, if the trainee you are watching seems to be doing less than his best ask yourself whether you too may not be failing to practice with diligence. Each of us has good qualities and bad; the wise man seeks to emulate the good he perceives in others and avoid the bad."
Funakoshi Gichin


July 2020

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