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Are there any secrets that come from the hidden, secret, traditional world of martial arts (you may smile), that could be taken or applied before or after extensive sessions to prevent, lessen or relieve soreness?

I'm thinking of things like herbal remedies, thinks to drink, eat, or apply on your body.

Note that I am not talking about how to relieve pain from multiple-people drills or sparring, but soreness and pains from long, deep stretches, and movements to which the body is not accustomed.

I am interested in things that help the body recover, essentially: promote blood circulation, energy circulation, muscle relaxation, all that good stuff and more if possible. I don't want painkillers or anti-inflamamtories (they'll hide what my body is telling me) .

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Well, there is alcohol. ;) –  Ben Richards Jun 13 '12 at 3:30
    
I asked a meta question about whether this is on-topic. –  Dave Liepmann Jun 13 '12 at 12:53

5 Answers 5

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Since you're basically asking for anecdotes, here's a third hand account of a technique used by a purported 80+ year old Korean war veteran who still runs marathons. Ice bath. Yup, after your exercise, you take a bath full of cold icy water. OK, so it's not from martial arts exactly, but it seems sufficiently anecdotal. I think you'll find lots of cultures have used ice baths here and there.

I have also personally used "hot/cold" showers when I'm particularly sore from intense exercise. The method is to to turn the hot water off in the shower and try to leave cold water running over you for about 30 seconds, then turn the hot back on. Do this about 3 times. I imagine that this causes less of your blood to be pumped to your extremities during the cold periods, and then the opposite during warm periods, which essentially just helps you get good blood flow all around your body, which helps recovery.

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Anecdotal enough. I had heard something like that before, though it was only about turning the water cold at the end of the shower. I'll have to play with this one :) –  Trevoke Jun 13 '12 at 9:40
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For those who know Eddie Izzard, he was doing an ice bath every day to avoid soreness. Also, there are plenty of medicinal data to support this. It is not anecdotal. –  Sardathrion Jun 13 '12 at 11:53
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Astonishing what Eddie managed to do, considering he had never run a marathon before. I am in awe of that achievement. –  Rory Alsop Jun 13 '12 at 12:21
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I understand studies have been inconclusive, but icing and cold showers straight after a session help me enormously. If I have a long cold shower I'll be less sore than if I don't. If I ice for an hour or two, I barely get any soreness. Any heat at all seems to be counter-productive for me, although I suspect this varies with the individual. –  Rophuine Jun 14 '12 at 0:24
    
It worked for me. I like it. Sold. At least until a better answer comes up. :) –  Trevoke Jun 18 '12 at 2:33

Dit da jow is a classic. There are a variety of recipes, each supposedly for a different purpose.

The stuff we use at the school seems pretty good for reducing bruising, and is a mild pain-reliever on par with Arnica Montana (neither is as good as Tylenol, IMO).

I've seen it available from an acupuncturist I tried once, but I didn't get any from her.

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Most places I've trained have seen bruises and soreness as a badge of honour. Perhaps modern sports medicine would suggest ice, pain killers, and anti-inflamatories, but as I understand it, your question is about traditional techniques.

Conditioning has often been a component where I've trained. Beat on the makiwara until your hands are too tough to hurt. Punch each other in the stomach until you toughen up enough that it doesn't hurt. Do pushups on your knucks until it doesn't hurt. Legs sore after kicking drill? Do more drills tomorrow until it doesn't hurt anymore.

I've seen some people use various herbal ointments to help develop calouses to prevent hurting and to do more damage. But I think that's just a way of speeding up the toughening process.

But in the end, most of the "traditional" tecniques I've heard of all centre around toughening up until it just doesn't hurt anymore. Nothing about potions or lotions to prevent you from hurting.

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I can say we do this at my Taekwondo club. Conditioning by being kicked and pushups on the knuckles in particular. –  jhsowter Jun 15 '12 at 3:36
    
I was not talking about pain from contact, but pain from hard work: deep, long stretches, and movements to which the body is not accustomed. I'll edit my question to make it clearer. –  Trevoke Jun 18 '12 at 2:26
    
Fair enough Trevoke. But I think my answer still stands. As my old instructor used to say "the only way to get good at something is to do more of it". Which is to say: keep doing those stretches until it doesn't hurt anymore. I'm not saying this is the best way to train. I'm just saying it's the traditional martial arts (macho) way. –  nedlud Jun 18 '12 at 23:18
    
@nedlud Yes, in a couple of years, I probably won't get quite as sore when doing martial arts for seven hours a day; in the meanwhile, I want to know how I can keep doing it. –  Trevoke Jun 19 '12 at 1:54
    
@Trevoke if it's so you can keep training now, I'd forget about "traditional" tecniques. A nurse I train with swears by pain killers, and anti-inflamatories :) You can even use the proactivley before training. –  nedlud Jun 21 '12 at 0:44

This might be in a similar vein to the Dit da jow mentioned by GraduateOfAcmeU, I have heard that Tiger Balm works wonders and have used it from time to time myself as well. In general its one of those remedies that tends to work best on some things, but not on others. For example, the Arnica montana gels seem to work to help bruises heal a bit faster, but the Tiger Balm seems to work best for general soreness.

If you pay attention to the ingredients you will notice that a lot of the traditional remedies tend to have some of the same ingredients as modern remedies such as Icy Hot so even some of the modern remedies arguably have a long history behind them.

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'buries' => 'burns' ? Thanks for the answer! –  Trevoke Jun 29 '12 at 15:07
    
@Trevoke - 'buries' => 'bruises' My spelling is off today. :/ –  rob Jun 29 '12 at 15:26
    
Tiger balm does work wonders (though it's as expensive as gold). Capsaicin, e.g. rubbing a habanero on the skin, works wonders too, though you had better be careful with coming anywhere close to your face afterwards, even after washing hands. –  Damon Jun 30 '12 at 21:32

Dit da jow is the traditional liniment of Chinese martial arts. Arnica cream is a popular Western herbal analog. More than a few higher-level martial artists lovingly brew or compound their own secret/proprietary recipes for these.

I've used both jow and arnica successfully. I've come to suspect that the exact formulation and ingredients of the liniment don't matter nearly so much as the massaging action of application. In this case, any hand lotion or massage oil would do just as / almost as well. But many people swear by specific lotions' perceived analgesic, thermal, or herbal properties, whether of jow and arnica or widely-available brands like Bengay, Icy Hot, Tiger Balm, Mentholatum, and Aspercreme.

Though decidedly "non-cultural," someone mentioned Tylenol (acetaminophen). While a successful pain-killer, you might do better with ibuprofen, which also has anti-inflamatory properties. Many athletes (martial and non-martial alike) consume 400-600mg post-training or post-performance to combat pain and joint inflammation. In addition to icing and liniments/massage, I've found this very successful.

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