If one has existing injuries to areas of the body that may be deemed to be critical for martial arts such as knees and the back, is there a particular form of martial art that will be well suited.

The injuries were sustained due to a major automotive accident and although i have returned to 'normal' activities the injuries have resulted in degraded performance due to the amount of stress they can bear.

The purpose of picking up martial arts is to remain active but also for self-protection.

  • Is this question more about how to work around existing injuries, or how to rehabilitate?
    – mattm
    Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 4:31

5 Answers 5


While certainly some injuries are contraindicated to different movements, it really depends on the specific injury and the extent.

Having a muscle tear is different than multiple fractures with pins in your joints is different than tendon tears is different than cartilage loss - and all of it depends on the joint and your specific movement ability after that.

Your best bet is a really good physical therapist to tell you what movements are "probably never going to work for you", what kinds of movements are reasonable within years or months of recovery and what movements are safe right away.

While there are a few instructors in martial arts who are versed enough in the specifics of injury, recovery, body mechanics to do this kind of assessment, they are, unfortunately, more rare than you think. Many instructors have gone along with "Do this, it's good for your knees", "Just push through, eventually it'll stop hurting" and similar admonitions that have left healthy people with cartilage loss or other problems.

The person I would trust would be doing a long testing period of what your range of motion is, what your areas of unimpeded movement are vs. bound movement, and would be seriously considering what kinds of techniques to teach you from that, and then what strategies can best work with the mobility you have.


As with all questions of this type there are too many options and the answers will be highly subjective.

I broke my back (L4) when I was 16 and started Tae Kwon Do when I was 18.

My recommendation is that you go to the different martial arts clubs in your area and try them out. Most clubs allow for a cheap/free trial period - if the movements in the martial art are going to aggravate the injuries you have then try a different one and you wont have lost much money/time.

Discuss your injuries with the instructor before the class - in our classes we tell people with injuries that if they can't/shouldn't do a particular exercise to swap it with a different one.

When you do pick a martial art - be prepared to advance a little slower than everyone else. It may take time to be able to do certain movements and there may be some you may never get down (true of people without injuries too). I would also recommend you discuss aspects like sparring with your doctor before you do them - I have a back protector for sparring but other than that I am still able to train and compete like everyone else.

Martial arts schools vary massively - so if you don't like the first one - go to a different one.

  • Thanks. I did expect a number of options however was interested in learning if there was a form that built on weakness from the ground up.
    – Motivated
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 18:13
  • There might be martial arts designed for some weakness or other - but if you don't love the art you do you wont stick at it. Find one you enjoy and you will be amazed how much you can achieve.
    – Collett89
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 8:39

After a severe injury one should return to strength, conditioning, and mobility training well before martial arts. If martial arts are new then this is doubly important.

It is critical to be confident in what your body can and can't do before starting a practice centered around the uncooperative infliction of force onto a partner in chaotic circumstances. Your priority for both self-defense and staying active is to stay healthy. The best way to do that is to get strong, flexible, mobile, and in shape. Only then should you look at martial arts. At that point, you should know your injuries and capabilities inside and out, and be able to safely try class at the gyms nearby in order to get a sense for which suits your needs best.


Ironically, I would suggest an art that deals in submissions and joint locks, being BJJ - Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, or if there's one close by a 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu. The grappling arts are generally easier impact wise on the joints. That being said, Collett also has the right idea with discussing the issues with the instructor and giving a couple different arts a try. And as always, double check with a healthcare provider before going full on into something. We may all be martial artists and can offer advice in that regard, but only you and your doctor know what you're capable of. Hope this helps, and good luck.

  • 1
    Thanks Matt. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was something i was looking at as well as Krav Maga.
    – Motivated
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 18:14
  • 1
    Whoah whoah whoah.... you're telling someone with knee and back problems to hop into BJJ? Specifically a strain of BJJ (10th Planet) that requires a ton of flexibility and can put serious strain on the knees? I'm sorry, but I would not recommend any form of grappling to someone rehabing a back injury, until they are feeling nearly back to normal. Neck/Disc issues are quite common among long-time BJJ participants, more so than strikers. And forcing a stiff knee into Mission Control position seems like a recipe for aggravating the injury further as well.
    – GHP
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 15:01

I feel that it's going to depend on how severe your injury was. Admittedly, some styles are more focused on joint locks and throwing which could potentially cause a problem but you may find that while one specific technique doesn't work for you, another variation may.

I've suffered with knee issues since I was about 16 or 17 but I currently train in Hap Ki Do and Judo, both of which put a strain on my knees. Most days, I can pop some Aleve after training and go to sleep and relatively speaking, I'm feeling better in the morning. However, both of my instructors know that I have problems with my knees so they accommodate where possible.

I would suggest finding a place that you're interested in checking out and stop by and talk to the instructor. Let them know in advance about your injuries, I would hope that they would tell you if they feel that you could cause more damage than good.

Many schools also offer a trial period where you can attend a set number of classes to see what you think. Take advantage of that and see how you feel. The tricky part to that though is that you're likely to be doing things that are new to you so you might feel sore the next day. If that's the extent of the discomfort that you feel, I'm sure you'd be fine with continuing your training.

Whatever you decide to do, remember to listen to your body and sit out if/when you need to. Training is fun, but it's not worth causing significant and permanent damage to your body.

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