I used to train kickboxing for about a year. Recently my eye doctor told me I may be susceptible to retinal detachment and advised against training. I will still be working a bag from time to time, but I would like to try something new.

Sadly, I have no idea what to choose. I'm not a big fan of ground fighting, so I would rather stay away from stuff like BJJ, Sambo, etc

What are my choices? I'm considering Yoshinkan Aikido and Hapkido, though the latter may be just as bad for my eyes as kickboxing.

  • 4
    Your doctor thinks being thrown is OK?
    – mattm
    Jan 14 '17 at 12:30
  • @mattm: Exactly my thought. It is questionable whether someone not allowed to receive punches/kicks is medically clean to be thrown. Another thought: Throws without groundwork is like striking arts without full contact sparring and hitting something with full force - basically useless for the purpose of martial art (read: actual fighting skills). If it's just for moving around, doing something new (intellectual challenge) etc., I think non-combative forms of Aikido would serve best indeed. Jan 14 '17 at 15:15
  • 1
    1) If you want to lay out best methods for self defense training, set up an appropriate question. 2) If you want to have a conversation, go to chat, not the comments, here. Please bring back the focus to helping the poster with their question.
    – Bankuei
    Jan 15 '17 at 2:50
  • 1
    @mattm - he said I can do almost any sport - just avoid being hid in the head. It is possible to hit your head when being throw but I am willing to take the chance Jan 15 '17 at 8:22
  • 2
    @PhilipKlöcking & Huw: Guys, take it to a chat room. Comments are not for extended discussion.
    – slugster
    Jan 15 '17 at 11:18

The main risk for a detached retina is head impact, not necessarily eye impact. Although, yes, you want to avoid getting punched, kicked, or poked in the eyes.

Although it does put an emphasis on falling safely and gently, Aikido still results in high impact forces hitting the ground. This is especially true with a technique like irimi nage which requires a back breakfall.

Obviously this rules out Judo as well.

Ground grappling arts like Brazilian Jiujitsu use the head like a 5th appendage, subject to sometimes high impact forces including accidental strikes as your opponent is struggling against you.

Taekwondo generally practices without any head contact whatsoever. They often just "show" kicks and punches to the head. But there's still a risk of accidental strikes. Even wearing whole head padded sparring gear won't prevent sudden impact forces.

Wing Chun also doesn't do a lot of contact to the head in practice anyway. They sometimes spar, and that's where you have to exercise caution. You tell your sparring partner to only "show" to the face, no contact there. And no throws.

You could look into escrima / kali. So long as you're doing stickfighting, there's almost no head contact, except for accidental strikes. Since the sticks don't carry much mass, a stray hit to the head with a stick probably won't result in high impact force. But you would need to wear safety goggles to prevent getting a stick in your eye by accident.

You might try other weapons styles besides escrima, such as kendo, iaido, and fencing. These don't generally result in any head impact. Kendo has full, solid head gear that takes most of the impact really well. Fencing has no mass behind it, making it unlikely anything could affect your retina (but wear safety goggles). Iaido is completely non-contact.

And lastly, there's always non-contact / performance-based martial arts. For example, Contemporary Wushu Kung-fu. Wushu is very challenging, requiring a high level of refinement over time. It's also very cool to look at and to do. Just watch out for the g-forces as your spin your head around. And make sure you don't fall from a botched air technique such as the butterfly-twist or an aerial.

You can try traditional forms of kung-fu that don't do sparring, also. You'll have to look around where you are to figure out who does what.

Ultimately there's going to be risk in anything you decide to do. Even if you decided to do a sport like Tennis. There's still a risk. You just have to be mindful of what you're doing and prevent / avoid anything that might cause problems.

Another thing to consider is retina surgery. From what I gather, this involves shining a laser at your retina, and it kind of welds your loose or detached retina to your eyeball. It's done when your retina detaches or tears. But I speculate (I don't know) that they might also do it as a preventative measure. It's something to discuss with your doctor. And definitely get a second opinion if you're considering surgery.

At the very least, it's good to know that a detached retina usually can be fixed with surgery, if it happens to you. You just have to make sure you see your doctor immediately if anything changes about your vision, even a little change.

Hope that helps.

  • Great answer. My doctor said that boxing and kickboxing is a bad idea, but he was fine with football(soccer) so I feel a sport that MAY result in occasional hit to the head is fine. Jan 15 '17 at 8:18

You might try Bagua. Although it's not specifically based on throws, it has plenty of them, just that it avoids going to the ground.

The great advantage is that it's an internal martial arts style, where we talk about "play" with the the sparring partner as opposed to fighting.

Because it's internal, it can be practiced gently. You might throw someone, but hold them or let them grab onto you do they don't impact the ground or a wall. (Similar to pushing someone with great energy in Tai Chi practice, where you give them your arms to grab onto so that they don't go flying back and potentially injure themselves. In my experience, this does not diminish the instinct of not giving someone your arms to grip when in an adversarial situation where the animal instincts take over, and which instincts are then merely guided by the training.)

It sounds like your doctor is telling you that you have to give up hard sparring or any sport where you are routinely subjected to strong impacts.

Bagua also contains joint locks that can be used for breaking, and many brutal strikes to soft tissue, but uses the palms and fingers as opposed to the fists.

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