martial arts and a dislocating shoulder?
July 30, 2006 3:43 AM   Subscribe

I have a chronically dislocating shoulder. I want to learn a martial art (aikido, jujitsu, something else perhaps). Possible? Stupid? As usual there is ...

I have had a chronically dislocating right shoulder (anterior) for 6 years. It has "poped" out over 50 times. The first two times I went to hospital, was shot full of drugs, and it was put in again. These days I can relocate it myself (YAY! Ugh!) but it is painful for the next few days and more likely to dislocate again. And I have to stop physical activity when I do.

It hasn't been out in the last 6 months ... but I haven't engaged in actions which would put it out. It still feels weak and has a limited area of use

I am interested in taking up a martial art such as aikido or jujitsu. Is this possible without dislocating my arm each session? Will I be waisting my (and my sparring partners) time?

Any thoughts?
posted by jannw to Health & Fitness (12 answers total)
(Lots of martial arts questions recently, or is it just me? :))

Having practiced aikido for a whopping 6 months, my barely-qualified opinion is that you would have a hard time with it. Just from the bare handful of submissions/throws I learned, I can guarantee you that if you have a dislocation-prone shoulder, it'll probably pop out half the time.

For example, one of the first things I learned (after learning rolling and falling, which may or may not be bad for the shoulder) was a move where partner 1 (you) attempts to punch partner 2 (the person learning the move). Partner 2 grabs your wrist and then does a wrist/arm lock which is then used to force you down to a prone position.

While actual force isn't supposed to be used, beginning students are still going to be using it until they learn better, and regardless, the point of the move is to utilize the locking of the joints in partner 1's arm and shoulder. So either way there's going to be significant stress on them.

Not having practiced judo, I can't say, but I believe it uses many of the same principles in terms of locks and throws, and I think it's probably even more "rough" than aikido would be.

Hopefully someone more qualified will be able to give you a more concrete "no, don't do it" or hopefully a qualified "cyrus is full of it, you'll be fine, just tell the instructor".
posted by cyrusdogstar at 4:59 AM on July 30, 2006

Sorry for all the crap grammar, this is why I shouldn't post so soon after getting up...
posted by cyrusdogstar at 5:00 AM on July 30, 2006

See previous dislocating shoulder thread for general info.

If I were you, I would take up a "striking" martial art rather than a "throwing" martial art. You can bow out of exercises which involve throws or joint locks on your bad shoulder.
posted by jellicle at 5:58 AM on July 30, 2006

Maybe tai chi? Great, but not so self-defense orientated, but then again neither is aikido.

I aikido took for years by the way and I don't think your shoulder would last long with all the rolling. It is very shoulder intensive. Then again, IANA shoulder expert.
posted by milarepa at 6:18 AM on July 30, 2006

If your shoulder is poping out that much you probably need an operation. My friend had the same thing and ultimately was told by his doctors that it would only get worse unless he got an operation. It is a painful ordeal though with significant physical therapy.

About Aikido and Jujutsu, they both make extensive use of joint techniques that would only aggravate your condition. I think no matter what martial art you do though your shoulder will continue to give you problems as it will dislocate even it doesn't have explicit pressure on it.
posted by blueyellow at 6:44 AM on July 30, 2006

Taekwondo *might* be a possibility for you. It's more like kickboxing (punches and kicks) than wrestling. You can also choose not to spar and still progress in rank, and still compete in tournaments (if competition is your thing).

I'm only familiar with the American Taekwondo Association, but there are other tkd organizations.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:12 AM on July 30, 2006

I would not normally recommend tae kwon do ( because it's not all that practical and not often all that well-instructed ) but in your case a good tae kwon do dojang would be a good fit:

the throws and grappling are usually add-ons -- not part of the core system -- and the art emphasizes kicks over every other kind of move.

If you're not hung up on it being a useful, unarmed martial art you might also look in to some of the weapons arts, like kali/escrima (phillipine stick fighting) and knife fighting -- you'll use your arms in those but in a manner less likely to pop it out.
posted by little miss manners at 8:31 AM on July 30, 2006

Out of curiousity for the folks into martial arts, why not Muay Thai as a more "useful" alternative striking art to Tae Kwon Do?
posted by drpynchon at 8:55 AM on July 30, 2006

Anecdote filter: in college I knew a guy with hip dysplasia, according to him pretty bad: his hips would slip out of their sockets and he'd be immobilized, for days at a time, as a child. He took up tae kwon do very seriously, concentrating especially on kicking -- presumably the moves with the greatest risk of inducing the dysplasia -- , and claimed it pretty much "cured" his hip dysplasia.

But I stress that the guy was one of those quietly compulsive, very earnest, highly driven types (in the "very disciplined" way, not the "annoying repetitive tics" way, and a pleasant enough guy that his earnestness didn't quite cross the line into smugness), and practiced his tae kwon do pretty much every day.
posted by orthogonality at 9:21 AM on July 30, 2006

drpynchon: no argument about Muay Thai as being more useful than TKD. I do not have a frequently-dislocating elbow, but the clinch in particular and many of the elbow strikes put the arms in positions in which the shoulder would be easy to tweak or pop out if your opponent hits back at certain angles. Because TKD is essentially a noncontact art as far as the upper body is concerned it seems safer if you're trying to avoid dislocating an elbow.
posted by little miss manners at 10:28 AM on July 30, 2006

I dislocated my shoulder a few years ago and intensive exercise is really the only way to get it stable again (I've dislocated my knee and finger too (approx 74 million times on that one) and ditto there). The tendons get lax and you have to work everything else to make up for it. I still go to the gym 2-3 days a week and do pull downs and some other stuff and it's held together pretty well.

You need targeted PT and then to work with a practitioner who understands your limitations. There is an article in the March 2006 edition of Yoga magazine that talks about weak shoulders and discusses exercises and it's pretty good. I know I saw another article about chronically dislocating shoulders too... possibly in the same magazine. Try the library maybe?
posted by fshgrl at 11:16 AM on July 30, 2006

Many styles of southern-style kung fu are leg and kick oriented, where the strikes you make with your hands are part of a combination of strikes and movements you're already making with your fists. Finding a good kung fu school can be difficult, however, so I'd do some serious googling and auditing before joining any particular school.
posted by thanotopsis at 1:38 PM on July 30, 2006

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