I was recently asked about longevity in the martial arts as it relates to sparring and specifically randori which is a Japanese way of free training or sparring.
One of the take-aways that I can offer from years of successful practice is to always know your limit and never push past it, even if that means *losing* a match.
I have been smart, and a bit lucky never to be seriously hurt, and can only count three injuries during that time, two to my knee, and one with a broken finger.
Discounting lots of bumps, bruises, and feeling unable to move the next day.
Always go into randori with the correct understanding of what it is supposed to be teaching. The ego will slowly creep in, the desire to win and show off will always creep in.
Randori (shiai) is a way to develop mushin in the martial arts.
A place where there is no thinking about what waza to perform or what you are going to do- just movement.
Maybe it is correct and works, maybe it doesn’t and you get tagged.
One also has to be mindful of your training partner’s ego.
Many times I have had to bow out or take a knee and let them win simply because we were entering dangerous territory where I could have gotten hurt, even with excellent ukemi.
You can see that desire to win and compete rising, and know that if it goes a bit further in the training session, the chance for injury rises.
Injury prevention is the KEY to successful randori for 20+ years.