Tag Archives: injury

Juggling January

It’s a great feeling to have people pacing in front of your business door, waiting for you to open up.  That was Sunday afternoon, the day I only open the storefront for a few hours in late afternoon/early evening because I’m teaching kung fu in the morning and early afternoon.  People were walking through the door and telling me what they wanted before I had the cash in the register.   I did a (slow) day’s worth of business in about 35 minutes.  Then came the rest of the week: steady a few days – but just a few.

I’ve had a headache for at least a few minutes a day every day since Sunday.  I blame the highs and lows of food service during frigid cold winter days.  It doesn’t help that it’s barely more than a week into January, the resolution month.  Probably thirty percent of the population has sworn off the goodies I sell and are still sticking to their guns.  Is it February yet?

Thank God for my kung fu kids!  They’re the instant headache remedy.  My latest six-week session at the gym began several hours before my busy Sunday at the store.  I have siblings for the first time in a long time and a second mother-daughter pair joining the crew.  All of my second level students returned; so for ninety minutes, I had to be adept at juggling curriculums and managing my time well enough to give the old students something new to work on for the first time in three weeks and the new ones a clear picture of what they were in for.

There’s never enough time to get in all I want to when I have all the students in the building at the same time.  But trying to feels like an accomplishment in and of itself.  That seems to be the story of my life.

There’s more going on, of course, much more – like managing kung fu instruction and practice with physical therapy for the tear in my rotator cuff, and trying to find a new commercial kitchen that’s closer to the store, so there’s just a touch less running around. But I can’t keep my eyes open long enough to keep typing; so that’s all I’ve got for now.  It is way past time to sleep.  No way to get through a busy weekend without that!

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Karma Calling

I rarely use the word fair.  It’s a concept that bothers me.  I’ve never personally experienced or witnessed something that was equitable or just to one person or group that wasn’t undesirable to another.  So I tend to think that there’s usually somebody catching the short end of the stick whenever something is allegedly “fair.”

My discomfort with the concept has served me well as a middle-aged, arthritic martial artist who loves teaching the activity as much as doing it.  It especially comes in handy when, at the start of a Saturday class, just half a day after hitting pay dirt with my newest students and seeing beautiful horse stances for the first time in half a dozen classes, there’s a pop beneath my knee during a routine roundhouse drill.  Moments later, it happens again on the front kick.  And by half time, my left leg is buckling each time I put weight on it.

Damnit! I scream in my head.  When class is over, and it’s just Merle and me collecting our gear to leave, I curse aloud.  I’m so tired of injuries!  I have weak knees, surrounded by muscles that become more pronounced with every good set of low cat stances.   I also have all of last session’s students and three new ones, with interest already being expressed for next session.  It’s not a good time to be out for surgery.  Management would cancel my class.  AND it would be twenty times more challenging to bake desserts and manage a store!

And so I’ve spent the last three days stretching, rubbing, slathering with ointment, freezing in ice, and heating in microwavable heat pads a leg that I must will into continued production. In fact, several hours after the injury, I hobbled over to a carpenter’s wood shop to pick up the furniture for my store.  It was painful and perfect at the same time.

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Two or three times since the weekend, I’ve stopped in mid limp to ask why I have to go through another major leg injury.  I immediately follow the question with the answer: Because that’s just how it goes for someone my age with my physical history who does kung fu for no less than ninety minutes a day, six days a week.

There’s such excitement going on for me right now, the monkey wrench had to come in some form.  I certainly can’t say it’s not fair.


Nothing But Crickets

The God of my understanding has a strange sense of humor.  I can’t say I’ve ever liked it much, and last night was no exception.

My better half has never had an affinity for martial arts.  It’s just exercise to stay in shape and provides quality time with the kids and me.  She’s also never been all that enamored with her career as a massage therapist.  She’s extremely gifted at it, as any client of hers will attest to, but it too is exercise.  It requires body mechanics that are probably more complex than those needed for good kung fu.  In short, her work can be as physically taxing as the family hobby.

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For the nine months that she’s been eligible to test for black sash, she’s vacillated on wanting to, while also dealing with minor injuries.  There are a number of red sashes perfectly content to stay where they are in rank.  They attend class mostly to become better fighters and nothing more.  But after watching both me and our boy go through the process, Merle decided to try her hand at acquiring a few of those positive changes the experience gave us.  Mostly, she didn’t want to regret not having tried.

Thursday night, at her second test for black sash, the first of six with sparring, she caught her foot against a loose rug in the basement training room while warming up.  The resulting injury to her knee left her unable to test… and possibly unable to work.

As she sat in the waiting room of the orthopedist’s office this morning, she was notified by gallery personnel that she sold a second piece of art in as many days, after months of hearing nothing but crickets by way of artistic reception.  Sculpting is the other work she does with her hands, the one that feeds the soul, if not the family.  It’s the job that brings her joy.

What are we to make of this debilitating injury sandwiched between music to an artist’s ears?  God has a strange sense of humor, all right – one that I’m rarely fond of.  And yet… I can’t say I’d want to gamble on living without it.


Ninety and Ninety

Ninety minutes of learning in the guan today.  Ninety minutes of teaching at the gym.  My most faithful student came early and stayed late for the final class of the session, and I hobbled together an hour of self-training in the time before and after she left.  By the time I washed off the day’s training and teaching in the shower, I’d been in one set of kung fu clothes or another for more than eight hours and felt like I’d worked every muscle I have, whether I wanted to or not.

It was a successful, exhausting day of martial arts mania.  And I liked it.  A lot.

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Here’s hoping the next session brings many more like it… along with new and better ways to  nurse my knees when the days are done! 🙂


Surreal but Serene

It all started with flying headgear.  My right hook flung the old, ill-fitting, vinyl-covered foam across the room, where it struck the mirror before laying limp over the air conditioning grate.  I stepped back with hands up, giving the 15-year-old powerhouse the room to retrieve it, but she declined.  I insisted she return the protective covering to her head; she insisted I continue the fight.

I looked at her face, hidden behind long, disheveled hair, and for just a moment I could see it.  She wasn’t simply exhausted after the ninth fighting rotation of the class; she was irritated – more than was warranted by losing her headgear to the second or third punch of our match.

I looked to my left and quickly caught a glimpse of a grin on her older brother’s face.  Less than a minute earlier, she’d been fighting her greatest and longest-standing rival, an 18-year-old bulky brawler with good footwork (long-haired blonde in the picture below), who was good at keeping his hands in motion before punching.  My opponent was annoyed at her brother, and she wanted to take it out on me.  She wanted to be the one doing the beating for a while.

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Against my better judgment, I got back in fighting stance and threw a jab to the top of her stomach.  Immediately after it hit, she was wrapped around my midsection and driving hard, trying to use her uncovered head to push me to the floor.  It was reminiscent of a fight earlier in the summer discussed here; only, my most logical and effective weapon of throwing upper cuts to a face in perfect position to receive them couldn’t be used.  I had to remember that she wasn’t wearing headgear.  Just as I was swinging my hips to fling her off of me, I caught sight of the wall she was rapidly approaching and knew her head would hit first.

“Wait a minute!”  I said as I pulled my hips back the other direction to slow her collide with the wall.  “I’m at a disadvantage because I can’t hit you in the head.”

“Hit her in the head!” her brother said while punching someone else.  She agreed.

I looked around for our instructor, thinking he’d put a stop to the MMA-style thinking these kids were famous for.  He was too wrapped up in his own match to say a word.  He was also used to granting their family permission to bloody each other.  So, with no one telling me I couldn’t hit her in the head unless she was wearing headgear, we proceeded.

It was among the more surreal experiences of my martial arts life.  For the remaining ninety seconds or so it felt like I was fending off a mugger – an upper class, suburban mugger with a few pounds on me, despite the three decades I have on her.  Fending her off required that I pummel the unprotected head (and body) of a doctor’s daughter – with the doctor in the room, saying nothing!  Go figure!

“That was not at all ‘light and fast,’” I said, quoting Siheng Mark’s directive on how to fight.  Moving on to the last opponent, still winded from fighting the kid and the eight opponents before her, I thought: What is with these teenagers?  Do they always fight like they have to take out the world, even with each other?  Or do they just need to prove that a middle-aged woman with really bad knees is not going beat them?

I don’t know the answers to my questions, and I don’t care.  I just know that the two teens who literally tried to knock me down this summer couldn’t.


Sash Levels and Surveys

This is what boot camp must be like.  Going to sleep late after nursing one’s strained muscles until well past midnight, then rising early to abuse the body all over again.  Only in boot camp, one gets paid for the privilege.  As much as I love kung fu, sometimes I wonder why I put myself through this.  The  morning after the Friday night class is usually when that happens.

With my students out of town this weekend and Merle beginning testing (and thus required to attend Friday class), I accompanied her to the guan last night to find that things had changed a bit since the last time I was there.  In walked two green sashes and a blue sash, making me wonder if I was in the right place.  Friday night used to be a red and black sash class only where the body was put through the grinder of kung fu techniques for two hours.  The presence of the lower sashes didn’t lessen the repetitions, but it drastically eased the difficulty level of the drills.  What’s happening to Sifu?  I thought.

This discovery came in the same week that my inbox included a survey from him.  A survey.  The man who practically screamed at me back in February that things are the way they are, they’re going to stay that way, and I need to take it or leave it, is now asking all his students to tell him what they think could stand to be changed about the curriculum, teaching methods – the whole kit and caboodle.  I like to think that his unfortunate exchange with me in February set him to thinking about being set in his ways.  But maybe it’s just fatherhood that’s changing him.  Either way, I’ll take it!

Now, I’ve got to get ready for more kung fu.

 


Staggering for Balance

I slithered out of the way just in time. A sixteen year old, who was a black sash before I even started kung fu, almost ran me into a mirror tonight by barreling against me with his head. But when the buzzer sounded two minutes later, he was the one staggering for balance to keep from hitting the floor.

My middle toe feels like I broke it on his elbow, and my ribs are grateful he was three inches too far from me when he began his sidekick. I felt the impact but withstood it with a flinch. The extra three inches would have put my stomach in my throat and my knees on the carpet.

This is one of those nights that I can’t believe I’m forty-five years old, severely arthritic and missing cartilage in both of my knees.  If only I could move as fast and feel as good with the half dozen other daily challenges that keep the adrenaline pumping!  But we really can’t have it all…. 🙂

My son, on the other hand, can have it all, it seems.  While enjoying his Spanish immersion program in his month away from home, his martial arts skills got him adopted by the Chinese immersion folks.  Here he is, front and center, at their world expo in the final weekend of the program (the one on the right).  It’ll be good to have him back home and in Sanshou – though his sidekicks cause more than a flinch!

Aaron at MMLA Expo


Film on My Car

Summer sucks.  I know I’m in the minority in this feeling, and I’m fully prepared for public protestations.  But I have reasons that should make sense to even the most profound lovers of the season.  Summer is too hot for this winter-born, Connecticut Yankee woman – an immovable fact of my entire existence, but certainly not the sole source of my summer doldrums.

This is also the time of year when most academicians are off from work and most politicians are, too.   This leaves all journalists but the White House press corps looking for news to cover and inevitably giving up, in favor of working on a long feature article or book – usually from their cabin or beach house, where the cell phone doesn’t get reception.  In short, from the July 4th holiday to Labor Day, Washington feels almost empty.  And that makes my job of producing a weekly television show with authors, politicians, journalists and professors extremely hard to do!

Most of all, the last time my late mother was lucid enough to talk to me with clear head and voice, it was July 4th weekend.  She died a week later.  Those last eight days of her life were sandwiched in between my first and second knee surgeries, and those surgeries suspended my martial arts life for more than a year.  More than that, the first operation required I be kept overnight at the hospital because I wouldn’t come out of the general anesthesia.  My doctor was afraid I’d die in my sleep if he sent me home.  I can’t begin to describe how terrified I was of having to be put under again a month later.

For the last seven years, sweltering summer days are a revival of full-blown grief, a reminder of the most physically devastating time of my life and a reunion with the inevitability of mortality.  The ghost of the depression that stayed with me for almost two years afterward comes floating back in like clouds of pollen in spring that I don’t even know are there, until I see the yellow film on my car.

I regularly miss my mother – especially when one of my children does something great, and I can’t tell her.  I also miss the knee I had before the injuries that required its virtual reconstruction – especially when I’m doing a form where I need to jump high or far.  Those realities are with me year round, mitigating the impact of the season over the years.  Still, there’s something about anniversaries that’s unavoidable.  And having bad times during beautiful days simply sucks.


“If You’re Not Injured…”

This time tomorrow I will have completed the paperwork and drug screening for the gym.  I should know by the end of the weekend if my future supervisor’s first choice for class days will in fact be the schedule.  It will depend on when there’s class space in the gym.

This time tomorrow I will also either be nursing my wounds from my return to Friday night class or feeling anxious and guilty for not having gone.  The jury’s still out on which it’ll be, but I’m reluctantly leaning toward the former.

Sanshou on Monday took a toll on me that’s lasted all week.  I may actually have strained my right hamstring in Saturday’s class, but the discomfort from that is nothing compared to the abuse to which I subjected my remaining left knee components two days later while crawling around on the guan floor like an alligator.  The drill was meant to work all the thigh muscles, but doing it properly required sideways protrusion of the knees in a wholly-unnatural, horizontally-bowlegged position.  Long story short:  I could hear something in my left knee pop out of place.  I’ve been trying to realign it ever since.  So it should be a no-brainer that I stay home tomorrow night.

The problem is I continued to self-train all week, and Sifu saw that.  I’m fairly certain he’ll think I’m not injured enough to stay out of Friday class, when I don’t have travel as a reason to miss it.  The man’s motto is “push yourself.”  He’s also fond of saying, “If you’re not injured, you’re not doing it right.”  We who are invited to Friday class are expected to attend – especially at the conclusion of banishment.

But I have a class to teach perhaps as soon as Wednesday.  I simply can’t be too battered to demonstrate a snap kick!  So that’s that.  Right?  Right?….


Next!

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This is our Sanshou teacher and coach.

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This is what my sweetheart looks like after we’ve spent half an hour trying to practice our Sanshou teacher’s techniques.

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This is what my shoulder looks like after my son makes me pay for getting a Sanshou technique wrong.

There have been a few moments since I started this intensive sparring training that made me question the choice to do so.  But it just seemed to naturally come next. 🙂


Injury, Irony, Profanity & More

I hate being injured in Saturday class – absolutely hate it!  It’s not the pain of the injury that bothers me; it’s looking like a mediocre, mid-level martial artist in front of fellow upper sashes and, worst of all, in front of Sifu.

After pushing out twenty-five tornado kicks in a drill that almost made me homicidal, I let out a few profanities during Lian Huan Tui and made no apologies for it.  Sifu was on the other side of the room at the time; so I allowed myself the lapse in decorum.  I recovered an appropriate demeanor and more effective use of my knees after taking a long enough break during beginner weapons class to bury my knee in topical cream and an ice wrap.

Irony being what it is, my kung fu day ended with Sifu teaching me not one but five moves subsequent to the very spin section of White Eyebrow that turned my knee inside out.  Near as I could tell, that was my reward for having practiced the spins enough this week to execute them better than he probably expected in such a short time.

I’d like to say that being given so much more of the form to practice made the injury and morning frustration all better, but it didn’t.  I’m still pulling out all the stops, more than ten hours later, to make my left leg do all that it’s supposed to do – starting with supporting my weight as I walk.

The new moves were, however, worth the pain of the price of admission today.  They made me glad I didn’t bow out when I was busy swearing.  They made me feel like practicing as hard as I did this week was a smart thing to do.


Twisting & Turning

Out on Mother’s Day in heels over two inches….

Consciously walking properly (moving foot from heel to toe) for perhaps the first time since knee surgery two years ago….

Doing rows of footwork practice as part of warm-up before training….

Twisting the balls and heels of my feet repeatedly – a few hundred times this week – while doing the double spin section of White Eyebrow….

Whatever the cause, it feels like there’s something horribly wrong in the muscles, tendons and/or ligaments in and around my left knee joint.  So much so I’m not sure if I should attend any of the advanced kung fu classes that are a staple of my Saturdays.  That’s saying something.

I’ve been trying everything since the end of a surprisingly productive practice Friday night to relieve the edema and increase the range of motion in my left leg.  Not asking for a miracle, just a return to normalcy.

I certainly hope that’s not asking for too much.