Martial arts have changed my life.
I took up karate in 2001, when I was 44 years old. A doctor cut off a patch of skin cancer on my ankle a few months earlier, and my once-slim waist was fast approaching 40 inches. The cancer showed me I wasn't exempt from illness; my poor condition made me realize I was cruising for a heart attack.
Since taking up martial arts, I lost enough weight (close to 30 pounds when I'm in fighting trim) to cut my pants size to 36. I've dropped cholesterol pills, as my bad cholesterol level dropped and the good cholesterol level rose. My wife, bless her heart, caused a stir at a family holiday in the past year when she said that my body is harder now than when we got married (I was 26 at the time).
Martial arts are a great stress reliever. They've also been, to reach for an overused word, empowering: in a prior job, I was being verbally cudgeled by a room of bosses for a mistake made by one of my subordinates, and it was extremely satisfying to look around and think, "I can knock anybody in this room down."
I've also made great friends at my school. It's amazing how close you can get to people when you're punching, kicking and wrasslin' with each other.
Now I'm facing my biggest challenge in martial arts. In November, at a black belt test, I was injured with only three minutes remaining. A black belt facing me in grappling swept my left leg, and instead of my foot moving, my knee moved sideways far enough to rip my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in half. I didn't get my belt.
It took me several months to realize how bad my injury was. After trying to strengthen my leg for a month and a half, I returned to class for a couple of weeks--and my left leg kept buckling every time I put my full weight on it. Reluctantly, I went to a new orthopedic doctor and got the bad news. I had my operation on March 27.
In early August, I'm going to talk with my doctor again to find out when I can return. His original prediction was that I could go back to non-contact martial arts six months after the operation. My recovery has been ahead of schedule, so I'm hoping he'll give me the green light earlier.
In later posts, I'll talk about what it's like recovering from ACL reconstruction--a very common surgery--and what I've been doing to try to keep in shape.
CORRECTION: Prior versions of this post said I started martial arts in 1991--I meant 2001.