Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Karate from Young Perspectives

Paula is a blogger who's re-starting karate in her 20s and has had a knee injury (though thankfully, it doesn't sound like it's the ACL... let's hope not). She has an interesting story. Welcome, Paula.

Black Belt Blues is a classic ambitious ACL recoveree and karateka. We all need those PT fixes, Chad!

Will Our Knees Be The Same?

Michele of Just A Thought has a thought-provoking post as she's approaching one year after ACL reconstruction surgery.

For me, her bittersweet post--her knee may never be the same, but her karate has become "a search for deeper understanding"--made me think (as I commented) on the thankfulness and regret that are my experience as I grow older and doors close.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


My wife, daughter and I will be taking a mini vacation starting today, traveling to Philadelphia to see Ansel Adams photos (Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park above) and Frida Kahlo paintings at the Philadelphia Museum, run up the steps of the museum and hold up our hands like Rocky, and do other things tourists do in Philadelphia. So no martial arts class this weekend.

I went to two "core" classes in the past two days. One day I parked in front of a nearby Lucille Roberts gym. As I was getting out of the car, a young woman came out of the gym on crutches. I wondered, of course, if she was yet another ACL recoveree.

She was missing a lot more than her ACL, it turns out. She was missing her entire right leg.

I felt so impressed that she was going to the gym--she looked like she was in good shape--and seeing her helped me put into perspective an ACL operation a year ago and a bone bruise a few weeks back.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Exercise, Socialize

I've fallen off on my training a bit, not only because of my bruised femur, but also because I've been having more of a social life lately, which isn't such a bad thing. Work has also been very busy, which again, isn't so bad in the grand scheme of things.

One corollary to having a little more social life is the occasional drink. My impression is that some people, in intense training, don't drink. One very quick Google of alcohol and exercise yields this quote: Consuming alcohol the night before an activity can hinder your performance by causing dehydration and loss of minerals and electrolytes. I think even one drink affects my athletic performance the next day. And yet a glass of red wine a day is supposed to be good for the heart. I guess, for those of us able to use moderation, it comes down to how intensely are you training. If it's intense, I probably won't drink at all.

Today I did half an hour on the elliptical machine in the afternoon, and in the evening did some leg PT, sit-ups and push-ups. Tomorrow, one of our "core" classes--shadow boxing, hitting and kicking pads, a little self defense, and LOTS of push-ups and sit-ups/crunches.

Finally, the Calzaghe-Hopkins fight Saturday night was a GREAT boxing match because it was about two minds contesting. Hopkins, the amazing 43-year-old (on the left in the photo above), had studied Calzaghe and come up with a plan, a way to fight him, a way to nullify the 36-year-old Welshman's incredible speed. After about four rounds, Calzaghe figured out how to combat Hopkins' clever plan. And Hopkins couldn't readjust, leading Calzaghe to the win.

Monday, April 14, 2008


3:30 PM Today: Phone call from doctor's office: There's a problem with the X-ray machine that has to be fixed, so the doctor is seeing patients at a different building.
Me: A problem with the X-ray machine? Like radiation?
DO: No, it's not a radiation problem, it just needs to be fixed.

3:40: Leave house for different office.

3:45: Return home to retrieve MRI images; try again.

4:00: Arrive at doctor's office. Find seat in packed waiting room.

5:02: Still in packed waiting room.

5:09: Speculate that people seem to be going into the doctor's offices but not coming out. Maye they're being turned into Soylent Green.

5:31: Called to exam room.

5:45: Doc comes in. Bends my leg, it bends and straightens better. Reads report, MRI place says ACL is fine, slight bone bruise on femur (upper leg bone). Doc shows me MRI, the ACL looks great, the meniscus looks okay for having been operated on, there a little blood inside the bone (bone bruise) of the femur where it's at my knee, as a result of my injury.

Doc says to take it easy for a month. Work on quads and hamstrings, and stretch hamstring. No sparring or grappling for a month; no torquing the leg for a month, but I can attend core classes (non-contact) if I don't torque the leg. If it still hurts in a month, come back. I ask about why my brace didn't prevent the injury, and he suggests having it adjusted by the brace maker.

It's a relief that nothing serious is damaged, though I would rather be able to plunge back into things.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Pursuit of What?

My wife and I had a serious talk this morning. I wanted to talk about her comment to me that she's "concerned about this pursuit of health that leads to injuries."

I said that for me, health is a wonderful byproduct of the martial arts, but not the reason I do them.

I tried to figure out, and to explain, why I like an injury-prone activity like sparring. I think some of it is hard-wired--as Sam Sheridan says in A Fighter's Heart, you can make the evolutionary argument that in a world of conflict and risk, the strongest father benefited his family/tribe/group.

I also enjoy the self-testing of physical combat. Will I be brave? Will I cower? That's also a topic in A Fighter's Heart.

And I enjoy the technical and mental challenges to improve. Can I stay calm and see where my opponent is leaving openings? How can I set up openings with feints? Can I execute that triangle choke?

My wife said she understood it's my decision to pursue this path. But when I walked into the house after sparring two Wednesdays ago, and said I had hurt my knee, she felt both empathy for my pain, but also anger that I had gone willingly into a situation where I've gotten badly hurt before. And she said, with some trepidation, that she doesn't want to see me try to get the black belt again. It was too painful for her to see me hurt the last time.

I told her I understood that feeling. I wouldn't want to see someone I love get hurt.

I said that one reason I did martial arts was to impress my woman; that when she (and my daughter) offer me encouragement when I'm, say, doing push-ups at home, or when she talks about how I've gotten into good shape, it's very encouraging to me.

She said she understood I wanted to impress her, but felt I should factor into my thinking that she strongly doesn't want me to get hurt.

We discussed how she might need to make use of a concept we call "letting go with love," a kind of Buddhist effort not to try to let go of a situation where you're concerned about someone you love, but aren't in control.

Now I have to sign off, because we're going out for dinner and a movie.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Waiting for Godoctor

I got my MRI last night, last patient of the evening, at about 8:40. Only my legs went in the big ring. The hardest thing about the scan was not wiggling my goes during or between scans--if you ask my wife, she'll tell you, my toes wiggle all the time. It took all my martial arts discipline to keep them still, they felt so awkward.

I got a set of photos that I can't interpret in the slightest.

I'll see the doctor on Monday to find out what the story is.

On the positive side, my knee is improving, I do much better at flattening it, etc. The soft brace I'm wearing during the day helps a lot.

On the negative, it does still hurt, especially when I flex or extend it. And I worry about the psychological damage--will I always favor it?

Today, after not having worked out since I hurt the knee last Wednesday, I went to the gym downstairs from my office after work and had a boxing workout. I was very careful with the knee. I worked timed rounds on the speed bag (BUH-duh-duh, BUH-duh-duh, bloop....), in shadow boxing, on the heavy bag--jabbing, short and full cross, box-and-move. I also did four 30-second "shoeshine" rounds on the heavy bag, hitting as fast as I could for the full round, then resting a minute, in order to build up that anaerobic endurance I need. I did 120 crunches and 50 pushups. It was good to work out, and a good stress relief to hit the bag.

I'm reading a fascinating, well-written book, "A Fighter's Heart," which I'll try to address at some other time. NYT bestseller.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Knee Improving

My knee has been improving--most significantly, it feels easier to straighten the leg out. I'm going to get the MRI anyway Monday night, but I'm very hopeful that the improvements so far suggest this was just a temporary setback.

I won't know until Monday, April 14, when I can next see the doctor to hear what the MRI said. I don't relish waiting that long. I also wonder how to work out in the meantime.

Even if my injury is just temporary, I have to think about how to prevent such setbacks in the future. Perhaps it means being selective about sparring partners. Perhaps it would mean curbing some of my competitive spirit during sparring, which would be disappointing to me and perhaps hard to do.

I'm in Virginia, visiting my parents for a quick weekend visit. Traveling by plane was fine. My son, however, who is with me, came down with a fever this morning.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Waiting for an MRI

I saw an orthopedic doc today. The good news is the leg is still stable, meaning the ACL held up.

The bad news, he said, is that I can't straighten my leg out flat--fully extend it, so that if I were sitting on the floor, I would be pressing the back of the knee against the floor.

I told him the reason I can't straighten out my leg is because it hurts! But he's worried something might have gotten knocked loose and be interfering with the mechanics. That would NOT be a good thing, even if it's far less extreme than an ACL injury.

I'm thinking it may just be the fluid and swelling from the injury that is keeping me from fully extending my leg.

I'll get an MRI Monday night, and a few days later I'll get see this doctor again.

My wife said to me this morning that she's concerned about "this pursuit of health that leads to injuries."

In my mind was the Bob Dylan line, "You're gonna make me give myself a good talking to." I need to find out how serious this injury is. But it does make me think about changes like declining to spar with teens who are nimble enough to kick me in the head. And it also makes me wonder about taking up fitness boxing, where you don't have as much impact, twisting and other stress on the legs.


Meanwhile, my old Cryo-cuff, from my ACL operation, is on, backwards, cooling off the back of my knee.

I'll just have to wait for a week to see what the doctor says, and then consider what to do next. I hope it's not serious.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I Hurt My Knee

My knee hyperextended tonight in sparring.

We were only sparring to the body, no head punches, which leads to a very close, high-intensity battle. I was sparring with a tall, fellow brown belt in his mid to late teens. We were both clinching for knee kicks, if I recall; he stepped back, and I put my weight on my recovering left leg and hyperextended it. I went down right away. I got hurt even though I was wearing my brace, which primarily prevents the knee from going sideways.

My ACL is fine, but I pulled something behind and on the side of my knee. If I try to straighten out my knee, it hurts. I am walking very carefully and will probably work from home tomorrow. I've been icing my knee, I took a naproxen, and I had a couple sips of red wine to boot.

It was heart-warming how quickly classmates and my sensei came to my aid when I fell. Everybody was worried I had re-injured my knee. Nothing popped, but it sure is sore.

My wife and daughter got me ice and cleared off the couch. I can see they're worried.