Sunday, November 20, 2011

New Life

Am I still a martial artist?

I haven't posted for a long time because I made a decision to turn my life topsy turvy.

I took a new job much nearer my home, one with a lot of responsibility and requiring real creativity. While I'm saving about an hour and a half a day in commuting time, I'm spending that extra time in the office--and my day has shifted from very early to late.

As a result, I haven't been able to make the boxing class in the evening, I get home too late. I do have time in the morning, so I've been going to the gym associated with the boxing class before work.

Since I had been doing the gym and boxing previously, I'm now getting less exercise. I also haven't had time for blogging.

The new job is with a more traditional news organization, so my time at home is a bit more my own--I'm not on the endless real-time-news treadmill. But due to the amount of work required I do spend time on the weekend working--I just have more control over when it happens.

To my question at the top of this post: I have a black belt, but I don't train because of my latest ACL injury, and now I'm not in boxing class either.

My best guess is that I will return to some kind of training, one way or another, once I feel like the new job is under my belt, and once I get a special big project underway. Until then, I'm doing the best I can at a gym to stay in shape. It's not as much fun as martial arts or boxing, that is for sure.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


I'm having trouble finding the right schedule for working out.

Right now I'm trying out going to the gym at work in the morning, Monday through Friday, going to boxing class in the evening Monday, Wednesday and/or Friday, and getting in a day of working out on the weekend.

The problem is I'm exhausted. My work day officially starts at 8 AM (though I'm often working on my commute on the way in). My commute is long. To get to the work gym in time to get to my desk a little before 8,  I have been getting up at 5:15 AM.

That means, to get 7 or 8 hours of sleep--and I am one of those people who do better on 8 hours--I need to get to sleep at 9:15 or so, far before my family goes to bed, which is unsatisfying.

Moreover, boxing class runs 8 to 9, and I just don't get enough sleep after that class.

Going to the gym during the work day isn't ideal. I supervise reporters doing real-time news, and it's not at all comfortable to be in the gym when somebody commits some news.

I'm still trying to figure it out.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


I am shocked--shocked!--that the most heavily anticipated heavyweight fight of the year--between 6'6" Wladimir "Dr. Steelhammer" Klitschko and 6'3" challenger David "Hayemaker" Haye--turned out to be a disappointment.

Klitschko, a Ukrainian living in Germany, is huge, he weighs about 243 lbs., but he is a very strong, skilled and fit athlete. He fights very carefully, using his pile-driver-like jab to keep opponents out of their range and, once they're thoroughly befuddled, using his killer right hand to knock them out. People criticize him for "boring" fights where he doesn't take chances. But he doesn't need to take chances to win, and I can't blame him.

Haye, a Brit, was an excellent cruiserweight (the next-heaviest weight class) and talked tough about knocking out Klitschko, but failed to do anything besides dodging many of the big guy's punches without punching much in return.

End result: A boring but convincing one-sided victory by Klitschko, and more evidence that nobody outside the Klitschko family (his bigger brother is ranked the #2 heavyweight in the world--they'll never fight each other) can handle them.

There's an interesting argument that there are few world-class American heavyweight boxers nowadays because, for really big athletes, the economics of pro football or basketball are much more rewarding (with, to some extent, less risk of long-term damage) than those of boxing. Big athletes overseas don't always have the same economic calculation, so more of them head into boxing.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

How My Experiment With Sparring Again Turned Out

My wife says she has "nothing nice to say to me" about the incident last night. My friend The Hulk says he's going to kick me next time he sees me.

So I'm not a very popular guy right now in certain circles.

What I did was try out sparring in my boxing class--and, in the process, I twisted my trick knee again. I was hoping sparring would be okay because you don't kick in boxing, and kickboxing is how I tore my ACL in the spring.

However, last night I twisted my knee anyway when I was moving by placing my foot improperly. Since I no longer have an ACL to hold my knee in place--and despite tons of exercise meant to strengthen all the muscles around my knee--my knee bended in a funky direction and I dropped down to the floor in pain. End of sparring.

Today, I'm using the RICE method of treating the knee and generally taking it easy.

Why did I try sparring again? Because I find sparring to be life-affirming for me--I challenge my fears, I test my skill against another person in a controlled setting. Getting ready for sparring was exciting: the trainer actually put vaseline on my face, which of course you see in real boxing matches, and put some on our gloves as well.

I was sparring with Kenny, a young man who's much stronger than me (though I may be in equal or better cardio condition). He's studied boxing for a year (and took two years of karate when he was young, which he said helped keep him out of fights by boosting his confidence--he didn't feel the need to fight.) He was really good. He moved his head very well, and I found him a tough target to hit with my jab. He hopes to go into the Golden Gloves.

Since I had been able to train in boxing without hurting my knee, I truly hoped that I wouldn't get hurt during sparring. I was wrong. We didn't even finish the first round before I twisted my knee.

I could conceivably get a metal brace made for my knee. I do think my sparring days are over unless I go through another ACL reconstruction operation. If I did, I would likely opt for an allograft, since the biggest remaining problems from my prior surgery are from the incision to remove part of my patellar tendon to use as a graft. All in all, I'd rather not do the surgery, which would be painful, expensive and take me out of commission for months.

So today I have a stiff knee--I do hope and expect from experience that my mobility will increase with rest and time--and a couple of close people really mad at me. I do hope and expect from experience that issue will also improve with time.

Friday, June 24, 2011

1) Make Plans 2) Do Something Different

I often find with exercise and training that the sequence is: You make a plan, something doesn't work out, so you make another plan.

Today, I set aside an hour to go the gym  at work. My plan: do a core workout, do weights for legs (necessary with my missing right ACL), do weights for my upper body, then do some interval running on a treadmill for 15 minutes. Work intruded so I couldn't start right away; then one of the trainers at the gym wanted to dissuade me from using the weight machines, which isolate muscles, and switch to more natural weight training that uses multiple muscles. I like that idea (I've never been much of a weight trainer) but that talk took time and we decided to do a full lesson about it next week. By the time I was through with the weight machines, there was no time for running.

That's alright, I thought, I've got a boxing class tonight.

I showed up at the Friday night class and, since I'm new to it, I forgot something, as I always do. Actually, this time I forgot three things: 1) Wraps (essential to protect the bones of the hands when punching), 2) my soft knee brace, which I find helpful on my right knee, and 3) removing my wedding ring (hitting bags hard bends rings).

But another thing was missing: The trainer didn't show up. ("First time ever," someone from the gym told me.)

So I did five three-minute rounds of jump rope on the padded ring floor (my shins are a little sore afterward--uh-oh, hope it's not shin splints), several rounds of shadow boxing, a couple of rounds on the double-end bag, and, awkwardly since I had gloves on, a round on the speed bag (usually you use wrapped hands on the speed bag). I did a little, not-so-forceful heavy-bag training, since I didn't have wraps.

I worked up a sweat, got some training in, and then headed home.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A New Direction

I was writing this content for my bio on the blog, and I decided it made a good post in itself:

I'm 55 and transitioning into boxing from mixed martial arts after suffering my second ACL tear in five years. I've decided not to undergo a second ACL repair, and look to boxing as an activity that satisfies my desire for an intensive workout in a fighting art but that puts my knees at less risk.

The change is a natural one in some ways, because I have long been fascinated by boxing; moreover, I learned many boxing techniques at my school. Boxing is a very technical art--the "sweet science"--and I enjoy riding the learning curve in most activities I do.

Still, it's wrenching to see a time when I will exit my mixed martial arts school, where I attended for more than a decade, and where, on May 17, 2009, I received my black belt.

Moreover, i follow blogs of some martial artists--some of them ACL recoverees--and see great value in the cultural aspects of their pursuits. Boxing has a very different culture--albeit also one with a long history.

Ten years ago, when I first joined my martial arts school, it was itself transitioning to mixed-martial-arts school from Shotokan karate. While the school retained some of the attributes of karate, including belts, senses and respect, it focused instead on kickboxing and grappling.

As I began this blog, I was recovering from ACL reconstruction surgery. With three minutes remaining in my black belt test, I tore the anterior cruciate ligament in my left knee and had to stop. My surgery was on March 27, 2007.

Friday, June 17, 2011

What I'm Leaning in Boxing

Technical aspects of the Sweet Science:

1. Stance: Since I'm not kicking, my stance needs to be much less square to the opponent. My shoulder needs to be forward (it's part of the protection for my chin when I'm jabbing).

2. I can move my head to either left or right when jabbing--that's a revelation. It seems to require somewhat different foot movement also.

3. As I was told in mixed martial arts, RELAX. Tense up at the point of impact.

4. Stay on my toes (again, not a new lesson--but interestingly, it seems a bit easier in the boxing/wrestling shoes).

5. Move forward, not back.

6. I'm trying to learn footwork for advancing while throwing uppercuts. Not quite doing it automatically yet.

7. Move the body and head in throwing uppercuts.

I've done shadow boxing with an opponent, but not any sparring yet. I do want to do some sparring eventually. One step at a time.

My knee feels fine. The knuckles are sore!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A New Type Of Shoe

I bought more training clothes--shorts and a shirt. The new Everlast gloves are due Monday. But it really sank in that I'm serious about boxing when I bought special shoes today. Technically, they're wrestling shoes--people suggested them for gripping the mat, and it's easier to find wrestling shoes to try on for size.

They feel very different from regular shoes, and aren't meant for outdoors wear.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Healthy Rage

It's been a difficult week at work, but a good week in terms of working out. I had my two boxing classes, and I made it to the gym at work, and the track on Sunday, every other day.

Conning, a friend on Facebook with whom I worked briefly some years back, and who always remembers my interest in boxing and martial arts, told me recently I have a "healthy rage" burning inside and that I use as a "positive force." This was surprising to me because I think of myself as a very rational, level-headed person. I asked my wife about whether she thought I had some rage inside, and she immediately agreed, which again surprised me; but as I thought about it, I realized they were right.

This post could turn into a commentary right now about how clueless men are about themselves, but that's not where I'm going.

I guess I have to accept that being level-headed and a good planner isn't incompatible with rage. My interest in martial or combat sports is a sign of that healthy rage.

There is a point of view, expressed in the book The Belief Instinct, that life isn't fair or unfair, it just is, because it made no promises to anyone. And while I understand the logic of that perspective, it's hard for me to live that way--I feel life made some basic promises to me and to the people I care about. And I think for me that healthy rage may come from the feeling that those promises haven't all been kept.

Anger, when channeled, can be a helpful emotion. And there's certainly a history of troubled and angry young men, from Bernard Hopkins on down, who found in boxing a channel for their anger, allowing them to live better, or to simply live. I remember the comment from the boxing reality show "The Contender" by Cornelius "K-9" Bundrage   that without boxing, he would be dead now, from drugs and gang life that would have occupied him instead. And as deeply troubled as Mike Tyson's life has been, I remember him in a documentary weeping with gratitude at what his trainer "Cus" D'Amato had given him--it was the experience of having a father, of being protected, of learning how to defend himself.

I don't think I have the level of anger those boxers display by any means--my life has been much easier. But I'm sure that, without some kind of rage fueling the furnace, I wouldn't work as hard at my job, or at being in shape, or at living with and trying to find solutions to life's difficult situations.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Boxing Class

I've had two boxing classes. They've been a great workout, and I've even started making a friend or two. When I was done, my shirt looked like I had been swimming in it. My knee, with one slight tweak, has been just fine. Things are looking up.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Late Middle-Aged Martial Artist (Boxer Version)

Yesterday, I turned 55, which I believe is the gateway to "late middle age." I had a nice day; a little physical therapy in the AM, followed by a trip to the big Apple for a quick lunch in Koreatown and then some time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with my wife and daughter (haven't been there in years; amazing place). Then back to an Irish restaurant on Long Island to have dinner with them and my son.

This morning, I got up early, went to the high school track, jogged/ran for a mile, then did a number of sprints up the bleachers overlooking the track.

Tonight, I'll put together a bag of equipment for my trial boxing class, which I'm taking tomorrow night.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Watching A Boxing Class: This Ain't No Dojo

Last night, after more physical therapy for my knee, my buddy The Hulk and I went to watch a boxing class in the basement of a local gym.

It's a very different environment from my (and most) martial arts schools in my experience. For starters, it was an entirely male group--no women at all. And the guys mostly looked like my buddy The Hulk--big biceps, oozing strength. My build is more the lean, mean fighting machine--well, lean, in any case. It was a bit intimidating, I must say.

The boxing class was both more individualized and less structured than my martial arts classes. The class instructor--a former Golden Gloves boxer, with a bit of a world-weary attitude--was in the ring, working up a sweat, working with the individuals for three minute rounds. Initially they were punching without gloves, with only wrapped hands on his wrapped hands. Then later they put on gloves, and were hitting mits and slipping/ducking to avoid his own (leisurely) punches. He worked on them to move around the ring the whole time. When they weren't working with the instructor, they were outside the ring, on their own, punching a variety of bags or shadow boxing.

Unlike a dojo, everyone was wearing something different, even on their feet. Some wore running shoes, some wore specialized boxing shoes, some were in bare feet.

Being in a basement, it wasn't light and airy like dojos I've seen. The boxers had one side of the room; the other was taken up by a kickboxing class--again, all men.

There was another, younger instructor walking around the side of the room--he said he had more than 80 amateur fights--and I listened as he gave pointers to one of the boxers working on his uppercuts.  His instruction was strikingly insightful. He told me when we chatted later that he really focuses on form, and you could see that from what he was telling the student. I learned a lot.

The next class is Monday night. So now my plan is to show up, take a trial class, see how my ACL-lessknee holds up, see how I like it.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Boxer As Martial Artist

Would I still be a middle-aged martial artist if I were a boxer?

I ask because now a second doctor has told me that kicking without an ACL is not a good idea--at least, kicking hard is a bad idea. And I'm finding myself drawn to the idea of taking up boxing as an amazing form of exercise, and perhaps eventually for sparring.

A week ago, I saw a physiatrist--a doctor of physical medicine and rehabilitation. My thought was that he would be less focused on surgery, more on recovery, and would be a good judge of what I can and can't do physically without an ACL.

Among other things, he tested the strength of my leg, to see if the muscles around the knee can stand in, to some extent, for a missing ACL. His judgment: "You're stronger than you look." Uh, thanks, Doc...I think....

He explained that one of the risks of kicking hard with my injured leg, even against a bag, is that without an ACL, the knee will travel too far--and in the long run, that would put me at risk of arthritis. And I know I don't want to kick while putting weight on my injured leg, which is how I got hurt in the first place.

Also not good ideas: tennis, basketball, soccer--sports involving a lot of cutting movement. Wrestling/grappling are out as well.

What activities can I do? He said running, sprinting, even sprinting up stairs are fine--as long as I don't bend my leg too far by, say, taking multiple steps in one bound.

As for martial arts, he suggested ones that don't involve kicking--wing chun, for instance.

I asked about boxing. He said that would be okay as well. I would need to be sure, when stepping to the side, that I put my foot flat on the mat. Stepping on the outside or inside of my foot would re-injure my knee (I think that's what happened when I twisted my knee again just trying to sit in a confined space). He even said he thought I could jump rope, a favorite boxing workout, if  I did so on a cushioned surface and not a hard floor.

I know that boxing workouts are amazing exercise (I once took a trial class at a cool downtown Manhattan gym called Trinity Boxing Club, but I'm too far away now to attend there). My friend Tracy Hutt swears by them.

One of the instructors at my school was saying that I could focus on boxing instead of kicking in class, and I may try that. But it's looking more and more like I will be boxing for exercise in the near future.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Why Train?

Blogger Felicia of Bushido Road asked in a recent post, "Why do you train?" She focused on the self-defense aspect of training.

One of the surprising things I've realized in this stretch, where my torn ACL has interrupted my training, is that self defense has more of a role in my motivation than I realized.

I nominally took up martial arts as a form of self-health defense, so to speak--to get into shape in an enjoyable way and avoid the health problems I was beginning to experience (weight gain, high cholesterol, etc.) in my early 40s.

But I as I have contemplated the possibility that my injury could interfere on a long-term basis with training, my thoughts were focused more than I expected on how I would defend myself without the ability to use my leg as I was taught. Interesting--that's not what I expected to be thinking about.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday the 13th Tale

My return visit to my orthopedic surgeon today was inauspiciously timed.

He bent my leg, shook it, made sure I realized it wasn't healthy, and rendered his verdict: If I lead an active life, eventually I'm not going to be happy with my knee and I'll come back for surgery. "You're not a potato on the couch," he said. He even said activities like running and sprinting--which don't involve cutting, pivoting or torquing the knee--would lead to knee pain, an assertion that left me, frankly, surprised and dubious.

My verdict: I'm continuing with physical therapy, and I'm going to see a physical medicine and rehab physician--a physiatrist--to see get suggestions on how to stay active without surgery.

No doubt, my body is conspiring against me. I caught a cold a week ago, which restricted my exercise and even PT; I twisted my knee again two weeks ago in an unlucky accident. (My orthopedic surgeon said a torn ACL used to be known as a "trick knee" that "went out" every once in a while. I've heard the term before.)

I take heart from a 2010 New York Times article, cited originally by in the Just A Thought blog, that cited research saying people with ACL tears who had physical therapy alone had improvements after two years comparable to people who had ACL surgery. The PT-only group had knees that were less stable, but that instability didn't seem to be a big deal. The study authors were quoted in the article:

there is no apparent downside of starting a good rehab program and waiting with the surgery decision to see if it is needed or not.
I figure that a physiatrist is much more likely to know what I can do, how much I can do, and how to do it safely with a torn ACL. My appointment is a week from tomorrow; I wish it were tomorrow.

That said, I do feel--and I sweat somewhat saying this in a martial arts blog--for the time being, I must interrupt my mixed martial arts training. I've suffered grievous injury twice to my knees from kicking or being swept in mixed martial arts, and that's a fact that looms very large at the moment.

The thought occurs to me that boxing might be a way of giving myself a similarly intense workout to mixed martial arts, but without kicking or sweeping. It might even offer me a way of continuing to spar, which has challenged and enlivened me in mixed martial arts (though I'd definitely want to talk to the physiatrist about whether and how to do that--e.g., would I need a knee brace?).

I'm facing lots of questions; I don't know where this journey will end up. The next step, when I get up from writing this entry, will be to do another set of physical therapy exercises, and to continue to be patient.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Steps Forward, Back--Sideways

On Friday, I twisted the heck out of my knee again--just trying to sit down in a confined space. My foot got caught on something so when I put my weight on my right leg, the foot wasn't under the knee--and so my missing ACL wasn't there to keep my knee from twisting. Very painful. Rest, ice, compression, elevation.

I took a couple of days off from PT at home, and have since resumed. I haven't trained at my school, though I've done the elliptical machine at the gym (and some of the PT is real strength training for my legs).

It's worrisome to me that I could re-injure my leg just trying to sit down.

On Friday the 13th, I'm going back to the doctor, following a month of PT, to see what he says and, I suspect, order a brace. Then I have to decide what I will do.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Physical Therapy, Exercise, Careful Training

I'm feeling a bit encouraged about my prospects of continuing to train, with modifications, post ACL tear.

I've been to three physical therapy sessions, and have been good about doing my PT exercises twice daily. Compared to working out, the PT exercises don't feel like they're doing much, but they are clearly doing something to strengthen the muscles around my knee and give me more range of motion (a limitation imposed by the meniscus tear).

I've gone on the elliptical machine at the gym at work three times. I'm using it because there's a limited motion and there's no impact, but I can still get a good cardio workout.

I have also now taken three classes in my mixed martial arts school. I have been very careful about kicks, and my knee has been fine. It's good to see my friends and instructors and to continue to get a workout.

One of those workouts was a private class with our school's Joshu, a young (20s), very skilled martial artist and a friend. We just worked on form for punches and kicks (again, being careful not to do anything that would torque my ACL-less right knee). I had developed a way of throwing round kicks that involved a lot of leaning and turning in order to avoid punches. He worked with me to move my hips independently of my shoulders, which should speed up the kick, allow me to focus more on the target, and I think put me at less risk of torque injuries to my remaining good leg. It will take time to undo prior habits.

I'm not going to spar until I get a knee brace, which I plan to order from my doctor when I see him in three weeks.

My plan continues to be that I will not get ACL reconstruction surgery. I needed ACL reconstruction four years ago to get my black belt. I don't believe I need the ACL reconstruction if I am training for fun and fitness, and if I am very careful.

There's some precedent.

There are, I realized, two women in my school who ruptured their ACLs and who continue to train wearing braces. They're both excellent athletes; they'v had mixed success training in their condition.

One is a second-degree black belt who has been without one of her ACLs for many years. She's one of those amazing Gumby-like types who's about a foot taller than me but can kick me in the head. I haven't seen her on my abbreviated training schedule, but when I do, I will definitely talk with her about how she takes care of her knee. She does some sparring; she doesn't do grappling. Mostly she takes the "core" classes that are bag workouts.

The other fellow student offers a bit of a cautionary tale. She's also a good athlete and is a former cop. However, she did injure her other knee a few months ago--I believe while sparring--and has some discomfort in her daily activities.

That's what I don't want to do.

So for now, it's PT and patience for me.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Facing Uncertainty with Patience

It's going to take patience to work through this ACL tear and figure out what I can and should do.

On Friday morning, I got the diagnosis from my doctor--complete ACL tear in my right knee, plus meniscus damage.

My leg isn't painful except when I bend it too far (meniscus) or I step in a way the knee becomes unstable (ACL). It's more my brain that's sore.

My doctor, who had performed ACL reconstruction surgery on my left knee four years ago, said Friday morning he expected that without an ACL, I could run and eventually probably even sprint--which I'd been doing lately for conditioning. The day before, I had gone on an elliptical machine for 22 minutes, and my leg felt fine at the time. It was a little sore an hour later, which a naproxen took care of. My doctor thought that activity was fine, and said the knee is still healing from the initial incident.

However, while running is okay, he thinks that martial arts would put me at risk of further damage to the knee, which is unstable without an ACL, because martial arts involves torquing the knee. A knee brace wouldn't help with torquing.

I don't want to have ACL reconstruction surgery again. I simply can't afford the time away from work and life it would require right now; in any case, the doctor said the knee needs to heal before surgery, so there's no rush.

The reason my head hurts is that, while I don't want to do ACL surgery, I also do want to continue training.

My martial arts instruction got me into shape; it taught me to face up to my fears; to face up to conflict instead of avoiding it; that getting hit just means I'm still in the fight; that I can protect myself. These are all extremely important things to me, body and soul.

I could maintain my conditioning even if I gave up martial arts. But I would be leaving behind a crucial part of my life if I had to give up my school due to my injury.

I have decided to respond with patience.

I'm going to do physical therapy for a month to strengthen the muscles around the knee to compensate for the lack of an ACL. I'm going to discuss with the therapist, or perhaps even a physiatrist, what activities I can safely do.

I'm going to very carefully try to take certain martial arts classes. On Friday evening, I took a "core" class that entails a bag workout and physical and strength conditioning, but no sparring. I was very careful; my knee was a little sore afterward but fine. Oddly, one of the most difficult things in class was some of the stretching at the beginning.

I'm going to have to leave grappling behind, which I'm fine about.

I would like to carefully, carefully try out sparring, including being selective about partners. I will probably be boxing more than kickboxing--a shame since my kicks were pretty good.

I'll see how my leg does. I'll talk about my situation to doctors and others (including a remarkable classmate who does train without an ACL).

I'll give it time.

Friday, April 8, 2011

"Complete Tear of the Proximate Anterior Cruciate Ligament...."

"MRI of the right knee demonstrates a complete tear of the proximate anterior cruciate ligament with osteochondral impaction injury of the lateral condyle and bone contusion of the lateral proximal tibia. Complex tear of the posterior horn medial meniscus involving both aeticular surfaces with associated posteromedial capsular sprain and small joint effusion"

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


I got an MRI for my right knee this evening. I'll get the word from my doctor Friday morning.

My knee is definitely stronger this time around than last--it can hold me up without pain to do push-ups. So I'm thinking partial tear, maybe.

Meanwhile, I'll try out the elliptical machine at the gym at work tomorrow. And a low-key martial arts class Friday. Sensei said he would give me a workout that kept my knee safe.

Friday, April 1, 2011

three Letters

My doctor, after examining my leg today, uttered my three least favorite letters: A C L. He suspects a tear. Not to mention meniscus damage. MRI on Wednesday. I feel downcast--but still determined to find a way through. One thing I don't want: Another ACL reconstruction.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Twisted Knee

I am thinking this blog should be perhaps renamed "The Middle-Aged Martial Artist's Knee."

On Friday evening, at my sparring class, I twisted my right knee (it's the left knee that got the ACL reconstruction). It was immediately and extremely painful; I dropped to the floor on my back and had to discontinue the class.

I was sparring with a young brown belt, and I used a punch-move-kick combination I'd been working on for a few weeks. At the end of the combination, I pivot and step slightly to my right and throw what, for me anyway, is a relatively high kick--into the opponent's midsection. My younger opponent grabbed my leg (I wasn't kicking very hard) and held it.

So my entire weight was on my right knee, while I was standing, rather like a Tyrannosaurus Rex, stretched out horizontally on top of it. Either through his torque or my falling or both, my right knee torqued/twisted, and down goes Bob.

I've been resting, elevating, icing the knee and taking anti-inflammatory painkillers since then, and the knee feels better. It's still tender, hurts when twisting at all, and hurts when I bend it a significant distance.

I don't think the ACL is torn. My biggest worry is that my restricted range of motion when bending the knee suggests I've got a meniscus tear.

Injuries are always frustrating.

Right now I feel I'm in my best shape in years. I've been supplementing my martial arts training with running two or three days a week on the treadmill at the gym at work (which doesn't cut into time at home). Lately I've been trying to do interval work on the treadmill--sprint, run, sprint, etc.

My weight is down to 185-187 pounds (about 84 kg); to put into context, I'm about 6'2" or 188 cm. While my grappling has been very frustratingly bad, I've been making real strides my sparring, which is my main interest, after being on a plateau for a long time. A new assistant instructor at my school has noted my eagerness to improve and has taken me under his wing with good results.

My hope is that I will be able to return soon to running and to my martial arts classes (though I shudder to think what kneeling for grappling would feel like). I'm hoping with time I'll have less restrictions on my range of motion; already it seems to be improving, though I did try squatting this morning and had to let out a gasp when it hurt to get low.

Right now I'd really prefer not to go the route of surgery.

If anybody has any experience that could shed light on what to expect, I'd love to hear about it.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


A day off--truly off. Went to Philadelphia with wife and daughter (college break) and saw a terrific production of Swan Lake. I'm taking Monday and Tuesday off as well. Normally between the intense hours at work, the long commute (about 2:30 on a good day), training time, family time and chores, there's little time left.

I'm training three days a week, five hours; run at the office gym ontwo days I'm not training. My weight's steadily below 190 lbs. (I'm 6'2" tall) and my conditioning's good. My sparring and, even more so, grappling skills suffered when I took a couple months easy on contact due to a rib injury. Sparring is coming back; really trying to work on a strong guard, getting angles, moving. Grappling, which doesn't come as natural will take longer. I need more flexibility,especially in my hips.

Most of all, my instructors are telling me to RELAX. In grappling, it's easier to control a board than Jell-o. In sparring, relaxing will allow me to think, move and respond better.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Missing Class

I feel slightly guilty for missing class tonight, and annoyed at the demands work and, in particular, my commute placed on me today. Technically, I coud have grabbed my gear when I walked in the door and made it to class. But I hadn't eaten dinner, I was exhausted from a hellish, long winter commute in the morning, and I wanted to spend time with my wife. So I called in and missed class and had dinner with my wife. I realize it sets back my training but it felt necessary tonight.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A (Long) Day In The Life

Got up early, 5 AM, to get to work early. Walked through the snow with my MMA gear and caught an early train; in the office about 6:45.Long busy day. Hoped to leave work in time to meet my wife for a light dinner before training; no luck. Hoped to leave work early enough to make it to the first of two classes; no luck. Now on the way to the second, 8:15 class. Then it's back home to crash. TGIF.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

10 Years on the Martial Arts Path

I started my current martial arts journey 10 years ago this month.

My primary quest was better health; I was overweight and gaining pounds, my cholesterol was out of whack, I was easily winded and I no longer enjoyed the joy of movement I had felt so intensely as a young man in pursuits like basketball. A few weeks prior, I had a scare when a bit of skin cancer was cut off my ankle. It made me realize that bad things can happen to me, and I needed to get healthy.

Except for a few months out of commission due to my ACL tear and surgery, I've pretty much continuously been on the martial path since then. I'm meeting my health goals; I've lost 25 pounds from when I started, my good and bad cholesterol are in good shape, I've got stamina to keep up with the young guys in class. All this makes me feel good about myself.

But my martial arts school has become more than a way to be in shape. It's become a central part of my life; when things work out, I go to class three days a week for five hours of training, and I cross train by running on two other days. Some of my best friends I met at my school.

To my complete surprise, I discovered that I enjoy the sport and contact element (within limits) of training. It's life-affirming to face up to my fears, and to push the boundary of how hard I can exert myself.

It's an antidepressant and a stress reliever. There's no time for running through anxieties in my mind when I'm pushing my body as hard as it can go, or sparring or grappling with challenging opponents. When I'm done, I often feel not just tired, but calmer, more optimistic.

And it also appeals to my desire to keep improving and learning. It's a never-ending challenge.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

End of Vacation; Fighting

Alas, tomorrow the work week begins after two weeks off. I'll miss having so much time with my family.

I will return to training after taking one week off (I did train hard the week of Christmas), though I'm going to stay away from sparring and grappling for a bit more to be sure my rib is healed.

Martial arts blogger John Vesia had an interesting post back in November, which I'm only finding now, about boxers who could have been martial artists. It stimulated an interesting discussion about whether boxing is a martial art (many of his readers didn't think so), and whether fighting arts are martial arts. There's a boxing coach, Christy Halbert, author of The Ultimate Boxer, who makes the interesting argument that a boxing match isn't a fight because the boxers aren't angry at each other; they often have tremendous respect for their opponents in the ring.

An interesting perspective; but not the one in the movie The Fighter, which I watched today. Christian Bale in particular puts in a virtuoso performance as Micky Ward's crack-head brother. There's plenty of anger, and more fighting in the two brothers' family than there is in the ring. The crazy family dynamic, and Micky Ward's (Mark Wahlberg) effort to balance his needs with his need for his crazy family is the center of the movie.

Bale's performance was disturbing to me since it was reminiscent of a person I love who has a similar troubled personality though, thank God, not the addiction the character has. A very powerful movie.