Injury and slowing down

ODan Test

The picture to the left was taken during my O Dan (5th Degree Black Belt) Test. At the time, I had just turned 50 years old and was in the best "shape" I'd been in years. It was the strongest Black Belt test I've taken to date. Each time I had tested for a Black Belt rank change, my demonstration was stronger and my personal abilities had improved (overall). Sure, my "jump kicks" were a bit higher at 35 years old and testing for Cho Dan (1st Degree Black Belt), but I developed a much greater understanding of kicking technique and execution with each passing year of focused training.

Since that test, I've had two stints placed in my heart (genetic issues), a Total Knee Replacement (TKR) due to severe knee injuries in high school football, hospitalization for a severe case of pancreatitis (if you've never had it, you do NOT want it...ever) and recently a ruptured quadricep tendon in the same leg as the TKR that required surgical repair and an extensive regiment of physical therapy. I will turn 58 in a few months.

So, can I continue to train and teach the martial arts at an effective level after injury and as I age ? If you asked me that question on May 26th right after I ruptured my quadricep tendon, I probably would have given you a less than optimistic answer (since I could literally no longer lift my leg or move it). When you sit in a leg brace locked at 180 degrees for 8 weeks and can't move your leg, you have "time to think". Feel sorry for yourself, that's ok, but then figure out what you'll do next and start working on that.  Skipping the "pity party" is productive, but sometimes you need to process those emotions and then put them away versus letting them fester for years.

I can't train in martial arts at all right now.  I can hardly walk without a brace and cane, yet I see almost daily improvement.  I "push" at physical therapy while following the precise guidelines of the expert (the therapist).  When I'm finished with a PT session, I'm sweating and breathing hard.  Most folks are reading books and not really putting out much effort.  Sadly, their recovery will reflect that attitude and effort.

I asked my surgeon after my TKR, what range of motion can I expect out of my knee ?  He said, "135 degrees is what the prosthetic knee will safely handle.".  Yes sir....I got 135 degrees from the knee before I was discharged from PT.  I had the same surgeon for the tendon repair...same question...he said "Probably 120 degrees is a good safe mark so you can protect that tendon from another rupture.".  Yes sir....I have 110 degrees right now with horrible strength behind it. I have a lot of work to do...but I WILL hit 120 degrees and I WILL rebuild my leg strength.

Teaching Tang Soo Do and holding the title of Sa Bom Nim is something "I am"...it's not something "I do".  I have young Black Belts that hold National Titles in Black Belt Sparring.  Can I "beat them" in a sparring match...probably not.  I've told them for years, "You are younger, faster, stronger....and I'm older, slower, fatter...but wiser".  I've taught them well...now they are "wiser" too.  Guess what ?? that's the natural order of things.  Is anyone really surprised that a young 20 something Black Belt can move faster and stronger than the almost 60 year old Black Belt ?  

I will note one characteristic that I still possess in much greater abundance than my young Black Belts --- I've been hit...hard...I've broken bones and continued to fight (and win)...I stood up with a fractured skull and both bones in my left arm broken.  I walked out of the demonstration where I rupted my quadricep tendon under my own power.  I have experience.  I've been "tested" and passed.  I didn't do these things to prove anything or impress anyone...I did them because I could.  I don't like to quit.  I "accept the discipline of the achievable...but I will get everything out of the effort".

I have new lessons to teach my students.  They need to be humble and always strive to help others.  I can help them develop some "character" and "toughness" when it matters.  I've pushed a young woman Black Belt in my school hard over the years.  I've hit her hard in sparring matches -- controlled and within limits...but hard none the less.  She now knows what it feels like to be hit by an adult man.  She literally is half my weight and size...she once caught me off balance and shifting my stance...she knocked me down.  She now "knows" she can hit hard.  I've knocked the wind out of her a few times...she now knows how to avoid that experience and how terrible that would be in a real fight.  She has a "toughness" that is not easily learned.  I coached and taught her for many years.  Soon, we will all send her off to college --- probably the most dangerous environment in our society for a young woman.  She is ready.  She is prepared. No guarantees...but she has a strong fighting chance.  As an aside...she is also very good with a handgun.  She out shoots many of the grown men I shoot against in competitive shooting competitions.

As we age, we have much to offer the younger generation.  We have skills and abilities they often don't yet appreciate.  Sometimes the younger folks aren't receptive to our teaching, but give them time and understanding.  They will learn.

Experience is often what you get when you don't get what you wanted !!!!

I can't wait to start training and teaching again at Aim and Focus Karate.  

Tang Soo !!!!!

Sa Bom Nim

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