“Blech.” That was the comment I’d received in response to one of the techniques I was demonstrating during my rank exam. And to be honest, that’s how I was feeling about the evening. “Blech.”
As performances go, it wasn’t really that bad. It just wasn’t that great, either. At least, not for someone looking to reach the next level of brown.
But the worst was yet to come. During a series of self-defenses, some of which were “blech” and few right on, it happened. I was trying to execute a relatively simple hip throw. I’d been having trouble with it recently, though I’d done it once so perfectly a few nights before that I literally swore out loud. I was just so easy and I’d been making it so hard. (Raise your hand if that sounds familiar.)
So during the exam, when I came up short on the technique the first time, I clenched my abs as I done those few nights before and rotated my hips. Only, it went wrong. Badly wrong. There were loud pops, and I went down.
“Did you hear that?” I asked my partner.
“Your knee?” he inquired back.
“Yep,” I said. And I knew it almost immediately. I’d torn my ACL. This Thursday had just earned an honorific. I suppose I could call it a “Black” Thursday. But it was the “Blech” that did me in. It was a black “Blech” Thursday.
So, here I am now — six weeks later — my first day after surgery, laying leg up with a laptop, a stack of books and DVDs, my iPod, and a couple of bottles of pain killers. It’s a little vacation, right?
To be honest, it hasn’t been too, too bad for me. The injury was nearly painless. The worst part was watching a video of the injury (yep, it’s on film) and seeing my knees drooping inward in the poor excuse for a horse stance that allowed my hips to go one way and my left knee the other. I wince whenever I think of it. Such a spectacular result for such a “blech” cause.
Even so, I feel lucky. Lucky to have done this nowadays, when the surgery is so routine and the ultimate result so positive. Lucky also to be living in a college town with a hefty athletics program and one of the best arthroscopic surgeons in the country. And lucky to have been studying martial arts for the past few years. I can’t imagine having to do this without the leg and core strength, flexibility, and balance that I’ve built up. Yes, I did this in karate, but I do believe that it’ll be karate that gets me through.
Today is day two of my recovery. On Monday, I start physical therapy, which I’ve been forewarned will be the hardest part. At one point, I was joking with one of our blackbelt instructors that I’ll need another kind of therapy with my knee: couples therapy. My knee and I are going to need to learn to trust each other again. It’s going to want me to not put it in jeopardy, and I’ll need to know that I can trust it to keep me stable. It’s going to be a long haul.
So, this is therapy, too. This blog. I can’t begin to say how helpful it was to discover the blogs of those martial artists in my position, HackShaft, Middle-aged Martial Artist, Michelle, and especially Black Belt Mama, and to follow their stories, each at different stages, of recovery.
So, I’m adding my voice to the small chorus of martial artists making their comebacks from this all too common injury. Hopefully, it’ll help someone else, too. And maybe, it’ll evolve into something bigger, a look beyond this momentary period of blues on the way to a black belt and beyond.