“Blech” Thursday

“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 belt.

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, lying leg up with a laptop, a stack of books and DVDs, my iPod, and a couple of bottles of painkillers. 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 black belt 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.


5 Responses

  1. Wow! You’re extremely well composed for being two days post surgery. I wish you nothing but the best and am glad to know I’ve helped you some. Those muscle twitches are the worst during those first two weeks. Don’t let anyone bump your foot either. Same type of personal hell. ;-)

    I’ll be watching.

  2. “Yes, I did this in karate, but I do believe that it’ll be karate that gets me through.”

    I felt the same way. Throughout my recovery, I stayed focused on the end result, which was a strong, stable knee. The day after my surgery, I knew that I was on my way back to karate.

    You are on your way! Good luck with your recovery!

  3. Don’t forget about us non-MA, ACL recoveries too. Speed of recovery and pain of recovery are all what you make of it. The more the swelling and the longer you go with no movement the worse everything is. (Based on experiences #1 vs #3)

    I’m glad I don’t have video of mine. I watched both my elbows get dislocated (separate events) in Wrestling and I watched each video once and only once.

  4. Jed, you’re absolutely right. Seeing everything from an MA perspective seems to be one of the effects of studying one.

    Good advice about moving early, though I’m still figuring out just how much to move and how much to rest. Probably worth a post at some point.

    So, if I got this right, you’ve had 3 ACL injuries (which I knew about from your blog), 2 elbow disclocations, and now your thumb? How DO you find the time? ;-)

    Yeah, I watched the video maybe 3 times. I saw what I needed to see, which is good, but I don’t plan on watching it again.

  5. […] a good warm up.  They’ve been apart for more than four months now, ever since that fateful Blech Thursday.   The effect is still only temporary; by the time I’m ready to go home or get to work, […]

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