Kick the can

One of my physical therapy assistants likes to entertain her clients (and herself) by picking on them, lightheartedly cajoling them during their exercises or pretending that her tasks are overly burdensome.   It’s all in good fun, really, but I once told her that the only reason she does this is because most of us pose no physical threat.  Even if she really angered one of us, she can quite easily move out of our range of motion.  “Just wait until I can move again,” I said as she was feigning impatience with my lack of speed.  “You’re gonna get kicked.”   She laughed at that, and we decided that, a la Kwai Chang Caine snatching the marble from Master Kan, when I can do that, it will be ‘time for me to go’.  

It’ll still be quite awhile before that happens, but I did recently make a small step toward that goal.  Sort of.

I should mention that one of the great things about studying a martial art is the sharpened sense you develop of the physical space around you and the movements of others.   Outside of the dojo, this is useful for many things, such as working with someone in a small space, like a kitchen, where you make lots of quick movements, often with hot or sharp objects.  Or with the simple act of picking up something that’s fallen near a table where you’re liable to hit your head, if you’re not careful.

Since my injury, though, I’ve noticed that this sense of space has diminished somewhat for me, and I’ve banged my head more times in the last two months than in the previous three years.  Mostly, the only results have been a bit of pain and some mild chagrin, but it did hit a comical note a few days ago when I was working on my physical therapy excersices at my gym.

I was balancing with my injured leg on one of those the soft blue TheraBand stability pads (like the ones you see being used at right) and reaching out with my good leg in four directions.   I’d positioned myself away from traffic near a trash can and was concentrating on a focal point and on bringing up my knee as a high as possible between each reach.  I was starting to feel pretty confident in my balance, so I decided to also extend as high as possible.   Kick forward high.  Kick oblique high.  Kick side high. Trash can.  Bang! Ooops.

It was classic lesson in spacing and targeting. Aiming down I wasn’t reaching that can. But with little upward adjustment, bingo! A more than palpable hit. Sure it was embarrassing. It turned a lot of heads, and I certainly felt like it was something shouldn’t have caught me off guard.

But you know what?  It felt kind of good, too :-)


4 Responses

  1. Having spent 7 months off the mat and behind the glass of my karate school, I forgot how big it actually feels out there when I returned.

    I also forgot how much energy is burned ‘just’ doing forms! Glad to hear you’re making great progress in your balance.

    Next time try it outdoors, away from garbage cans…

  2. Doesn’t it feel good to do something reminiscent of your preferred sport? My favorite part of PT is the balancing on the bad leg and kicking the good leg with resistance bands. My body definitely remembers the kicking motions and appreciates the feeling!

  3. Hack Shaft,

    Yeah I’ve kind of found out the hard way how much energy katas burn. I’ve gained a little weight since my injury. The aerobic machines, balancing squats, and now even swimming help, but seem to be no match from my karate regimen.


    Indeed! I saw a young lady doing a similar drill at the gym, but she was focusing on curling the free leg around the supporting one in all directions. I think that may be the way you’re supposed to do it, but I prefer mine because I get to “do” my front, side, and mule kicks. It feels like it helps me stay sharp.


  4. I enjoyed reading your trash can tale.

    It sounds like you are progressing well with your PT. My regime did not include many one-leg balance exercises. Looking back, I am sure that they would have helped with my kicks and my cat stance.

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