First year, ACL Recovery

Better late than never

Two and a half months late, really.   So this is, in fact, a 14.5 month report.

And yes, yes, I know.  I’ve been neglectful.  I have commited the cardinal sin of blogging:   I haven’t posted for a long, long time.

It’s not that I haven’t been meaning to.  I have.  Really.  Every weekend I think I’ll get up early and write the next installment of this ACL saga.   I have had the desire.  And I’ve had the will, too.  What I didn’t have was something definite to write, good, bad or indifferent.  But I think that has finally changed. Ladies and gentleman, I give you. . .

. . .the (Mostly) Recovered Knee

For the first time in a good long while, I’ve begun to think my knee will make it back to karate.  Oh, it’s been to class a couple of times, sure.  But even a year after surgery it just wasn’t performing that well and wouldn’t extend fully, throwing off my kicks at the start and at the finish. Plus, it would start hurting fairly frequently.   The pain around the harvest area — that tendinits/bursitis — had been dogging me since the surgery.    Until recently.

Now, I’m not saying that I’m 100 percent yet.  Extension still isn’t perfect, and I can feel the knee dancing on the edge tendinitis during certain exercies.  But I have learned a few dos and don’ts that seem to be making a big, big difference:

  1. Avoid leg presses.  At least for now, they seem to really irritate the tendinits.
  2. Avoid certain stretches.  These include splits and others that stretch out the inside of the leg.
  3. Don’t juggle a soccer ball on a hard floor.   While this one seems pretty obivous, juggling on a grassy field seems to be perfectly fine.
  4. Heel slides.  Do your heel slides.  Remember them from just before and after surgery?  Well, now I know the importance of this exercise. It’s quite remarkable, but the more I do these, the better my knee feels.  It’s almost a miracle cure.

‘Sweeping’ changes

Over the past few weeks, I’d been feeling more and more hopeful about the knee.  But last Sunday, I executed a sweep that I could not have done just last month. The sweep is part of our first knife kata. Starting with the left knee up and the right knee down, the right leg sweeps out across the front while the left takes on the kneel.

I’ve avoided doing this move since the surgery.  But there I was on Sunday in the kneel just before the sweep and, well, there it was.  I knew I could do it and I did. After all this long time, it was a wonderful moment.

And now for the shoulder

Now that the knee is getting better, it’s on to the shoulder, which has never recovered from my overly eager attempt at swimming.  I have trouble reaching above my head or extending my arm forward and rotating wrist (which sometimes makes driving a car a pain).  At times it has even bothered my sleep.  Rehab exercises helped only intermittantly, and the doctor started to think there might be some torn cartilage.  An MRI showed only low-grade tendon tears in the rotator cuff, so surgery is not needed (thankfully).  But it does mean months of more physical therapy and lots of specific weight-lifting exercises.  Who knows, but by the end of this I might have a working shoulder and a fair amount of muscle.

Yeah, but what about the karate?

For the time being, I’m easing my way back into karate,  going twice a week with limits on what I can do.  No sparring.  No mat work.  No overhead blocks or strikes.  Basically, I’ve been working on getting my kicks back in shape and doing lots of one-armed kata.

It’s kind of fun and challenging doing the kata this way.  Except for niage/naihanchi kata.  Trying to do those one-armed is just plain weird.   I think this is because they are the first katas to have a good number of asymmetrical strikes where both hands are working together, but not in straight counterbalance.  It’s as if the brain views them as one strike together and so has trouble figuring out which part the good hand should be doing.  It’s absurdly frustrating at times.

In fact, frustration has been my main emotion in regard to karate over the past few months.   But I am indeed returning to my early hopefulness.  With any luck, I’ll be back at karate full scale by the end of the summer.

Cross those fingers.