My foot’s fixed :)

In awesome news, I managed to get my prosthetic foot enclosure fixed yesterday! Is very awesome, I’m extremely chuffed! While the fusion they did to hold the busted one together has actually proved to be extremely good in light of things (especially seeing it yesterday off the foot – I’ve got it as a just-in-case [better to have a busted enclosure than none at all]), that inherent weakness in the toes has now been eliminated.

This was all very good in the grand scheme of things, as last night I ended up doing an impromptu karate training session. Normally between classes I’ll do weights and some light bag work, but last night after doing my usual warm-up and strengthening exercises, I was really getting into the bag work and had a good look at my surroundings where I train at home, shuffled some things around, and started doing my basic drills as I had enough room to go up and down 5 paces as per the usual class stuff. After doing that, I shuffled a couple of other things around, and ended up making just enough space to accommodate a slightly cramped kata. I know that I need work on focus, breathing and technique (I’ve got the pattern down reasonably well at this point), so I deliberately took it slow and methodical in approach. Turned out to be a really good session – after one or two run-throughs I started hitting that quasi-meditative state you can find when doing kata, constantly practicing slowly but with an emphasis on correct, deliberate and focused technique (and breathing – the neighbours probably weirded out if they were able to hear me :P). I’m not sure how often I repeated my kata, but on the last two I sped up the sequence in order to move into a more dynamic form. At the end of it I came inside exhausted, sweaty but definitely stoked ๐Ÿ˜€

The cool thing is that hopefully my little re-arrangement of some of my equipment will mean I can do this more often, which will be a huge help.

In other news, the weekend saw some back-to-back movie awesomeness – Saturday night saw Wifey and I sitting down to the schlocky awesomeness that is Best of the Best, and on Sunday I indulged in the utterly sublime Kuro Obi (Black Belt). Will dedicate some posts to both of these films during the week, as they offer extremely polarised takes on martial arts in films ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Cool prosthesis stuff

I got a couple of e-mails from Jesse over at Martial Arts Explorer this week (check out his blog, it’s awesome!), and one of them linked to a recent post over on Engadget, a site that I had totally forgot to check out on a semi-regular basis for cool new developments for prosthetic limbs. The post in particular he pointed me to was Ossur’s new (v2 I guess) Power Knee:

Ossur's Power Knee

Engadget’s writeup can be found here, and Ossur’s press release on their website can be found here. This awesome piece of tech got me to thinking about technology and limbs and stuff, and how the landscape continues to change and evolve over time. The first time I ever saw some technology beyond the basic socket + hinge-knee + rubber foot was back in… 1993 I think, when I was 11. I was having one of my usual visits to my specialist with my Dad, and one of the guys who looked after my leg showed my Dad and I this video on these crazy new knees that had hydraulics inside them to do all sorts of cool stuff. At this time we didn’t have the money to go this route, and since I was so young anyway, the money spent would have been devoured since you’d require constant upgrades to the knee as I grew older. The idea never went away though ๐Ÿ™‚

In 2000 I got my first hydraulic knee thanks to my folks, as I made my first leap beyond my conventional prosthesis into something a bit more contemporary. I’d finished growing by that point, so I made the move from a loose socket to a suction one, ditched the molded plaster lower-leg for a titanium rod with a foam cover, and moved from a free-swinging hinge to a hydraulic unit. The change was absolutely enormous, it really was huge. Moving away from the belt mechanism that used to hold my leg onto my body was a bit tricky at first, but there’s no comparison to a good suction leg, and I’ve had one ever since. I’m no longer using a hydraulic knee as I find my current pneumatic one a better fit for me – it’s more reactive and stable so its prefect for martial arts training, and more importantly its supported by the government, so it isn’t costing me anything in terms of upkeep or replacement. Without government support, the unit would be setting me back $2000, and I hate to imagine how much I’d be costing if maintenance wasn’t covered as part of it. One thing Australia has so right is its universal health care system, and I’m continuously thankful that the government continues to support amputees and look after us.

But I’ll leave my own tech for a post some time in the future – I want to talk about some of the cooler stuff out there. I was lucky enough to get a test-drive of Otto Bock’s awesome C-Leg a few years back, if only for maybe half an hour, and the thing was just amazing. Within 5 minutes I was jogging around, climbing up and down ramps and stairs, walking over gravel and uneven slopes, and the feeling was just… unbelievable. Unfortunately the price is well and truly beyond our means ($40k – $60k I think is the figure you’re looking at), and while it would be awesome to have one, to be quite honest I’m a bit pragmatic when it comes to large sums of money, and if I had $40k – $60 up my sleeve, I’d rather put it on my mortgage and continue with my current setup on my prosthesis – if it ain’t broke, I guess why fix it????

Still, it’s an awesome piece of kit!

Still on the topic of cool of cool tech, I found the following on Engadget as well:

Welcome to the future

Hans Alexander Huseklepp's

To quote the source, “The concept “immaculate” from Hans Alexander Huseklepp explores the idea of turning a handicap into a high-performance, cybernetic fashion statement”. Seriously, if this is the future of limbs, sign me up, that’s awesome. I think the idea that they talk about in the original article that Engadget reported on (playmedesign, click here for the story and more pics) is to look at a prosthesis not as a substitute, but an opportunity and a fashion statement. One of the comments on the playmedesign website quotes the following:

“As of today prosthetics are technological skeletons covered in silicone. They imitate the look of a natural arm perfectly, but as soon as someone touches it one realize itโ€™s a prosthetic. The consequence is then a phenomenon researchers call โ€œThe Uncanny Valleyโ€, whereas something is so lifelike the realization of it being artificial leads to shock and revulsion”

And you know what, I like that rationale. When I was younger, I never used to like wearing shorts (well, once crazy pubescent self-consciousness hit anyways, so from about the age of 12 onwards), because the leg was so obviously fake. When I started going out with my then-girlfriend (now Wifey), she eventually got me into thinking about trying to wear shorts again (you know, ’cause it kinda gets warm here in Australia during summer :P). I figured that if I was going to do this, I’m going to make a statement, be proud and unobtrusive, and remove the foam padding that wraps around the titanium pole. Was a bit weird at first, but it now feels natural to wear it like that with the titanium pole exposed (it’s also better for movement, gives the knee a bit more free movement). I still use the foam padding when wearing trousers/jeans to assist in protecting the material and keeping the shape that the material’s been cut for, but when I wear shorts, the foam padding comes off. It was actually quite liberating (and still is) to do this, and while you get plenty of looks (especially from the kids, which is all good because that’s the beauty with kids, they’re just curious and I think that’s awesome), it’s never thrown off my confidence.

… and with that, I’m going to wrap up this essay ๐Ÿ˜› If you’re keen on keeping up with what’s being tagged on Engadget, I’ve made a direct link to all their prosthesis news items here, and have also added it to the links in the sidebar. Again, big thanks to Jesse for sending through the links that got me onto Engadget and inspired this post – cheers mate!

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The importance of breakfalls as an amputee (read: I fell over, and didn’t mangle myself this time :P)

Hmmm, definitely a candidate for “longest heading ever” on this blog ๐Ÿ˜›

Anywho, just a quick one to start off this morning – last night while getting ready for bed my stupid foot decided to weird out and my leg collapsed beneath me out of nowhere, throwing myself flat on my back without warning. In what is a pretty crazy outcome, the brief breakfall training I’ve had instinctively came into play without even thinking about it – I tucked my head in, braced my belly to reinforce my lower back, stuck my arm out and went with the flow of the movement rather than trying to fight it. The end result was that I ended up on my back, but didn’t crack my head against any hard objects (a bit of a miracle fluke if you ask me) or wind myself. Mind, I was trying to come to bed discreetly as my wife was asleep and I was trying to avoid waking her up (especially as I got distracted doing stuff online instead of being a dutiful husband and coming to bed earlier ;)), but wake up she did – bolted upright in a freakout-ish state of mind. First thing I said was “I’m not hurt”, but think about it – how trippy would it be that you suddenly snap awake despite being deeply asleep to see your other half just collapse without warning and for no apparent reason? I think she did better than I would have to be completely honest, maybe after all these years she’s starting to well and truly expect the unexpected with my ability to fall over at will ๐Ÿ˜›

Thankfully now that its the next day, I don’t think I’ve sported any injuries. So far my muscles are a bit achy, which could also be due to training on Wednesday night, and one of my wrists is a little sore, but apart from that I’m fine. I’m just damn lucky that I didn’t hit my head or back against anything on the way down. Will totally be calling and making an appointment asap sometime during the day, the last thing we need is for me to tempt fate any further with this mangled foot!

So, moral of this story – learning proper breakfalls for the general populace is definitely a good thing, but for amputees who might be a little accident prone like yours truly, they might just be an essential technique in your toolkit for scenarios like this. I’m just so glad that Sensei had us work on them last month, came in very handy!!!

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Trained last night, and I busted my foot up again!!!

Well, I finally went back into training last night, and it was awesome ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m a bit sore today because I tried to push myself as far as I could, but it was definitely worth it. There’s a grading on this weekend, but I’m definitely in need of further practice so I won’t be attending. At the moment the biggest thing I want to work on is my kata – I have pretty much the basic form sorted out for Heian Nidan (though, let’s be honest – it isn’t really all that complicated to begin with compared to other, higher-grade kata), now its moving to refine my technique. The biggest problem I had last night was my breathing. I’m generally/reasonably good with controlling and utilising my breathing during training, especially kata, but I just didn’t find my center with it last night, there wasn’t the natural flow I aim to achieve. Sensei made the comment that I looked like I was going to explode some times because I wasn’t regulating my technique correctly, and looking back on it immediately afterwards and again tonight, he was definitely on the ball.

In the past, I’ve tackled this by slowing my kata right down, focused on the detail, rhythm, breathing and visualisation of each technique’s application, and would repeat until hitting that crazy, transcended state you sometimes get through really good, focused kata. I don’t get it every time, but when it hits it really makes you appreciate the continual uses of kata, not only as a test for form and the key to technique usage/application, but as a means to use physical movements as a form of meditation.

The other bemusing thing that happened last night was that I ended up splitting open my foot enclosure again, and I think I’ve started splitting it open in a second spot as well! Ah well, serves me right for not being super pro-active in calling up and making an appointment to see if the replacement’s in. Will have to do as such tomorrow and get it fit asap. I stumbled a couple of times as the foot crumpled up beneath me, but I didn’t seriously injure myself or any of the other students, so at least that was good!

Oh, and I dragged Jyastin-kun along to training last night and by the sounds of it he really enjoyed himself. If he’s keen to continue training with our school, will be good to have him come along as he used to be an excellent training partner at our previous club, so we’ll see how it goes!

For those checking out the blog on a semi-regular basis, apologies for being a bit slack with posting this week, it’s been busier than I anticipated. I’ll make sure to get another one added tomorrow so I can at least the lower-portion of my average, which is two posts a week!

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My foot’s still mangled :P

Well, dropped into the leg people yesterday to get them to do some work. Y’know, like a car service, but for a leg. I reckon I should slap on one of those “Your next service is due by June 2009, or 5,000 kms” on my leg. That way I’d be a bit better in getting it serviced regularly ๐Ÿ˜€

Anywho, the new foot enclosure is still on its way, at this stage it looks like I should have it done before Wednesday next week, which is good as I’m driving Wifey up the wall at the moment from walking around the house doing karate. Due to the foot I haven’t done anything too stupid (like running up and down the hallway doing jumping side kicks :P), just punches, shuto and the occasional kick. It’s now been three weeks since my last class, and I’m starting to worry about the quality of my kata, so I’ve started going through it in my head every now and again and trying to visualise it and train the pattern in my brain that way. In the meantime with my foot, they’ve fused the toes back onto the rest of the enclosure which should abate any paranoia I have about them breaking off entirely if I keep to my currently level of activity. They also serviced the knee while I was there – I hadn’t snapped the spring this time, but it was given a thorough once-over and its working much nicer now.

Anywho, in general training news stuff, I manage to squeeze back up to 50kg on the bench on Wednesday night, which was good (I could only get to about 46kg the night before). I was going to do weights last night as well, but the week’s catching up already so I gave it a miss as I had a few other things to do after work anyhows. So this ends my first week of minimal reps/maximum weights that I wrote about earlier on after reading Jesse’s blog. Obviously it’s still early days, but I enjoyed the challenge this week, and we’ll see how it translates into my usual training regime for next week. In the long run, I’m hoping it will be a positive addition to my between-class training.

More importantly, hopefully I’ll be able to get to class next week!

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