It’s a double-bacon gimped leg burger!

Injury + injury + injury = Cranky Sean.

But hey, at least I’m blogging!

You’ll have to indulge a slightly grumpy post, as I’m a bit grumpy tonight. I was warming up in prep for class, as I do every time before class. I’ve found doing a full round of leg stretches before class allows me to push my legs farther than I would in class since it doesn’t matter if I break the suction seal on my leg, which will normally happen a few times when doing a full round of leg stretching πŸ™‚

Anywho, I was doing this and checked up on my foot, and you know what? I’ve gone and split the bloody toes on my foot shell again! Wifey said to stand up and try a few techniques to see how stable I was; sure enough, the thing’s gimped (i.e. I fell over) πŸ˜› It doesn’t provide much of a problem when I’m in shoes or stomping around the house, but as soon as I roll into some exercise (especially when doing partner work!) that puts pressure on the “toes” of the foot, it’s just too easy to mangle myself or inadvertently injure my training partner.

The frustrating part is that this has come after two more weeks of missed classes – two weeks back I sliced open one of my fingers (don’t laugh!) trying to put away an airing tray in the baking tray drawer when it got caught between the sharp end bits on the wire of the airing tray and the raw wood on the cabinet. This meant that I couldn’t perform locks/holds with one of my hands, let alone form a fist!

Then last week I had an infected sore on the base of my stump that I ended up having to lance and drain in order to relieve the pressure. Normally I can heal up overnight when I do this, but this one required a bit of extra love as it turned out to be 2-3 infected sores close together once I opened it up and all three needed draining and a little bit of extra time to recover. Thankfully I had the week off work (took some much overdue annual leave from the office for a break) and could take it easy, but still, it meant that I missed another week of training.

So yeah, three weeks of inconvenient setbacks to heading back to the dojo.

Still, it’s not like I’m in a rush or anything, it’s just that I really enjoy training and martial arts and can see how it has had such a positive effect on my condition, and when I miss successive weeks of training due to issues with my leg, it’s frustrating.

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Catching up on what’s been happening

I thought I’d make my first proper post a bit of a catchup on what’s been happening with me over the last couple of months πŸ™‚

I’ve been training on and off since mid-late November due to a handful of injuries that have been rolling my way, probably the most persistent of which has been my stump’s ongoing issues since November. It actually started after I took our dog out for a walk after Wifey and I caught up with my brother and sister-in-law for a weekender, and ended up mangling the back of my stump. This wasn’t a biggie at first because I thought I’d just done some minor surface damage to the stump, but it ended up turning out to be more serious and on-going than I first imagined.

What ended up happening only started to get resolved maybe a month ago – what had happened was to do with some foam padding added to what’s called the “seat” of the prosthesis. This is the part of the socket that comes up to the base of your arse cheek and forms a foundation to hold your weight when you walk – by doing this, it means the weight and pressure of your body is spready out on your bum (which is handy, because it’s cushiony and generally has a large surface area!) and along the bottom of your stump, which can only physically take so much repeated pressure/impacts before struggling to hold your weight.

Anywho, because I’m pretty active, a while back my specialist put some tough foam-like padding (only a few mm thick) along the back of the seat of the prosthesis to soften the cutting-like impact walking was having on my socket liner. This is a good thing btw, more cushion = less direct impact. The issue was that a while ago, part of the foam padding broke off and I ignored it, because at first it wasn’t making a difference. However, after that long walk with our dog it happened to grind away so much skin that it caused an open wound (at the time though, I didn’t realise the extent of the damage). Roll on to December and I had two weeks off work over the x-mas break, which was great for my leg because I kept the prosthesis off for the most part. However, jumping back into work and all the goodies that comes with my work ethic, and again I had problems with my leg. It was getting very, very frustrating!

My lightbulb moment came in February – after getting into my socket and feeling the familiar soreness on the back of my stump, I put my finger between the liner and the socket where the pain was comgin from and took a look, and the exact spot where the sore happened to be was on the torn edge of the foam backing! Following this revelation, I made an appointment and had my specialist remove the offending material and replace it. The effect was immediate, and for the first time in months, my stump is slowly healing itself.

So, because of this in particular, training has been really erratic – I’ve only done a handful of classes this year so far, and am nowhere ready to grade next month (I also missed out the December grading due to the issues knocking me out solidly from November 2009 until the new year, so that’s two in a row as we generally hold gradings quaretly throughout the year), so I’ve been working on training at about 80% so as not to damage the stump. I’ve managed to do classes for the last two weeks without too much trouble, and for the last three weeks I’ve been able to finally get back into the yard as well and work on revamping the garden. Things are definitely looking up!

So, I’m at a good place at the moment. Over the course of my break form training, I also took the opportunity to do some reading on martial arts – I read Patrick and Yuriko McCarthy’s translated works on Gichin Funakoshi and Motobu Choki (regulars will know I’ve mentioned him when referring to Koryu Uchinadi Kenpo-jutsu and the International Ryukyu Karate-jutsu Research Society in the past – you can check out their website here, and read more on the books themselves here), finally read Tom Cleary’s translation of Miyamoto Musashi’s Book of Five Rings (more info on the translation is at Musashi Miyamoto.com) and a translation of the Hagakure (can’t recall the translator for this one) – Wifey actually bought me those last two as a gift, isn’t she awesome? Down the road I’m planning on writing up something on my impressions of these books so that others interested in them can see some of my thoughts on them, being inspired by the martial arts book reviews section on Black Belt Mama’s website.

There’s been some other stuff happening as well on the injury front, but I’ll save that for another post in order to keep this one a little more focused!

Anywho, expect more regular updates form now on, I promise!

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Hakutsuru, the white crane – classical karate style with techniques that only use one leg?

Matt over at Ikigai Way dropped off an awesome comment on my recent whinge about mangling my stump. He provided some information and links to a classical style of karate – Hakutsuru or the White Crane – that his instructor has trained in. Apart from the fact that it’s an interesting style of karate to study due to the heavy Chinese influence in its forms vs the comparatively rigid styling of modern styles like Shotokan (note I mean “modern” as used in the “post-modern”/Japanese post-modernism sense, and not in the misuse of the word in place of the word “contemporary”), it also features techniques that only utilise one leg!

For those unaware of what Hakutsuru looks like performed as a kata, Matt posted a couple of vids that I’m going to pinch and post up here as well:

First up is Seikichi Odo, who moves around with amazing skill despite his age: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iD78dP428ec (I can’t embed that one by request of the author, but please check it out, some amazing stuff in there).

The second one is of Matayoshi Shinpo:

Being the super champ he is, Matt even fired across a link to the Okinawa Hakutsuru Kenpo White Crane Association’s website, and in particular the articles written on the topic China and the Origins of Okinawan White Crane Kenpo (Part 1 and Part 2). I haven’t had a chance to do more than quickly skim through their site, but by plonking the links up here, I’m hoping it’ll remind to go through it in much more detail when I get a chance.

Since I’m curious about what I might be able to learn and apply from their style to me as an amputee, I’m going to drop them an e-mail to see if they can recommend any particular part of their literature or offer any advice on this one. I’ll post back with an update on how I go!

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On self-defense with a walking stick

Patrick over at Mokuren Dojo fired across an e-mail to me the other day about a post he wrote on tantojutso (a walking-cane adjunct to SMR jojutsu). Given the state of my stump at the moment (read more here), I’m currently using my walking stick where practical to get around the place, which meant Patrick’s post was eerily relevant to me πŸ™‚

In 2008 I experimented with learning some stick fighting principles as an adjunct to my usual karate training. While the style wasn’t a strict or traditional one (despite some traditional aspects from the various systems present thrown into the mix), it was focused on some basic stick fighting principles, incorporating eskrima/kali elements with the rattan, bojutsu, defensive techniques with the hanbo and jo, a little bit of yawara training and a walking stick style that had its roots within a French system. The aim of the training was to give the practitioner the tools and principles to defend oneself by using any varietal of stick or pole as a weapon. I feel that, despite only spending a small period of time training in it, that it succeeded in teaching me some basic tenets for defending myself with varying weapons. While the eskrima stuff was probably the most fun (and made cool noises when training πŸ™‚ ), the most relevant was arguably the walking stick techniques I learned.

The basic training showed how to use a hooked walking stick in a variety of ways. It demonstrated basic blocking and striking using various aspects of the walking stick, even down to utilising the different ends of the stick to achieve different ends. For example, if performing a thrusting strike, using the bottom of the stick concentrates the kinetic energy to a smaller surface of impact, giving rise to a variety of fast, poking strikes; however, depending on the walking stick, I found that this technique put excess stress on the shaft of the walking stick and required greater accuracy to achieve a worthwhile result. Going the other way, you can thrust using the hooked end of the stick, which is useful for creating more of a clubbing motion even when thrust. I found this to be quite effective given I found it quite intuitive to do a re-enforced two-handed thrusting strike with this technique from a utilitarian perspective, since I’ll normally have my hand on the hook and can easily use my other hand to grab the other end of the staff and use both arms for the strike. While the greater surface area means you get a different kind of impact than with the butt-end of the stick, it also requires less accuracy, which means it potentially has a greater degree of utility in a self defense scenario where the adrenalin or panic may hinder your usual level of accuracy.

What I found quite interesting is that it wasn’t too difficult to translate some of the broad striking motions and diagonal patterns of attack from eskrima to the walking stick. The difference of course is that a walking stick is generally longer than your average rattan… but that being said, if you’re familiar with short staff techniques (like jo or hanbo) and you have a longer walking stick, then you can also truncate your walking stick skillset with some of these other techniques (some of my favourite techniques from jo and hanbo were the trapping and joint-manipulation techniques, which I think would prove useful with a walking stick).

I guess it shows the level of inter-connectivity with different styles and the relationship between them. I have a feeling my Sensei would be pleased to know I joined the dots in my head and found the commonality in the tools he gave us πŸ™‚

It also demonstrates a strong focus on utility (something that’s a core focus on the posts at The Martial Explorer) and that, as a martial artist, you should be able to not only demonstrate the finer aspects of the forms you learn in class, but be able to take away those core principles and utilise them as essential tools in any instances of self defense, or if we’re getting a bit more philosophical, utilise those precepts as an approach to everyday life.

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Taking a (forced) break over x-mas

Sorry for the lack of updates of late πŸ˜› Last week ran away before I knew it!

So, update on how I’m going – erm, leg’s not holding up too well πŸ˜› The issues that cropped up a week or two back have come back again, so it’s out with the walking stick again to keep me company πŸ™‚ I’m not sure why the stump’s not healing up as quickly as it normally does, I suspect it’s to do with the location of where the split skin currently is and the fact it’s in constant pressure, whether it be wearing the prosthesis or not.

So, I have to exercise something I’m not all that good at – patience πŸ˜‰

So, I’ll be taking an extended break, longer than I first thought when I took a week or two off in November. I’ll have to make sure I don’t indulge too much over the break as well, since I won’t be able to exercise as much! πŸ˜‰

This does raise a couple of questions though – how do I exercise whilst trying to minimise excess physical impact to my stump? I want to use the next month and a half until classes start again in January to get back into weight training, and I reckon this might be able to float the balance between being able to have a good workout, but do it without excess pressure on the rear of the stump since I can do a slew of different exercises on the bench, rather than standing.

The other thing I’m considering doing is working on adapting some of my core techniques to being able to do them standing on one leg. Taking a note out of Jesse’s (of the Martial Explorer) book and his interest in practical application of martial to real-world scenarios, I thought this is something I should be looking at. While I’m generally wearing my leg while I’m awake and out and about, there will be times where I’m going to be without my prosthesis, whether it be because I’ve mangled my stump or damaged my leg. So, I’m conscious that, in the spirit of trying to be a well-rounded martial artist, it’s important that I consider broadening my skillset to cope with performing at least a handful of upper-body techniques if ever I need them. So, I figure while I’m a bit mangled, it may not be such a bad idea to roll in an exploration of some of these techniques with my condition.

So, while there are definitely some negatives with where things are at, there are also some opportunities in there as well. I’ll update as I go πŸ™‚ I’m actually a bit excited about exploring what techniques can be transferred to training on a single leg, hopefully the resultant posts won’t be too convoluted!

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