Archive: 2 weeks off

Source: Gisoku no Jutsu
Original post date: 19 March, 2007

Hi all,

Apologies for the lack of blogging of late – it’s been hugely busy at work for the past two weeks, and it’s hard squeezing in regular updates with everything else happening. Before I go into much detail, I’d like to thank Pru for her comments for my previous-ish blog (thanks Pru!!!! ^_^) and big props out to Renato for his blogs that have been posted in response to some of mine. It’s been really great reading all about his experiences in martial arts and his thoughts on some of the things I’ve brought up. I guess this is part of the whole Web 2.0/MySpace community thing all those press releases always go on about πŸ™‚

Anywho, to be honest there hasn’t been a lot to report lately – I’ve been working in the office till later than usual the last couple of weeks, and I’ve missed the last two weeks of karate and last week’s weight session as a result. Things are back in order now though – I’ll be at weights tomorrow night and going to karate on Wednesday. I’ve had a chance to catch up with Jyastin-kun and chat about what nights he’s free, and it looks like Monday’s best with him, and I know Hamez is free then, too. Now all I have to do is work out which class we’ll actually be able to make it to in time – if the class is a good Β½ hour drive away, and it starts at 6:30pm, I’m buggered, ’cause I only get home from work around 5:45-6pm each night! If memory serves there’s a class that happens at 7pm, possibly on Tuesday night thought… and Jyastin-kun can make it on Tuesday nights as well (again, as can Hamez), so if Monday’s a no-go, there’s always karate training on Tuesday and I’ll move weight training to Monday instead.

I’m aiming to do some intense leg stretching over the next two days to get my body ready and back at things for karate on Wednesday night. Wifey recently picked up a foldable exercise bike (well, it’s kinda foldable – it can squeeze a bit easier into a corner for you ‘fold’ it up, which is handy for our place, but it’s not like it folds flat πŸ˜‰ ), and I’m really stoked because I can actually use it! We have one of those stepper machines, and while that was good, it was a bit tricky to use when you only have one knee! Mind you, I managed to compensate for that by using my hips/waist and stuff, and it worked well, but the exercise bike is even better.

My training cycle used to be (nightly, separated by semi-colons): stretching/crunches/light weights; stepper; weights; karate; weights (fortnightly). My new training regime once I get to do karate training twice a week will be: stretching/cycling; karate; weights; karate; weights (fortnightly). I also might throw in some use of the stepper as well.

When I note ‘stretching’, I mean doing a variety of different leg stretches to increase flexibility, and then finish off by trying to hold a really strong horse-riding stance as low as I can get it for a set period of time – before I slackened off, I had it at 6 minutes. While that might not sound like much (and really, it’s not – I’ve heard of kung fu training that requires you to hold a low stance for a comparatively long period of time as a starting point), you really feel the burn in your legs (well, in my case leg :P) by that time. My aim is to eventually be able to hold a strong stance for over Β½ an hour at least. I started at 5 minutes and kept at that for a few weeks, then increased it to 6 minutes… and then kept on getting distracted and stopped doing it πŸ˜› That kinda sums up some of my training – I wouldn’t necessarily take the time out each week to fulfil that full training regime I noted above, it tended to be more like my aim, and not necessarily what I achieved (beyond karate and weights, that is). I’m hoping to be able to get back up to that level though in the next month… as always, I’ll keep everyone posted via my blog πŸ™‚

Well, that should do it. I think I got carried away again πŸ˜‰ But that’s probably not a bad thing – y’know, given I’ve been a bit slack with posting new stuff lately. Now that I’m back in the swing of things and work’s returned to its usual amount, I’ll be aiming to do three blogs a week, or at the very least, two. I’ll aim to get another one in by Wednesday, and then another towards the end of the week to look at how karate training goes. We’ll see what the week will bring!


Archive: Docos and Ch’i

Source: Gisoku no Jutsu
Original post date: 6 March 2007

Two blogs over two successive days! Crazy stuff. This one’s in response to a doco I caught over the weekend that got me thinking about, well, stuff. It was on one of the Discovery channels, and was about this guy who was a double amputee, above knee, and paralysed from below the waist. I missed the first 10 mins or so, which I’m assuming it explained how he came to his condition in that time. They showed some early shots of him when he was a kid, so I’m under the impression that it was something he’d had since birth, or happened shortly thereafter (kinda like how my leg was amputated shortly after birth – see my previous blog for the full story); I’d say it’s more likely the former though. Anywho, it was really cool – this guy had this crazy enthusiastic attitude and he just went for everything. He tried using this crazy prosthesis setup that really wasn’t working when he was a kid, so he adapted so that he got around purely using his arms. This guy was awesome! It was really cool watching how he got around the place, how he adapted his life to his situation and the dexterity he had with his arms. Was very cool. Maybe its something about having reddish hair – we’re all a little crazy maybe. I think it was called ‘Half body, Full Life’, maybe something like that.

But the clincher was when they were talking about the wear and tear on the joints in his arms – at the age of thirty, the joints in his arms were like someone of 50… which got me to thinking about my situation. I like to think I push my body pretty hard (though not stupidly hard – I realise I still have to work and don’t want to render myself incapable of walking through my own rampant enthusiasm if possible :P), and I only have one leg taking the brunt of everything, and have been doing as much since I was a kid. It kinda hit home that I should be starting to look at ways to keep the stress off my leg, particularly my knee, if I want to be able to keep mobile when I’m older. I know it probably sounds stupid for someone my age to be already thinking that, but I want to keep moving as much as possible, and if that means starting to take precautions now to look after my remaining leg, that’s what I have to do.

By extension, it also got me thinking about those crazy martial artists in Japan/China/Korea, the ones who have been considered masters for years, and even in their 60 and 70s, have this incredible control over their bodies. Well, I might be generalising, but at least that’s the impression I have – these guys have built up this incredible control, strength and mastery over their bodies, so that even into old age, they’re doing really well. It’s a combination of physical and mental/internal martial arts training (and probably a balanced diet – the Japanese in particular have one of the longest lifespans in the world), and its this internal training that has just hit me as possibly being the missing piece, or being so essential. I know it probably sounds hyperbolic, but developing and utilising one’s ch’i/ki (depending on if you’re going for the Chinese/Japanese term) as this wellspring of energy seems like such an important part of true or in-depth martial arts training. I’ve recently finished up the section of the (excellent) book, “Secrets of the Samurai: The Martial Arts of Feudal Japan”, on the internal factors of Japanese martial arts (and by natural extension, of Chinese martial arts, given its tremendous influence thereon), and it was really interesting to read. I think it helps explain the divide between developing just physical prowess, or training the internal (mental, ch’i) and external (physical) factors of martial arts. I feel that learning this is essential to (a) becoming a better martial artist in general, and (b) overcoming any shortcomings I have physically so that I’m not at as much of a disadvantage against other able-bodied people; and (c) discovering the hidden aspect of martial arts. I also think that learning this will help keep my body in really good order when I’m older, and hope it helps compensate for the rought treatment I’ve given my leg, hips and back over the years πŸ˜‰

So, last night after I did a good round of leg stretches, I tried to settle into at least the right position so I kinda looked like I was meditating. Well, not meditating – that last sentence brought up flashbacks of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which while awesome, is probably not the yardstick I should be throwing up there to achieve πŸ˜› More like, in a position where I could concentrate on my breathing and focus.

I always misinterpreted where to concentrate my breathing when trying to develop ch’i before – for some stupid reason, I didn’t realise it sits an inch or two below the navel (aka bellybutton, but the books always say naval, which isn’t anywhere near as funny as the word ‘bellybutton’ ;)). So yeah, I spent some time just concentrating on my breathing and focusing and stuff. Writing this out makes it sound a bit silly, and doesn’t really convey all the random snippets of information I’ve accrued over time about it. I mean, am I getting suckered into something? Is this concept generally abandoned amongst serious martial artists today? Are people out there reading this and laughing at the concepts I’m trying to write down?

I don’t know. What I do know is that after I spent a little time practicing deep breathing and focusing, when I went out the back yard to let our dog Baxter (BTW, that’s no pseudonym – that’s his real name ^_^) out to do his business before going to bed, I threw a few focused punches at my boxing bag… and the thing flew further back than I’ve been able to push it before with a single strike. I was a bit surprised, so I tried a few more times, and the result was the same. Some could argue this is a result of my weight training, but I’ve thrown the odd punch here and there since starting up weights and while I hit it harder than pre-weights, it didn’t throw the bag like my strikes did last night.

So, it might just be mind over matter, or fluke, or coincidence. Still, with some many classical texts referring to the development of ch’i, maybe there’s something in it. I’ll continue to work on it and see if it makes a difference over time. It could all be in my head, but ultimately if it results in something positive, I’ll stick with it.

… and thus ends my first [quasi] deep and meaningful blog. If it didn’t bore that shatner out of everyone, I’ll throw a few more in over time πŸ˜›


Archive: My story – the amputation

Source: Gisoku no Jutsu
Original post date: 5 March, 2007

Well, looks like I didn’t get around to putting up that extra blog post last week πŸ˜› Apologies for that, the weekend turned out to be pretty busy, and I didn’t get around to doing some training on the boxing bag either πŸ˜› I’ll definitely have to get around to doing some leg stretches the next few days though – my form will be particularly crap on Wednesday if I don’t.

So, today I thought I’d get started on telling how I lost my leg. Hopefully it’ll prove interesting, and I’m not sure if this will take a single post, or a couple to get through, so we’ll just see how we go. Unlike a number of amputees, I lost my leg when I was still a baby – I was about 3 months old when they chopped it off, actually. Telling how this happened is a little tricky, as I was obviously too young to remember, so I’ll be reconstructing this using the collective memory of what my parents have told me since then.

My Mum noticed that after birth, my left leg seemed a little swollen compared to my right, and brought it to the paediatrician’s attention, who didn’t seem too concerned with it. A few weeks later (maybe a month?) the swelling hadn’t gone down, and Mum always tells how she noticed things were getting really bad when she felt behind the knee cap and noticed I was bleeding out the back of it (as opposed to sweating, for example). Given this wasn’t exactly the ideal condition you want your child in, she took me to hospital to get it checked out.

I had a “strawberry birthmark” on my leg as a baby, also known as a ‘hemangioma’. These things seem to be relatively harmless in most cases from the stuff I’ve read, excepting the cases where they’re near, say, and eye or another organ. I’ll admit ignorance here, so I hopefully haven’t offended anyone with that broad generalisation, ’cause I have heard where they have caused some serious problems. Anyway, this is where my understanding gets fuzzy of things – it was a particular hemangioma that caused the problems with my leg. The resulting swelling saw my left leg balloon to this crazy degree – my folks have some pictures of me when I was in hospital as a kid, and my left leg looks at least 30 – 60% larger than my right leg, is all swelled up and is bright pink and purple from the bruising. Crazy stuff.

I’ve been told that the swelling got so intense that it literally crushed the bone, which in turn caused the leg to turn gangrenous. Compounding this, an air bubble formed in the blood in my lower leg, which has the capacity to shut down the heart if given the opportunity to travel through the bloodstream. So, in short, the leg was in a very bad state, and I was accordingly in a very bad state, teetering on that ethereal threshold between life and death (not that I would have used those words as a 3-month-old baby, but oh well – I’m an Arts student, I’m trained to use flamboyant language!). It was really serious stuff, and my parents went through a helluva lot during that period.

In total, I think I was in the hospital for a couple of months I think… like I said, over the years my encapsulation of the thing has thrown it out of whack in my head. This of course poses the question – if I was in hospital for so long, why did things get so bad? Well, it certainly didn’t help that we had an arrogant sonnovabitch as the doctor in charge of me. Given he’s apparently quite a prominent physician in the grand scheme of things, let’s refer to him as Doctor Evil, ’cause I don’t want the lawyers after me. I was thinking of other silly names, such as Doctor Doom, Doctor Dingbat, Doctor Putz and Doctor Headuphisarse, but I’ll stick with Doctor Evil for now. Anywho, Doctor Evil, given his prominence and standing in the medical community, assured my folks of being the one to take care of the situation, save the day, and so on, and then proceeded to do nothing. When it got to the point where I was so sick I was nearing death, he finally decided to do something about it. Yay, go him πŸ˜›

So anyways, apparently my Dad finally got him to agree to amputate the leg in order to save my life, but instead of organising something urgently (this was late in the week, maybe a Friday?), he wanted to fly someone over from Melbourne to take care of it the week after. This wasn’t all that practical, given the state I was in. After more ‘discussions’, he finally conceded and a local doctor, whom we shall refer to as Doctor Tenshi (or maybe that should be Tenshi-sensei, if we’re going for the Japanese thing), came in and saved my life. Literally, it was his work on me in the operating theatre that saved my life. He’s awesome, uber, golden, all that – the name’s quite fitting: Tenshi is the Japanese word for spirits that are kinda like angels in the English language – Wikipedia gives a nice definition here. I was all of three months old when this happened.

In the aftermath, I’m told a number of things took place. Doctor Evil apparently was reluctant to supply the photos of the ‘before’ shots to my Mum of the state of my leg, who wanted them so I could see what my legs looked like when I was a baby and understand the situation I was in when I was older (apparently there was fear of a lawsuit in there, hence why there were issues with getting them). I’ve had… 11 or 12 operations on the leg since the initial operations over the years – skin grafts, clean-up jobs, I’ve had the growth plate removed, and the last two operations were in 1994 and 2001, both of which were due to a bone spur protruding from the end of my stump on the left side thereof (both happened at the same ‘site’ on the bone). Given the base of the stump has to deal with the weight/impact of walking, these were somewhat inconvenient – the first case was annoying in that I’d only been in hospital three months earlier to have my appendix out, and the latter caused issues as I had the operation a few weeks into the first semester of Uni that year. This meant I had to reduce my study load to a single subject, couldn’t work for over three months, and couldn’t walk for almost the same period of time. Oh yeah, and it was bloody painful πŸ˜› I mean, you wouldn’t think chopping off a small chunk of bone would hurt that much, but by slicing open all the muscles at the end of the stump, working on the bone, and then tying it all back up again… damn, it hurt.

And that pretty much sums up my amputation. I was three months old, so the lucky bit is that I only had to learn how to walk once, and can’t remember any of the painful stuff. I’m generally not phased with having to go to the hospital for any reason because I used to be in there so much when I was growing up, and I’m grateful to all the medical staff who looked after me as a kid, and for the great people who have built my legs for so many years. I might have to see if I can get this site passed along to one of the guys who looked after my artificial legs since I was a kid – I reckon he’d be stoked to see how things have come along, considering he’s known me since I was so young.

I’ll post something else up during the week, probably before Wednesday in prep for training, followed by a general post-training blog on Thursday or Friday if I can squeeze it in before the end of the week πŸ™‚ So yeah, I hope you enjoyed the story!!


Archive: Better late than never :P

Source: Gisoku no Jutsu
Original post date: 1 March, 2007

It’s been a busy week, so apologies to those who might be interested in the latest news in my end of the world. I meant to write up something earlier on this week, but it’s just been busy, busy, busy. Apologies for that.

Well, my plan for this week’s blog was to fire off some info about what happened when I lost my leg. Not sure if I’ll get the time to get into that, so it might have to wait until next week. I’ve had a couple of other things come up, leg-wise, of late that’s kept me from my usual routine. I’m in the process of having my spare prosthesis put together at the moment, so I’ve been dashing out during my lunch break(s) (or having an extended lunch break!) to head out to get stuff done for it. The reason I have a spare leg built up is due to two reasons: number one, if my primary prosthesis spontaneously combusts (which it does – not literally of course, I mean it in the sense that I have a habit of breaking something at inopportune moments… I’ve got some interesting photos of that, might have to post them up), I have a backup to get around on. Number two, it means I can wrap the knee and ankle on it up in something non-porus and wear it down to the beach if I want to go for a swim/walk/etc. While I don’t swim with the prosthesis on, I can leave it on my towel on the sand and not worry about my primary mode of ‘transport’ getting clogged with sand or grit.

Anywho, the latest is that they have taken a mould of the existing socket on my prosthesis I use all the time, and I’ll be going in to see how it fits on Monday. My previous spare leg (yes, I’ll often refer to my prosthesis as my ‘leg’ – the word “prosthesis” has too many syllables and takes longer to type than ‘leg’, and if I can’t be bothered saying/typing ‘artificial leg’ or ‘fake leg’, I’ll refer to it simply as my ‘leg’ πŸ˜› I’m Australian, we habitually shorten words… I blame it on cultural habit, and certainly not on my own laziness :P) stopped being all that effective when the valve that regulates the air pressure (and thus, the suction) of the socket broke and I couldn’t source a replacement for the particular fitting it used. So, we’re recycling the knee/titanium pole thingo/ankle/foot parts, and are plonking them onto the newly moulded socket. Yay, this is a good thing. The only bugger was that the valve on my current leg ended up getting clogged when the mould was taken, so I had to dash out during another lunch break to go and grab a new one (cheers for Rick and Stephen for helping me, especially if you’re reading this!!)… because the leg would almost literally fall off while I was walking! While this would make for some amusingly comical moments, it wasn’t a particularly practical solution for getting around during the day πŸ˜‰

So yeah, that’s what’s been keeping me busy. I didn’t end up going to training last night, as I had the day off work on Tuesday to rest my stump – on Monday night I had two sores on the back of my stump that started to bleed, and while it was pretty much all healed up again by Wednesday morning, I didn’t want them to break open again through training, and decided to leave it this week. Not being one to slacken off too much though, following Wifey’s suggestion, I did another weight training session last night to compensate for it, which went really well; I went over Tuesday night too, so that’ll make it twice this week, which I’m really happy with. I’m getting used to the sore muscles post-training, but I think my body’s learning to adjust to the regime and is coping with it really well. It’s only been… three weeks now since I started augmenting my karate training with weights, but I’m really enjoying it and hope to continue working on it in conjunction with karate.

So, between now and next week I’m hoping to work on my leg stretching to really work on delivering some solid kicks next time I go to karate. I might do some work on the punching bag this weekend too, providing it isn’t too hot. I’ll try and squeeze in another blog before my customary early/mid-week entry for next week, and by then I’ll start getting around to telling the story about how I lost my leg. Should be interesting πŸ™‚ Still, we’ll see what happens.

Oh, and before I go, shouts out to the new people I’ve added to my friends list in the last week and a bit, like Mike, Bec, Jen and Megan!


Archive: Torei-ni-n’gu mashou!

Source: Gisoku no Jutsu
Original post date: 22 February, 2007

It’s Thursday, which means its post-training round-up… or something πŸ˜› Last night was a pretty small class for some odd reason – it wasn’t that hot (32 degrees C), and school’s back… so go fig. We had enough to make up the numbers, and everyone (even the kids) stayed for the whole session, which normally runs to just over an hour and a half. Since it had been two weeks since last training (owing to the fact I skipped last week’s class because I was spending the evening with Wifey), my stretching was a little sloppy and I couldn’t get my legs as close to doing the splits as I normally can; I’ll have to stretch a little over the next week to bring that back up to form methinks.

I noticed my kicks were either solid or a bit crap last night as well. My front kicks were going alright, but I found I wasn’t getting them consistently high and straight. That said, when I pulled it off I felt really good with how it went, but otherwise it wasn’t as good as I wanted. My round kicks were also a bit on the crappy side, but then again, they normally are – a good round kick requires a lot of work pivoting and shifting your weight/balance by using your foot/ankle/knee to control yourself. Obviously, given that I do all of that on what is pretty much a vertical pole attached to my hip on my left leg (remember I’m an above-knee amputee, not below-knee), it’s pretty hard to pull off an effective technique. Thankfully I make up for that when I kick with my artificial leg – Wifey, Hamez, Tank and a few others will remember that I tore apart my previous boxing bag by repeatedly kicking it with a special round-kicking technique I call ‘torquing’ (i.e. torque) my body in order to deliver an immense amount of power into a single kick. Wifey took a photo of the aftermath, so I’ll have to upload it when I get around to getting the film developed (this was before we got our digital camera, which was only last year :P).

Anyways, after the usual array of strikes, we went through a few combinations of guarding/attacking, and then spent time on kata. Sensei K is really keen on an April grading, so I spent some time with Sensei R going throw my saifa slowly, aiming to really work on perfecting my technique. I feel it getting stronger and stronger, which is really positive, though akin to my other training last night, my kicking wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be. I guess that’s more reason to stretch a little over the course of the week.

Going over to the in-laws for dinner tonight, which’ll be great – am hoping to do another weights session with my father-in-law, and probably muck around with Hamez like we normally do. I daresay there’ll be some lounge-room open-hand sparring happening, and other random stuff. Should be good. Kinda like how my brothers (Miguel and Tank) and I end up play-fighting/sparring/backyard-cricketing whenever we catch up my parents’ place for dinner once a fortnight (though shouts out to Miguel and Janey –  he’s recently moved interstate and his being his usual awesome self! Can’t wait to catch up next time you come down!!).

Next time I might go through some of the operations and stuff I’ve had over the years as an amputee as an aside, for anyone whose interested in what I had done over the years. As always, I’ll use some bizarre pseudonyms to cater for each doctor I can remember being involved in the event(s) in order to preserve the peace and ensure The Man doesn’t come after me with a pack of lawyers in tow πŸ™‚

Oh, and before I go – cheers to Renny for adding my first comment & kudos to my blog! Thanks mate!


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February 2009