Training in the warm weather :)

Despite the fact it’s nearly the end of October, training this week was the first time in a while where it’s actually been warm enough in the evening to bring on a crazy sweat! We did some interesting things in class this week, and there are a few things I’ve picked up on that need considerable work if I’m to grade in December, which is my plan at this stage.

Stance was a very important part of Sensei’s training this week, both the correct form and working on strengthening our base. The exercise we did that really emphasised this was a two-person drill we did. The practitioner would move forward in stance, and in our case it was going through with zenkutsu-dachi, then with koukutsu-dachi. The trick with this drill was that we took our obi and handed it to our partner, who would either stand behind us (for zenkutsu-dachi) or in front of us (koukutsu-dachi); for the former, they would hold onto our obi with the middle of our belt around our waist and try and drag us back as we moved forward; for the latter, we would both be holding the obi and the partner would be applying resistance as we moved. In moving forwards or backwards in stance, the crucial point was that Sensei wanted us to plant our feet, drop our center of balance and move forward with perfect form (or as perfect as practical) despite the resistance from our training partner. The exercise taught us the importance of a strong stance, reminded us just how strong our stances can be, and gave the legs a workout too 🙂

For me, these exercises were a bit on the tricky side, especially going backwards doing koukutsu-dashi. Whilst moving using my real leg as my primary leg driving my body forward/backward, I didn’t have too much trouble overall – it hurt the muscles sometimes because it was great resistance training, but overall I was happy with how I was doing. When I was moving and it was meant to be the left leg propelling the body forward, this obviously got tricky since there isn’t a lot I can do with it in this case 😉 When doing zenkutsu-dachi I had to resort to using my right leg to propel me forwards (which, tbh is how I do it normally), and my training partner eased off on the resistance since there wasn’t a lot that could be done. However, when doing koukutsu-dachi, I surprised myself with using my brain for a change!

I’ve previously discussed some of my techniques for performing a good mawashi when pivoting on your fake leg, so I took those same principles of utilising the upper body and your torso to make up for leg movement and applied it to this scenario… and it worked! In fact, it worked so well that I threw my training partner off balance each time I performed the technique!!

So yeah, I was very chuffed with the outcome 🙂

Beyond the drills though, I’ve decided to spend more of my workouts/training between classes covering kata and my basics I’ll need to demonstrate for my next grading. While I have some of my combinations reasonably sorted, there are some that I am not happy with at all. I’m going to speak to Sensei next week to see what I need to work on in particular in the lead-up to the December grading, and will request for a bit more ippon kumite in class so I can work on a few more advanced techniques. I’ll also be demonstrating bunkai for my next grading, so I’ll need to spend time on that. Not that I’m expected to deliver an overtly complex explanation at this level, but that doesn’t mean I want to go at it half-arsed, I intend to put in dedicated effort as always.

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Weight watching

So there are two reasons I habitually check on my weight:

Number one, I’m vain 😉 I was a bit of a chubber when I was a kid, and got sick of it when I was around 15 and went on a crash, anally retentive diet for about 12 months. No snacks, smaller portions, exercise, no dessert, stuff like that. It ended up working – between a couple of growth spurts and a serious change in diet, I shed all the weight over a year, and managed to keep it off while my metabolism continued to kick in. Thankfully for me, despite my good dieting habits taking a bit of a dive during Uni (cheap meal deals at Hungry Jacks and a fresh doughnut place at the train station were good fun ;)), I managed to keep it all off throughout my studies and until I graduated and moved out. True, looking at some photos of when Wifey and I first moved in together I was definitely too skinny, but anywho, I managed to kick the fatty gene.

Number two, keeping your weight steady is *essential* as an amputee. The socket has to fit the form of your body, so if you drop too much weight or stack on too much, your prosthesis isn’t going to fit because your body shape changes in many subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Thankfully you normally get some warning – the prosthesis starts slipping off your stump or won’t sit on it correctly, you get chaffing, skin breakdown, stuff like that.

Note that I said “steady” up there – you get problems if you drop too much weight as well as put it on, in that the prosthesis just falls off in addition to all the rubbing and chafing! Mind, all that’s needed in order to fix this is to have a new socket moulded, but it depends on what you’re doing – if you’re trying to loose weight, it’s all good, but if you start stacking on the weight (and you don’t need the extra kilos), it’s the start of a slippery slope – it gets harder to walk, you might eventually get into strife trying to find a knee and ankle/foot that’ll support your weight, and the cycle hits pretty hard the further you go. As those who have been/are overweight know, it’s harder to exercise when you’re heavier, which makes it even more difficult if you’re an amputee *and* you’re overweight. Hence why I take it seriously and keep an eye on it.

In terms of my weight (moving on from my teen years), things started getting interesting once I started nearing my mid-20s and I found the weight was starting to roll back on, especially over the 12 months I had off from training around 2005/2006 (hit the archives for details – here’s the lot, most recent entry first). So, to keep it at bay and get back on track, shortly after moving into our current place I started keeping track of my weight each week. I had a few aims behind this – I wanted to trim some excess weight (particularly around my belly and waist), get back into my weight training and continue to intensify my karate training. With my weight, I was aiming to bring myself down to about 70kg (remember that I’m not that tall, coming at around 5’8″!) despite the fact that the weight training was going to pack on extra weight as well (muscle weighs more than fat, or so popular opinion tells me!), which would mean that theoretically I’d shed more fat weight by combining it with increasing my muscle mass at the same time.

So this brings us back to now – while I’m not too sure what my muscle mass is sitting at since I haven’t done any intense weight training in about a month, at my last weigh-in I was a hair’s breath away from my goal weight, so I’m pretty chuffed with myself at this stage. Funnily enough I’ve still got my damn love handles, but hopefully if I continue on, start up my weight training again next week (now my thumb’s sorted itself which means I can lift the bar without worrying about splitting the wound), kick in with intense, focused training at karate and some extra stretching and exercise between these (such as taking the dog for an extra walk or two), I might eventually get rid of them 😉

… and that ends my jumbled rant about weight, amputees, and another one of my stories 😉

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Crazy prosthetics technology – the i-LIMB

Was doing some random Googling and found this awesome blog – The Adventures of the i-LIMB. The blog’s author, Darin, has had his left arm amputated from just below the elbow from what I can see in the videos he’s posted, and he’s documented a daily journal of his experiences with his i-LIMB, an awesome piece of crazy cybertechnology (i.e. his prosthesis 😉 ). There are plenty of videos documenting what he’s been up to and stacks of content – regardless of your background, check out his site and read up on his experiences.

Oh, and check out the vids, the technology is awesome to see in action 😀 I’ll be adding a link to his blog in my side bar, so if you forget where his blog is, you’ll be able to easily get to it regardless of where you are on my site.

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Wishlist: transforming leg

A friend of mine fired through a link for a story about a double amputee in New Zealand who had a mermaid tail prosthesis created by WETA, and it got me to thinking about stuff.

When I was 12, I was watching the very awesome third series of Robotech (which I later found out was called Genesis Climber Mospeada when ADV were kind enough to release the set on DVD, which I promptly snatched up several years ago 😉 ) on repeat on early morning TV, and in that series they have these awesome futuristic motor bike things that transform into these equally awesome power suit things (Wikipedia tells me they’re called Cyclone Veritech Ride Armors).

Genesis Climber Mospeada cover

Anywho, I remember thinking at the time that it would be awesome having a leg that could transform into something cool from Macross, like a rocket or something, and when I was reading that story I linked up above, out of nowhere I remembered that crazy thought I had when I was younger.

But who knows, following Rodriguez’ awesome premise behind Planet Terror, maybe the dynamic duo of the former + Tarantino (or someone following in their stead!) can do something crazy and awesome. I mean, when Rodriguez comes up with this:

Planet Terror (Dutch promotional poster)

… I think anything’s possible 🙂

This reminds me, I really need to buy Planet Terror and Death Proof 😀

I was about to finish this one off, but I realised I hadn’t posted a video of the super awesome opening animation from Mospeada 😀 😀 😀

Gold!

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Another lightbulb moment – amputee-friendly round kicks (mawashi geri)

So, recently Wifey and I watched Enter the Dragon (again). And me being me, afterwards whilst getting ready for bed and doing the last-minute clean-up before bed, I started doing karate around the house – in the kitchen, the lounge room, the hallway, stuff like that. Weird thing though – I was practicing my mawashi geri (round kick) with my real leg (i.e. right leg kicking, left leg pivoting), and had a crazy lightbulb moment. This doesn’t happen often, so bear with me while I try and make this coherent!

The secret as I understand from all of you out there with two legs is that a good mawashi geri relies on awesome hip power (in fact, the root of all good karate comes from the use of your torso, which works in conjunction with the rest of your body in perfect harmony… right???). Unfortunately, things get a bit tricky for me because my mawashi geri with my right leg is generally pretty weak, as there’s no knee/ankle/foot to drive and pivot the left leg, which are essential in throwing your hips into the technique to create a controlled reaction. Think of it chopping off your left leg, substituting it with a vertical pole with a hinge in the middle, and blindly flailing around 180-240° trying not to get the pole to collapse underneath you whilst trying to make a decent kick. Doesn’t work too well.

The answer, possibly, is a simple one, and crazily enough I mentioned the precept in one of my posts from my old blog in 2007 (here) – use your upper body to control your body’s rotation. I found that by simply using my shoulders, I could regain control of my hips and follow through with a considerably improved technique.

I’ll try and explain further – I start with my left leg forward, right leg back in a short fighting stance (give me time to get it working reliably in a long zenkutsu dachi!). Follow the usual components of a mawashi geri – knee-raised to the side, lower right-leg pulled in tight to help with producing a snapping motion; make this form whilst pushing off your right foot to propel the action forward.

Now here’s where the new stuff begins – try and swivel your hips to get you started, but twist your shoulders going in the same direction of your mawashi geri. Don’t go crazy, make it a measured, control action, keeping your arms up in a defensive position, controlled, and tight (i.e. don’t flail them about). The combined use of these forces will drive the leg by way of the hips in a circular motion, using the planted left leg as a single vertical axis.

Once the leg extends and snaps forward, start with the hips as much as possible with control, then use your shoulders to finish the backwards snapping motion. Pull the foot back and land from the technique with control, no arms flailing, no landing in a sloppy stance. Control is essential, which in turn means watch your speed and stay focused.

I’ll have to keep at it to see how this technique holds up, but I’m really, really excited by this – my mawashi geri with my right leg has always been rubbish, but through this lightbulb moment and my consistent efforts in stretching my legs regularly during the week to increase their flexibility, I reckon I’m getting somewhere 😀

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