Wii Fit and amputees – first impressions!

Akin to what I was nerding about in my earlier post, below is my awesome review/first impressions of Wii Fit!

Balancing act 1

For those unaware what Wii Fit is, check out the Wikipedia entry – it’ll make more sense than my crazy ramblings in trying to describe it. Probably more informative too 🙂 To quickly summarise to add some context though, Wii Fit is a game on the Nintendo Wii (aka Nintendo’s money-printing machine) that aims to have you do daily exercises instructed on-screen by standing on a board that wirelessly communicates with the Wii console. Fancy and ingenious piece of kit, much like the Wii in general to be honest. Wifey and I don’t have a Wii ourselves, but we recently caught up with my brother and his family and they’ve got one, so it proved the perfect opportunity to demonstrate my extreme awesomeness. It also gave me the opportunity to give an amputee’s view on how it works.

After doing my initial data entry to get the ball rolling, it appeared there were going to be some skewed results in one of the main tests you go through when you start up your session on Wii Fit, as there are all sorts of balance tests. It tests and works your center of balance, and how you hold your balance according to your right/left side of the body. Not surprisingly, it confirmed my feeling that my center of balance is slightly behind me, and a little to the right in lieu of having one leg. Things really got interesting when it got me to do the one-legged balancing tests though!

Now, this was all well and good on my right leg, given I have one! But what to do when the tests come up for the left leg?

Simple, cheat and use your right leg, but ensure you look like a doofus while doing so:

Balancing act 2

Balancing act 5

As you can see from the results in the image below, it took a little bit to adjust to the balance board!! Those squiggles indicate my shift in balance over the course of time it tracked me standing on each side… ideally there should be very little variation 😛

Balancing act - the results!


And from here, things kept getting better – the trainer decided to offer his evaluation on the situation following my results:



You know, because I totally have a left leg 😉 By the time I got to the second leg I reckon I had gotten the hang a little better in using the balance board, hence the result (remember that I used my right leg when doing the tests for the left leg!). Still, gotta love some canned advice from a computer program 🙂

Once the tests and BMI, etc, were all finished (for those interested, my first Wii Fit age was 11 years older than me; when I gave it a crack a few days later, I managed to bring it down to only 2 years older than my actual age — hurrah!), I thought I’d have a quick go at some of the activities. I can’t remember off the top of my head which ones I did – I had a look at the yoga ones but passed, as it looked too tricky to work my way around them and find a solution given I was in a bit of a silly mood when playing the game. I gave the hooly-hoops a whirl, but that didn’t work that well either (was apparently funny to watch though ;)). I ended up settling on the muscle workouts, specifically the pushups one.

I mean, c’mon – I can do pushups, whether it be on my hands, knuckles, dive-bomber and with/without my leg on. So I figured I’d be right; turns out there was a twist with what was to come!

Now, before I get started, I’d like to share this cracker of a screenshot:

Stupid man

While I’m sure Nintendo means well, I think a “skip” button on these would be helpful since I notice he has all his limbs intact 🙂

Anywho, so onto the pushup – aside from the trainer going infuriatingly slow, he then starts adding in these twists at the ends of each of his motions! Now, this is all well and good if you’re coordinated and have two legs – makes it tricky as an amputee though, as there’s no way to elegantly rotate your body without striking awesome/stupid poses for the people sharing the experience with you in the same room (Wifey was crying from laughing so much as I pulled the most ridiculous poses in trying to keep up with the instructions!):

Push-ups with a stupid twist

Now, with all this being said, you might think I’m being overly harsh with the game – I mean, did Nintendo deliberately go out of their way to alienate disabled people with this game? Of course not. And do I harbour I strong dislike of the game? Absolutely not – it was a blast to play, but it certainly represents a number of challenges to those of us missing a few key limbs to make the experience complete.

Playing the physical games like Wii Fit can be a lot of fun, but there’s also the issue that, when playing socially, it can be a bit alienating depending on how good you are with your prosthesis – I was in excellent company so I had a ball sharing my goofiness, but at the end of the day it makes it very hard to keep up with people who are generally more physically able than an amputee. It’s kind of like Dance Dance Revolution – several years back I used to really like playing it, but the most I could ever get to was… either Beginner or Easy/whatever it’s called – I just couldn’t keep up with enough consistency if the difficulty was any higher, which was a bummer, because I couldn’t physically move around fast enough due to the prosthesis.

But getting back to Wii Fit, I have a feeling there are probably a handful of tricks I could uncover to bridge the gap between amputees and able-bodied players, but in the short time I had playing it, there certainly wasn’t enough time to really dig in and uncover the possibilities and post up straight away to share. Wifey and I are looking at grabbing a Wii with Wii Fit some time later this year (not sure when at this stage, maybe closer to x-mas when there are usually some good bundles/packages available at retail), so I’ll be happy to share some strategies and possibly write up an FAQ then. I think the game has a lot of promise and reckon there’s potential tricks so that amputees can possibly keep up with able-bodied people to some degree, but I won’t know until I have the opportunity to give it as more extensive whirl.

Mind, I’d post my thoughts up sooner if Nintendo Australia is kind enough to gift a Wii and Wi Fit for my household 🙂

… what, can’t blame a guy for trying, can you? 😀

If you want to check out more pics of me making an arse of myself, I’ve added a dedicated Wii Fit 2009 gallery under (funnily enough!) the ‘Gallery’ menu on the top nav bar; alternatively, you can also click here to access it. Huge thanks to Wifey for being a good sport and taking the photos, and to my brother and his family for treating us to some Wii Fit gamage that night 😀 We hada ball, and I can’t wait to catch up again to give it another go!!!


Airport security and your prosthesis – always an adventure!

One of the amusing/frustrating (but moreso amusing, you have to find things in life amusing, helps keep you sane) parts of being an amputee is dealing with airport security. Now, this wasn’t too bad pre 9/11, but since then when global airport security ramped up, things have gotten… interesting 🙂

Obviously, being an amputee, it’s generally very likely that you have a cocktail of titanium, metal plates, springs, carbon fiber, and so forth, complementing your stump. Most of these things, obviously, are metallic and set off metal detectors. Thus, whenever travelling via an airport (or just seeing people off and having to go through the security checks), you’ll set off the metal detectors. Every time.

Over the years, I’ve learned a thing or two about making this easier for you and the security guards:

Step 1, let them know in advance you’ll set it off as you are an amputee (normally when handing over stuff to go in the x-ray machine or to the attendant standing next to the metal detectors). Providing they have a grasp of your native tongue (or you a basic grasp of theirs), you’ve at least pre-warned them to make the process a bit easier.

Step 2, as soon as you go through the gates and set it off, let the guards know and cooperate in a friendly manner. At the end of the the day, they’re just doing their jobs, and it’s nothing personal. It also means you’re less likely to antagonise them 😉

Step 3, let them do the pat-down, and if they ask you to take your shoes off, ask politely for a chair, and generally all should be fine. I’ve never been asked to remove the leg for inspection, so I don’t have any advice there. I certainly wouldn’t want to though, I reckon that’s taking it a bit too far; but hey, that’s just me.

All through this, it of course helps if you have a partner/parent/friend to grab your gear that has gone through the x-ray machine so it doesn’t get pinched whilst you’re complying with security.

Oh, and remember to factor in that you’ll need extra time to go through security – in Australia, 5-10 minutes is more than ample, and I imagine something similar would apply overseas depending on the level of anal retentivity (I’ve heard from people travelling to the US that security is more thorough there for example, so just keep it in mind that I’m writing with a decidedly Australian perspective!).

Now, all this being said, I do have a few experiences to share!

I’ve travelled between the main airports in Brisbane, Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne in Australia:

  • Brisbane is a bit on the shonky side, but wasn’t too bad – staff were a bit weirded out, but reasonably polite (they gave me a chair when they asked for my shoes, though some of the staff on the day were a bit rude; the guy called over for the final security check was cool though, very relaxed and chirpy, so gold star for him)
  • Adelaide’s generally very good (since the upgrade a few years ago anyway)
  • Sydney is the most thorough, and we’ve had some issues in the past with language issues and staff not understanding my condition
  • Melbourne is average — we had a really delayed flight that day so we were probably a bit grumpy, but I can’t remember any issues

Haven’t travelled anywhere else in Aus in a while via plane, so I don’t have any extra nuggets of info to share. Wifey and I holidayed in NZ a few years ago, and we found the security staff there very relaxed and easy to deal with, so big thanks to NZ for making it an extremely smooth ride, both in the international and domestic terminals.

We’re keen to travel to Japan some time next year, and I’m paranoid that there will be problems when we head home and having to get through security, since my Japanese is a bit on the shonky side by default 😛 Still, we’ll see how we go!

Oh, and the other point to consider when travelling is whether or not you’re taking a walking stick – I generally do to make getting around on foot easier (Wifey and I tend to do a lot of walking around when we go away, [a] because we don’t hire a car, and [b] you get to see more of the place your visiting), but that’s only been in recent years. When travelling domestically I don’t think there’s any problem with what type of walking stick you take (mine’s a cool old wooden cane that was my Great-Grandfather’s), but internationally you’ll need to watch out depending on quarantine rules. Whenever Wifey and I have the opportunity to do some international travel again, I think I’ll go and grab a metal walking stick to make the transition through security/quarantine easier.

So yeah, there’s some travel tips for amputees out there – granted, it’s focused primarily on travelling in Australia, but hopefully it’ll help somewhat 🙂 If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment!


Amputee missing foot, but she still has her junior black belt (SunJournal.com)

Stumbled on this one via the Prosthetic Center of Excellence News blog – the Sun Journal has an awesome story on a young below-knee amputee’s push to learn karate and earn her junior black belt!

Now this is the kind of thing I love to read about – like the girl in the story, Jaedyn, I lost my leg when I was really young as well (click here if you want to have a read of my story), but I always wanted to learn martial arts, and I always had the support of my family and instructors in doing so. I tip my hat to her parents for encouraging and supporting her in this, I’d like to pass along a big thank you to her instructor for doing such a wonderful job, and a big high-five to Jaedyn for earning her junior black belt. This is such an awesome thing to share, and I wish her the best of luck on her journey.

For those interested, please visit the site and have a read. The direct link to the story is here.


Shin kicks

I was over at Win Demeere’s blog a few minutes ago reading through a couple of his recent posts, and he has a great two-part series on shin kicks (links – part one, and part two). I’ve been curious to see if I could use this technique for a while now, so will have to give it a crack over the next week and see what I can come up with. The posts in question give plenty of detail in how to perform the kick, and he’s linked in a few YouTube videos to demonstrate their use too.

I’m particularly keen because I feel my prosthesis would make for an awesome shin kick given I’d be delivering the strike with a raw titanium pole. Might just be the perfect technique if I can turn it into a fast, effective move. The extra bonus will be if I can get pull it off using my real leg, so we’ll see how that turns out.

In the meantime, check out the posts on his blog if you’re interested – plenty of good info there. Thanks Wim!


My foot no longer squeaks :)

I’ve been having problems with my artificial foot for a few months now – whenever I’ve been walking around, it’s been making loud squeaking noises – sounds like squeaky shoes cross with a squeaky floorboard. I thought it might have been to do with the foot enclosure, but when that got changed over, the problem persisted. I had to drop by my specialist’s rooms on Monday to get a new silicone liner for my stump, and while I was there he had a look at it – we thought it might have been the spectra sock (the sock that goes over the artificial foot mechanism, which in turn goes into the foot enclosure – protects the actual foot mechanism from damage), so we plonked another one over the old one after the existing one didn’t show any wear-through. Problem persisted, and so we took off both, and put only the new sock on – worked a treat!

Turns out the problem was that that fine amount of carbon fibre that had gradually rubbed off the base of the foot and into the spectra sock had caused a ‘sheen’ to form on the sock, and it was the rubbing of this synthetic sheen against the base of the foot that was causing the problem. So yes, no squeaky foot any more, which makes me happy 🙂

For those interested, the following are what a spectra sock and what my foot looks like/similar to:

Spectra Socks Ossur Flex Foot

Click for more info, or check out the ‘Leg stuff’ gallery, it’s all in there. Both products are from Ossur, and their prosthesis section on their website is here if you want to find out more info on either of those pictured above. I’m not sure if my gear is actually Ossur stuff, but it looks similar 😛 At least, as far as those pictures go anyways 🙂


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May 2022