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Archive for May 28th, 2010

No Ifs, Ands, or Buts About It:

Friday, May 28th, 2010

“Hello, my name is Wintor and I’m addicted to kung fu.”

That was how I introduced myself when I started the instructor program a hunnerd years ago. When I was asked what it was about kung fu that hooked me, I said that it helped me slow my brain down; that it made me put aside everything that went on throughout the day, forcing me to focus on something outside my brain and trust me, that is no small feat.

After recovering from almost a month of upper respiratory funk where I wasn’t able to breathe and could only train minimally, I wound up in my enthusiasm of feeling better, dislocating my shoulder. I was completely out of commission for about two weeks before I relocated my shoulder and started feeling better. Once again, in what was at that point, almost overwhelming enthusiasm to be able to train again, I reinjured myself in weapons class. However this time the injuries were severe enough (and stupid) that I finally had to admit that although I had no problem working through the pain, I was doing more damage to myself than I was making myself stronger.

It was determined that I needed to see an orthopedic shoulder doctor and after some pulling of strings and some behind-the-scenes schedule manipulations, I met with the doctor who immediately sent me off to have an MRI (which is another story entirely in itself). When I met with him again he told me that based on what he saw on the scan, surgery was totally dependent on how I chose to handle things. He told me that he wanted me to see a physical therapist twice a week for two hours at a time for a month and then looked me in the eye and coldly said two things that got my attention: “I can see you’re going crazy, not being able to work out, but unless you want surgery you need to do exactly what I tell you. Ultimately it’s up to you.” and “Physical therapy only; no running and No.Martial.Arts.” At that point, if you included the upper respiratory funk, I’d been unable to train for about four months.

I’ve been told a lot that I can be a hard person to read, but I don’t buy it anymore. In one week I met two complete strangers who within 10 minutes knew exactly how to speak to me so that I accepted everything they said without rebuttal; the shoulder doc and the physical therapist who, for two hours a day, twice a week for a month laughed at my every attempt to finagle, wheedle and charm her into letting me do more physically.

When I started physical therapy she had some concerns that were based on the severity of my injuries and the extreme level of pain I was in daily (anywhere from 7.5-9 out of 10) on whether the amount of physical therapy prescribed was going to be enough to keep me out of surgery. For the first week and a half she would have me do a few very small exercises (which hurt me into delirium) for the first hour and then would spend 30 minutes tirelessly ultrasounding me and another 15 minutes would be spent with my shoulder completely wrapped in ice packs. After two weeks of working, ultrasounding, massaging and icing my shoulder still hadn’t relaxed enough for the inflammation to go down so she decided to tape my shoulder blade in place for a week. There was a pretty decent setback at the beginning of week three and she started to get worried – we were running out of time and she wasn’t sure the small amount of progress I’d made was going to be enough to keep the surgeons at bay. My list of exercises got smaller and more refined but more weight or resistance was added and our time was split evenly between exercises and her alternating between massaging my shoulder and manipulating the actual injuries – to the point where I would literally see stars and become nauseated. Somehow, somewhere within the last two visits my body worked; my range of motion and strength doubled and my pain was only registering a 3 or 4. When she signed off on my sheet and was saying goodbye she was optimistic for the first time in a month.

When Sifu suggested I write about my experience with being injured and how I dealt with it I wasn’t exactly sure how I would talk about it. Because honestly? I’m not sure I’ve dealt with it very well at all. In the five and a half months that I have either been sick or injured and unable to train I have learned that I am a very very physical person and that I have to have the physical to balance the cerebral. Oh. My. Goodness, there’s been a lot of cerebral going on. These five and a half months have continuously taken me out of my emotional comfort zone, to ridiculous degrees, which only compounded the barrage on my brain: for a while I would be jealous of strangers I would see in the park or running down the road and I still continue to experience intense frustration at my limitations; I experienced a prolonged period of discouragement, in which I seriously considered quitting kung fu; as a fairly independent person, I’ve had to ask people for various degrees of help, which I’m not accustomed to doing; and the hardest for me, through all of it I’ve had to rely on people; kung fu brothers & sisters, old friends and even a relatively new friend for emotional support which not only launched me into the stratosphere of discomfort but has also humbled me beyond words.

So even though I did the work and was given the ok to slowly add in regular activities (“No sparring for a while Wintor, end of discussion.” Is my addiction really that apparent?), have been taking advantage of every chance at physicality I can get, and am slowly starting to get things balanced, my dealing with being injured is really so much more about the people that I’ve had the good fortune to surround myself with and how they continue to help me through it, no questions asked and no rebuttals.