WEEK 31: Jah Hobble

WEEK 31: Jah Hobble


Hmm… the sore left knee is rapidly drifting into disaster territory. I knew there were problems when, last weekend, I had to walk around Central London for a few hours and felt frequent sharp pain – to the extent that we had to stop off at a pub at Turnpike Lane on the way home and have a few daytime pints (The Westbury – an oasis!).

Monday’s hour of karate in the gym was, thankfully, one of the easier sessions of the last eight months. It was less intense than usual mainly because I’d made it known to sensei Amrit that I’d “done something”. Still, I made it through the hour but in bed that night my knee felt like it was being struck by lightning. Once again, to paraphrase my late nana, “We’ve all got bad knees but some of us have to carry on.”

With Nana’s fuss-free words echoing around my head I’ve decided to keep going until grading in three weeks and see where that takes me. Of course in the early hours, grimacing like Tarzan’s pet chimp Cheetah with the pain, I started overthinking – as you always do when you can’t sleep. “What’s this knee thing?” I wondered. And then I conjured an imaginary fatalistic news story… “Gale continued exercising with a cruciate ligament injury and had to undergo an emergency operation. His leg was amputated above the knee…”

Come the day of our 90-minute class, I practised kata heian nidan at home between working in front of the computer screen – just to see if I could manage it. Back stances were a bit of an ordeal but I passed myself A1 fit for punishment. Naturally the printer ran out of ink, so I had to walk to Argos at dinnertime to pick up replacement (and a bottle of wine). During my brisk stroll my knee complained all the way there and all the way back. It had become “an issue”.

As normal I was first to arrive at the back door of the Holy Trinity Church on Green Lanes – now in November darkness. I tried to warm up my dodgy knee in the car park and when the senseis arrived, I was asked if I’d had it looked at by a doctor. With my job, of course, I haven’t had time! And I need to commute three days a week, so there’s no chance of a rest. I have to walk – there’s no getting away from it.

I was half-expecting to be cruelly told to go home and come back after grading but I was allowed inside and told that if I was in any discomfort, to stop. Well, you don’t need knees for press-ups and due to the total concentration required to keep up, I was able to edge out thoughts of the knee twinge and get on with kata drilling and an ensuing thorough bunkai. So what is this injury? Just a sprain? Will exercise make the problem worse? Or is it ligaments?

As I remain the only adult in the Middlesex Shotokan class, poor Monty, age 14 or thereabouts, and also my height, once again drew the short straw of being my partner. Monty takes his bad luck with good grace, but it’s been every week for him now for a month. We thumped and kicked each other for a good half hour and generally helped each other through the minutiae of blocks and stances. I feel I know these kids fairly well now and they’re obviously serious about progressing. Do I detect a sense of team spirit developing? It was a brilliant hour and a half training.

Back home I peeled off my sweat-sodden gi jacket and sat down to roll my trousers up in order to get some air to the oxters. Glass of red poured, I felt my knee pound and it looked swollen again. I struggled getting up the Wooden Hill to Bedfordshire. A doctor would tell me to rest the knee for six weeks and/or fix me up with a physiotherapist. That’s no good. Sensei Harris mentioned “arnica”. I thought that was a coastal resort in Greece. Maybe it’s a magic remedy – I’ll google it. Knee strap?

The plan is: keep going with the assistance of Nurofens. In the 1970s, when Liverpool players suffered knocks back when football was a blood-and-thunder game, no-nonsense manager Bill Shankly would make them play regardless, saying, “That injury belongs to Liverpool FC, sonny, and this afternoon you’re needed.” However, two days after karate my knee feels weak and painful. Mrs Gale has demanded I ring the doctor, so I’d better do as I’m told. And I know I promised I’d make a bunkai chart but I haven’t got round to it yet. It’s been a busy week and I’ll be working at the weekend too – but it’s a task that’s on my list. Be seeing you!