At the hospital, speaking with the physio, it was “there’s good news and bad news”. The positive is that there’s no injury to my knee or left hip. They’re both OK, no ligament rips, but the hip is inflamed due to poor stance exacebated by the is-it/isn’t-it bad knee. So the knee – it’s arthritic, as, to a lesser extent, is the other knee, which also started giving me gyp this week. Elbows have felt jolts of pain for a few months now while the wrists and ankles are also getting in on the act. Old age. The gradual grandadisation of the body continues.
I told the physio that I had my first fight coming up later this month and his reaction was a shake of the head: “You’re not up to it.” But, having explained that my entire existence had been geared towards the bout against Heathrow Shotokan since November, and that it wasn’t like cage-fighting, I was given a tentative green light. I’m back at the hospital next month to see how I’ve coped with the exercises I’ve been set to get me walking properly again. The resistance bands Mrs Gale bought me for Christmas have been rushed into mainline service.
In the first karate session of the week, I was still in the dark about whether my knee and hip were career-threatening injuries. Sensei Amrit was down with Covid, so Sensei Harris greeted us and we were straight in with bunkai for sandan followed by combat moves and counter attacks.
There was emphasis, too, on kicks – which I approached at full-throttle thinking that I needed to be in poor shape for the following day’s hospital visit. I’m good at booting; I like booting. But I suspected something was afoot when the extreme John O’Groats top of my left leg felt wrong on a sidekick thrust and my eyebrows sunk. In bed that night, pain struck hard. At 4am, realising that I couldn’t sleep unless I had painkillers, I staggered to the medicine shelf downstairs in the kitchen for Nurofen – insodoing waking up Mrs Gale. She wasn’t best pleased when the alarm went off at 6am having had no further sleep.
Knowing now that my knee isn’t done in, I’ve been handed more confidence. But before the second karate class of the week, I was still hobbling about after my earlier-in-the-week keep-you-up-all-night kicking calamity. But I think this is how karate is going to be for a 51-year-old so I turned up hoping for the best.
Attempting press-ups using fists, not hands, obviously didn’t bother my thigh too much but there were audible “oooof!”s from the gathered throng as knuckles ground on parquet floor. “Get used to that!” we were told. “When you move up belts, you’ll be doing knuckle press-ups a lot more frequently.”
Pad-work for kicks and bunkai for kata sandan were additions to Monday’s session and my whirling arms for sandan were practised so much that there were bruises the next morning. By the end of the 90 minutes I had the fire-cracker sensation of feeling genuinely fit, something I haven’t experienced since I was 15. I’ve said this many, many times but you get a glow after karate – not only for surviving everything thrown at you but also for knowing that all this exercise is doing you so much good.
With fight day not too far off now, an alcohol ban is descending on the house (with allowance for Valentine’s Day aka Kevin Keegan’s birthday and maybe a glass of wine should we go ahead with a cultural trip). The booze restriction is the bit I’m not really looking forward to. You see, I like a stress-busting glass of red in the evening. But no pain, no gain. And that extends to the knee nuisance. The adventures of an arthritic yellow belt will, I would say, continue for some time yet.