It’d be nice to start the blog this week with no mention of ailment or injury. So let’s get it out of the way quickly, shall we? My bruised right hand and painful fingers appear to be tendon tears, as diagnosed by the expert at the local surgery’s chemist. Voltarol pain-relief cream is being rubbed on twice a day. “Do I need to strap the hand up?” I asked the medical pro. “No,” she replied, “but steer clear of karate for four to six weeks. If you damage your hand further you could have real problems.”
I couldn’t possibly take that long out. No way. I need two sessions of karate a week just to keep up. To lose momentum at this stage would be unthinkable, negligent even. I texted Sensei Amrit. The reply was: “We’ll work around it.” I went to get some cheese on toast to celebrate. Even so, it’s difficult to not use your hands: karate is hand-to-hand combat!
What is still achingly apparent is that I need to have blocks and counters learnt and in the bag asap – three each for face, chest, mae-geri kick, mawashi-geri side-kick and yoko-whatever-its-called-geri side-thrust kick. I’ve been practicing these at home but I forget them under the glaring lights of the dojo. Note to self: type these manoeuvres out on a Word doc and send to Sensei Amrit to check.
I pulled something in my upper thigh on Monday and this stuck around for the Thursday runaround. Drills were my usual display of alarming ineptness, made worse by not being able to lift my leg/thigh because it felt it might come out of the socket. Coupled with the hand injury, within 10 minutes I was crestfallen and feeling overbearingly ancient. “And at your age it’s only going to get worse,” I reasoned with myself.
At that point I had to check myself. I pressed “re-set” in my brain mid-drill and thought about the unflappable colour sergeant played by Nigel Green in Zulu that I’d watched on DVD last weekend. “Wh-why why me, sir?” “Because you’re here, lad.” There was instant improvement and I knuckled under to better follow the instructions we were given.
A run through of the kata heian sandan was great fun – I love katas. Sensei Harris is a bunkai general and we went through the whole kata with its practical application. I’ll tell you what, it’s easier than nidan bunkai. Note to self No. 2: I need to come up with a Lee Gale World-Famous Bunkai Chart for heian sandan at the weekend.
By the time we were in the second half of the 90 minutes I was in the zone – nicely warmed up, sweating and settled. What followed was grimly entertaining. We were taught how to react in an awry pub situation – or tuck-shop dispute if you’re a teenager. Let me explain…
A thug grabs you by the scruff of the neck with a hand. You need to act quickly for best results. With your left hand, you pull his threatening meat-hook fingers even closer to your body. You then smash down into his soft arm angle, give him a quick reflex backhand in the chops and while the shock registers take his hands and push them backwards while twisting – until the wrists break. For a guaranteed prison sentence, aim a kick at his lower leg to break the knee/ankle. Take a quick sip of your pint, flash a grin to the ladies present in the bar and beat a hasty retreat. “Taxi!”
Then there’s the menace who grabs your lapels with both hands. Rather than trying to loosen his grip, push his arms together rather than apart and give a two-handed punch to the skitter (face). Alternatively, get your arms up through the gap of the assailant’s limbs like you are putting on a jumper… and then what? This is the problem of being in your fifties. I now can’t remember. It’s something else to ask Sensei Amrit when I email her with my block-and-counter manoeuvres Word doc. I didn’t mention that Sensei Harris grabbed my bad hand to show how to break the wrists. Instantly forgiven.
There was a low turnout tonight and we are in need of new members. There was just me, two teenagers and the two senseis. If anyone in Winchmore Hill, Palmers Green or Enfield is considering trying out karate, at whatever age you are I can’t emphasise enough what a feeling of elation you have after a karate class. It’s hard graft but it’s a wonderful sensation – a glow. If this can work for me, it can for you.