Second visit to the NHS physio at the local hossie and I think I’m being made into a sort of case study. My hip is vastly improved since being given – and sticking with – my exercises to increase strength in the weakened left rump (not my favourite word), caused by me walking all funny because I thought my knee ligaments were torn. (Readers voice, disinterested: “Oh yeah… it was arthritis…)
The new exercises include lengthier crab walks with resistance band on the ankles, some arse-up floor lifts and I’ve ordered a wobble cushion from Amazon which I have to precariously stand on and try to remain balanced.
My ageing arthritic knees were also tested on a leg lift device in the hospital’s surprisingly well-equipped gym. I can lift 25kg max with some pain, but I was informed that by the time they’ve finished with me, I’d be able to lift twice that amount – that’s if I wrap my legs around this device in the gym every time I visit (currently once a week). I’m back with the physio next month; wobble cushion is yet to arrive.
Realising that I needed to fully nail my blocks and counters for jodan (face), chudan (chest) and various kicks after looking like Mr Confused in the dojo last week, I created a definitive checklist on a clipboard. Reading typed-up instructions on A4 paper and revising them like I’m cramming for an exam is the only way that info has any chance of soaking into my middle-age brain.
But it wasn’t easy to compile. I’ve had to scour my karate notebook, flick through the Middlesex Shotokan Facebook page and view some very useful kumite videos on Witchford Shotokan Karate Club’s site (wskc.net) to come up with a basically workable bullet-point list (see main image).
I practised these blocks and counters till the martial arts cows came home yet we were never once asked to show these skills in the week’s two sessions. But you know what they say: a compiled list is worth, err, two in the bush.
Before you ask… my right hand is no better and I’m starting to think it might be ever-so-slightly fractured. The physio said if it’s no better by the start of next week maybe get it x-rayed. It’s very difficult to work around your prominent extremity in karate. In the earlier week’s session we learnt how to take a fall which involved slapping hands on the cushioning mat and then took part in some shoulder-tapping combat. Great fun – but hands are generally required.
The main dojo night on Thursday was a little more involving – it was one of the toughest tests of stamina in my 10 months and I was sweating so much that even my gi trousers were sopping wet.
Drills… well… not my strong point. On an inside-block-and-punch march up and down the dojo, I was so focused on trying to get the move correct that I stomped around doing a rising block instead. Very well performed, said Sensei Amrit, but completely wrong. I’m usually relieved when this section of the night is over – but I realise that I need to do more of these to improve.
Lighter relief came in a kata rundown, but for the first time ever we went through all the katas we know – twice; three times in the case of sandan because Sensei Harris wasn’t satisfied with our stances. I’ve got to stop leaning too far forward on punches! I must look like Eros. I blame the weight and shape of my grandadisation stomach… I need to eat less. I’ll be a sumo at this rate.
There was so much combat training – move in, punch, move out, move in, punch, move out – that I had problems seeing due to the sweat running into my eyes. It was relentless but I’ve enough experience to know that these are the karate minutes that really count. It’s all about muscle memory and on-your-toes cardio fitness – I even had a blister.
To follow from last week’s bar-room brawl tutorial we revisited the “Do you want some, do ya?” scruff-of-the-neck scenarios but took the lesson further. The crux is manipulation of the drunk bully’s hand. Let me explain…
Two handed-scruff of the neck situation: place your arms through his (or her) arms and thrust your arms skywards to break the hold, like you are taking off a problematic jumper, and give a two-handed jab to the face. “There you go, mucker!” How well that would work in reality is yet to be seen, but it’s all good knowledge.
The one-handed scruff-of-the-neck hold is more artistic: seize his (or her) hand and bring it closer to your chest. Smash your free fist downwards and hard into the elbow joint and follow with a bank punch to the neck (as per last week). Then twist the hand round to break the wrist and follow with a kick to the knee.
But what if, in all the excitement, you’ve used your wrong hand to gather your assailant closer. Run through the same first steps – slam arm, back-punch neck – and while they’re re-assessing the situation, get his (or her) hand quickly manipulated so your thumbs are behind the brute’s hand and force him (or her) downwards. Break the wrists if needed, mae-geri to the stooped head and, as a final flourish, kick the knee hard. Absolute havoc. Somebody call an ambulance for Bozo here!
Alas, someone tugged at my injured right hand during this highly entertaining segment and… well… I think I’d better give my hand some respite over the weekend.
Due to our now dwindling attendance figure in the dojo (there are just three regulars left), next week we’re reducing our total time from two and a half hours over two session to two. Whether my hand is fractured or not, the worry is that my non-attendance might mean that the Winchmore Hill branch of Middlesex Shotokan Karate goes into shutdown – which is unthinkable. So I’ll get by regardless and hope that we attract new members soon. Come on North London, we need you!