You realise in your fifties that you’re not going to win the war but you might get a few victorious battles along the way. Each day seems to bring fresh problems for the ageing body. My week has been governed by sciatica down my left leg all the way from my arse cheek, down the back of my thigh, to my knee. I don’t know why this is. I’ve had it before but I thought it was under control with karate, tennis, gym and Pilates. It was back with a vengeance.
The seats in the courtroom where I’m doing long-term jury service seem designed to bring on sciatica and no amount of paracetamol or Nurofen dulls the scorching molten-metal pain. If that wasn’t enough, I’ve picked up a stomach virus. Gaviscon pink gloop is at the ready. Wash your hands thoroughly after reading this blog.
Despite these new complaints I kept a 100 per cent attendance rate at karate. Monday in the senseis’ gym we continued learning how to fall on mats using hands slapped down on the ground at 45 degrees, and practised kicking from our horizontal position on the mats. Getting my legs to thrash outwards at right angles is a real task for me – my pelvis goes gloink!
To add a bit of fizz to Monday, we threw proper punches at each other, which had to be defended with open-hand sideward blocks followed by a dagger hand to the neck. A sensei’s fist coming at you like a Sidewinder missile certainly focuses the mind. You shift out of the way amazingly rapidly.
And there was a first taste of yondan bunkai. The first moves for heian yondan are arms to the twenty-to-eight position and then you raise arms into a television screen around your head. The TV bit is a punch block and a face push in bunkai. Then you get your hands under the attacker’s arm and twist that arm around. We’ll be revisiting this soon.
By Thursday I was a regular visitor to the toiletry facilities provided and I can’t quite work out how I’ve picked up this stomach ailment. Court? Possibly. Must be. Was Thursday more vigorous than normal in the dojo? I don’t think so and yet I was like Walter the Softy. After 20 press-ups, I was perspiring more than Don Logan in Sexy Beast when he first arrives in Spain. “I’m sweating like a…” Well, you’ve no doubt seen the film.
Like Gal from Sexy Beast, my body was trying to tell me that it was retired and couldn’t do the job, whereas another voice said, “You’ll be there, the Grosvenor – name of Rowntree.” I just managed to keep up – drilling blocks across the dojo for face, chest and stomach with the myriad arm flicks and decisive counters. I was hands-on-knees knackered by the halfway point.
My leaning when punching and inability to breathe regularly remain huge problems. As I’ve mentioned before, my family are leaners by design, even when they walk. Mrs Gale can spot me a mile off by my distinctive gait. I have no remedies for either of these issues.
While panting, we worked meticulously as a team through all the katas apart from kihon and then focused on yondan minutiae. I should take a bottle of water with me next time because my head was burning through sheer concentration and control of my kata moves. Shodan, nidan, sandan – as soon as I got home, stomach whining like a transistor radio, I ran upstairs to the shower. I’ve never seen my gi so sodden. Straight in the wash. Maybe you sweat more when you get older. Maybe you sweat more with a stomach virus. There’s always something, isn’t there?