WEEK 58: Chop-chop

WEEK 58: Chop-chop


Last weekend me and Mrs Gale went to the Northwood Scouts jumble sale, which is on the furthest reaches of North-west London – practically in Watford. Mrs Gale’s been visiting this annual event for the last 40 years; me for the best part of eleven or 12. The queue to get in is alarmingly long. The trick is to arrive an hour beforehand – at least – and bring a newspaper.

This year the jumble sale was a great source of 1980s sporting equipment. I need some weights for my continuing physio for my worn-out left knee and left-sided pelvic pain – which should in the long run alleviate sciatica.

We saw a pair of weights, picked them up and I thought, “These’ll be ideal.” Mrs Gale enquired of the product and was told, “£5.” The wife frowned and said, “Too expensive, we’ll maybe come back later.” The teenage scout looked baffled before bounding forward: “No, that’s the weight – 5lb.” Red-faced, we paid 50p and they’ve proved the final piece of my old-man physio jigsaw.

What with my leg exercises and balancing wobble board, the weights – where I stick my arse outwards and tense my thighs 3×10 times – have already given me benefits. My sciatica is slowly but surely being driven out this week.

On Monday I was still walking like Clive Dunn’s character Grandad due to sciatica leg-burn. We went big on using the karate chop, using both sides of the hand. To get used to swinging our flat hands about, we were given a long drill: L gedanberai; R daggerhand; R backhand chop to neck; L tap-down block; R chop to neck, palm up, L punch and R gedanberai. Repeat on other side. Up and down the dojo. Again, this is multi-tasking for me and I lagged behind everyone – but I didn’t feel like a chump tonight. I went at it. This is quite an important development, I think. I might have formulated a more business-like method to karate, more of an I-can-do approach.

By Thursday I was feeling freed from sciatica’s battery acid poison hell and before karate I’d done 20 minutes of Pilates in the morning and an hour’s tennis at dinner. More drills got the sweat pouring from my forehead and it was the first warm-ish evening of the year. Upward block, kick, punch; outside block, kick, punch; inside block, kick, punch. I’d remembered to bring water to drink this time after last week’s tomato-head routine.

Then there was a continuation of hand chops from Monday. We practised on the pads just how devastating a forward-flung chop and a backwards chop can be. The trick is to tuck your thumb in so you present both sides of your hand like a blade. Whooooah! Aim for the neck and you’re in business! Alas not permitted in karate competition. I’d later regret belting the pads with such vigour – my right hand’s tournament injury would rekindle its solid ache by the weekend.

To get the mind functioning on all cylinders, we whipped through shodan and nidan to the count and then as a team – before performing these katas as a mirror image, ie: the opposite to how we usually do them. I can see the benefits of this – completely outside-the-comfort-zone training. It was actually a bit of a laugh, if you could keep your breath, because we repeated this at a higher tempo.

This naturally led to a heian yondan section – our current kata to learn – and we’ve reached the sublime position where we’ve learnt the basic structure and now we’re finessing. It’s a fantastic feeling – and we even had the chance to show off a solo yondan before the end of the night.

We ended with the customary bar-room brawl scenario where the wrist and the knee of the daft sod who thought he’d try it on ends up in a state of disrepair.

Of note this week, I’ve been diagnosed with high cholesterol. This came as a surprise… or did it? Despite my twice-weekly karate, twice-weekly tennis, weekend gym session and twice-weekly Pilates, not to mention my miles of walking, my cholesterol score of 5.6 is above the safe point of 5.

My toast tends to be heavily buttered. If I can have cheese on that heavily buttered toast, it’s the food of kings. My jacket spuds are Rick Stein cheese-infused heaven. I’ll have a slice of cheese to pass a few minutes. Alcohol, roast potatoes, sausages… it all adds up. I’m allowed three eggs a week for the foreseeable. Much of the previously mentioned in this paragraph are to be avoided or consumed sparingly. My wings are being clipped as I type.

So those weights I bought. They were £5? Bloody hell. They saw us coming!