Dear Silverfox Karateka,
Yes you. The 40 something (and up) leaving the Dojo, waking up the next morning and instantaneously reaching for the Ibuprofen bottle fixed permanently to your nightstand. How are you? As I’m writing this, I’m finding it almost therapeutic and may continue it as my own form of “martial arts journey”. I am not a Doctor, but I would like to base this on my personal experiences and hope that my fellow “Grey Haired Bushi” will also share their thoughts, stories, and home remedies.
Currently, I have reaggravated an old injury in the middle of my “reenergizing/midlife crisis” exploration into Karate. I was diagnosed with 5 herniated discs in my lower back 3 and a half years ago causing me serious pain when walking. Part of the problem is that I have a genetic defect near my tailbone causing an odd curvature that nothing can be done for. (Doctors estimate Im roughly an inch shorter because of this, but I make right turns walking very well) :-)
For 6 months, I could not walk correctly nor even tie my work boots. As you can imagine this becomes even more complicated when you are a construction project manager for a living. Anyways, after visiting multiple doctors who told me the only options I had were: A.) Time, and B.) Spinal Fusion, I chose Option A and went through an extremely depressing 6 months. In that time frame, I tried everything imaginable. Now to be clear, I am not advocating any treatment nor am I here to argue with anyone’s ideas. What works for you Works if it doesn’t remove it. (Thanks Iain Abernethy ) What finally worked for me was not only the time, but also Physical Therapy worked for me. I entered a program which included spinal decompression, strength and stretching. Within a few months I was finally able to get full range of motion back. You cannot imagine the joy of being able to tie a shoe or put on a sock when you haven’t been able to accomplish these monumental tasks for half a year. So, you’re probably saying to yourself “Great…. where is he going with this”? Good question. I’m not sure!
The conclusion I have at this point is simply this: without going through those dark times, I would not have found my way back into Karate. At the suggestion of my Physical Therapist I decided to take up martial arts again and 2.5 years later I could not be happier. I would not have discovered practical applications, the teachings of my current instructor Keith Freeman, Iain Abernethy, Peter Consterdine, Leigh Simms, and I would not have discovered so many fellow “Grey Haired Bushi” that I now communicate with and consider friends.
“But you reinjured yourself?!!!“
I reinjured myself because I put blinders on and only focused on my training and not including the Physical Therapy with part of my martial arts journey. Acceptance that you cannot do at 40+ what you could do at 20 is easy on the surface but In the mind, that’s a whole other battle.
Scenario: You go to class, have a great night working bunkai drills, spar with a 20-year-old, go through Heian Nidan as smooth as glass and its easy to forget your age. (which may be part of the problem?) :-) But my advice is always be aware that the journey can continue, but always remember to give yourself a good listen to.
Carry on my fellow Grey Haired Bushi. And do not forget the Ibuprofen!