Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Long Overdue Epitaph


After all this time, you decided to come back for just one more look to see if I ever made it???

Answer: YES!

On August 5th, 2012, after 5 years of hard work, blood, sweat, tears, heartache, longing, laughter, and 3 reconstructed ACL's, I achieved the rank of 1st Degree Black Belt. Here's the photo of my instructor belting me:

For Christmas, Mrs. Shaft created a very cool shadow box to frame my certificate, using all the colored belts I've earned on the road to black:

In this fast-paced world of social networking, like many of my fellow bloggers who are martial artists with reconstructed ACL's, I have opted for the instant gratification of Facebook for sharing my day-to-day observations of life, love, and the pursuit of happiness.

And so I officially post the closure of this chapter of my life with a heartfelt thanks to many of you who voiced your support for me during my various stages of reconstruction and rehabilitation.

And for any new readers, you are always free to comment and ask questions. I'll respond.

With gratuity for your attention,
Hack Shaft

Friday, July 30, 2010

Comfort Zone

Two Sundays ago I accomplished something I've never done before.
I ran 5 miles continuously for the first time, either in competition or in training.

I arrived at registration just 5 minutes or so before the race started, enough time to get registered and pay the fee. Since my goal was to finish the distance without walking, I queued up at the back of the pack and set off at a comfortable pace. My rule of thumb was not to run so hard that I couldn't talk, which I figured to be maybe a 12 minute-per-mile pace, practically speed walking for me.

Throughout the course I chatted up a number of friendly runners, including a fellow in his 50's or 60's with the same goal as me, several first-time racers, even a mother pushing her two sons in a jogging stroller!

There were two young ladies who started off next to me, then pulled ahead. Any time there was a hill, however, I'd catch up at my steady pace and pass them. Then when the course flattened out or went downhill, they'd pass me up. It became a tortoise-vs-hare kind of situation, and made for quite an entertaining race.

When we hit the last mile on main street, where the course was straight and flat, I spotted the two women walking again. I hollered at them to get running, or they'd be "in serious danger of making me look good!" They promptly picked up their feet to run, finishing perhaps 30 seconds ahead of me.

At the finish line, I was excited to see that I came in under an hour; my pace was 11:23 per mile, very satisfactory. I was nowhere near the fastest people, but I completed the course and didn't finish last, accomplishing what I'd set out to do.

Meanwhile my Karate training has been lagging; I missed two weeks from a sprained ankle, another week from pulled quads, and last week a busy schedule only gave me opportunity to attend one sparring class and a kickboxing cardio class.

On Wednesday of this week, we were doing a series of back-to-back slow kicks, and my balance felt so far off I may as well been drunk. I totally attribute it to a lack of training and losing my conditioning in the process.

Tomorrow I am volunteering to hold pads for Danny Long-Legs at his test for Black Belt in the morning. Danny holds a 2nd degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do from many decades ago, and is being certified in my school's system as a 1st Degree Black Belt. I'm very proud of him and his hard work ethic, and honored by his invitation.

My hope is watching Danny and 6 other students getting their Black Belts will inspire me to get out of my comfort zone and get serious about training again.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Running from the Storm

I'm officially done with Tornado kicks for a long time. 2 weeks ago I sprained my left ankle from a bad landing after--wait for it--a Tornado Kick.

I took it as a warning shot across my bow, it could well have taken my left knee out as easily as it sprained my ankle. I'm just not ready for them yet.

Saw my PT today, and I need a lot of plyometric work to really satisfy him. Back to hopping exercises! Did fine on straight single and multiple hops (one-footed), but adding any amount of zig-zag and I just about fell down. Doing some really high retro step-ups as a warm up didn't help, as it somewhat fatigued my legs right off the bat.

I see him again in 6 weeks, hopefully the last visit for a long time.

My running endurance has increased quite a lot this year, and I plan to run in my city's 5-mile race on Sunday. My goal: to complete all 5 miles without walking!

Monday night I plan to return to sparring. I will do warm-ups, work drills, and work with partners on a strictly upper-body basis: no kicks. It'll be a challenge for me, but also for anyone working with me--but it should result in getting some great hand work in. When I do start kicking again, I hope to have mad upper-body skills that aren't typically emphasized among point fighters!

Meanwhile I still plan to make 40-somethings cry as I steal their dreams in open hand forms and weapons at every tournament I can...

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Graduation, Part III

Yesterday was the day I never expected, never wanted, and hope to never experience ever again.


It's been an exceptionally long 6 months of rehab, for the 3rd time.

As I'm old hat at the whole physical-rehab-for-ACL-reconstruction thing, I had no questions for Dr. K, so we spent time chatting about our iPhones and favorite apps.

I have two iPhone / iPod Touch apps that have proven invaluable in my PT and ongoing goal-setting endeavors.

Round Timer - This app is the classic training ring timer. You can set up any number of rounds, with a countdown timer, and separate recurring timers for warning and rest times. For interval training, this thing is tops--and much less expensive as an iPhone app than purchasing the real thing, typically upwards of $200!

For each round, you can set up a warning time and rest time. So a 2 minute round with 10 second warning would sound a tone at 1:50, indicating there were 10 seconds left in the round. Rest time is a period between rounds, handy for actually catching your breath--or in the case of sparring class, switching partners.

As a bonus, you can play songs from your music library while the timer is running, and it will automatically mute the music to sound a tone. This allows you to crank music for your workout, and not miss your intervals!

Tallies - Just like it says, this app helps you keep tally counts of anything. In my case, I have some Summer goals - like 1000 push-ups, 150 reps of my forms, 45 minutes of aerobic activity each week, and 1500 slow-count kicks. Completely customizable, and really cheap, putting my goals on my phone keeps me on-track.

What software or mobile device apps do YOU find helpful on a daily basis???

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


I'm back to Karate, recently cleared for non-contact kicks, and assigned these brilliantly complex plyometric exercises--jump forward on one foot, but turn 90 degrees right or left and land on the same foot in a squat to absorb impact. Yikes!

Running has been great, recently did the full 4-mile course I ran last summer without stopping.

Lately it seems time is slipping away from me. Just when I'm getting back into the groove of working out, there's a string of commitments that have me over-booked and exhausted! Fortunately, though, I'm taking a few days off to travel with family and friends to Door County.

I'm looking forward to slowing time down and smelling some roses among the lighthouses and other attractions!

As for sparring, I'll be taking a very cautious approach to re-entry. My PT is incredibly insightful, and commented that right now I'm doing a great job of maintaining proper body position with regards to the knee(s), but that it's still a very conscious effort.

He recognized the common link between my ACL tears is poor positioning; the true challenge is to evolve that sense of proper position into an unconscious effort. This is most important when sparring, since it involves so much spontaneous movement and reflexive action.

So after I see him at the end of this month, I expect to re-enter sparring classes. However, the plan is to limit the risk early on, concentrating on controlled drills and hand work and skipping the open point sparring for now.

Out of a healthy sense of superstition, I also plan to take November and December off from any sparring activity, picking things up in January to prepare for next April's tournament at the end of the season.

Until then, I plan to make grown men cry by walking away with the gold in all the weapon and open-hand forms that I can.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

14 Daze

Hiya, dedicated reader!

Tomorrow marks the beginning of week #14 since ACL surgery #3 on January 11th.

While I've been back to running for a while, I've taken the past week off due to a nasty head cold. However, I think with the warming weather and a little help from an antihistamine or two, I should be back on the path tomorrow.

I've been assigned plyometric exercises in the form of assisted hops, square hops, and hopping up and down steps on both feet. Adding to that, more strengthening exercises in the form of my favorite slow-count kicks, as well as carefully executed forms / kata.

I see my PT in 2 more weeks. Assuming all goes well, he and I both expect I'll be returning to Karate with similar restrictions as I've had in the past--no hard snapping kicks, no turning kicks, no jumping kicks--until I'm at 24 weeks the end of June.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

On The Road Again

It's been a long Winter, and Spring can't come soon enough.

Physically things are coming along just great. I saw my PT today, and we did a bunch of testing comparing the involved leg against the good leg.

Involved. Funny term, involved. I've been involved with Karate for 3 years, my body's been involved with training, my time involved with playing music, being a decent husband, and raising a child, but I never considered just my knee involved with anything. Huh.

Testing consisted of a number of squat-and-reach exercises, such as standing on one foot while touching the floor as far out as possible at a 45° angle each way from the foot without falling. Another test was one-legged squats as low as possible.

Numbers look good, my operative knee is 85-90% as compared to the good knee. That means I can start a re-entry to running following protocol; basically it's walking with short periods of running, working up to progressively longer running periods without walking breaks.

Not that I've ever been much of a runner, but it's at least a change in routine, and one that will get me doing something moderately resembling recreational activity outside. Honestly, I miss the solitude that running early in the morning brings, and I look forward to it.

So, yeah, just over 7 weeks post-op and I'm running. Cool.

Emotionally things are a struggle this time. First time was a novelty, second time was routine at worst, but the third time is really weighing heavy on my mind. There are times when the depression and worry is tangible, like a yoke around my neck that I just can't remove.

There's an annoying, nagging voice in my head that won't stop wondering if I'm some kind of natural klutz. Another one argues that no, it's strictly a case of freak accidents--hardly predictable, not likely preventable except to quit Karate.

And then the people who hear about 'the third time,' and keep saying I need to find a safer hobby.

A hobby.

A hobby??? This is not a hobby, it's part of my way of life!

It's as much a hobby to me as someone going back to school to get a Masters or Doctorate is just a hobby.

Thanks for reading, and pardon my ranting and raving.

It's been a long Winter, and Spring can't come soon enough.