Thursday, December 31, 2009

3rd time: NOT a charm...

I'll be brief since we're heading out the door to a New Year's party (Happy New Year, by the way).

Monday at sparring I tried ducking under my partner's kick and coming up with a back fist from underneath.

At a guess, I was moving sideways too much, and tried coming up while the mass of my body was still shifting sideways.

The result: That too-familiar shifting sensation of a joint dislocating.

Tuesday was the MRI.

This morning's visit with Dr. K confirms that I re-tore the ACL in my right knee - the first knee that started this blog in 2007.

Surgery in 2 weeks. Sorry, everyone.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Best Foot Forward

My #2 ACL tear anniversary was on election night a few weeks ago. No big deal, but it is an opportunity to reflect.

My broken rib healed nicely, and I've been to sparring classes the past two weeks.

My first class back I made a real effort to pick one thing to concentrate on, besides returning to fighting with my right side forward. That one thing was getting my arm defenses up to snuff, and it really paid off! Rather than getting knocked out of matches with no points, I was at least pushing things to equilibrium--forcing the match to come to the final point to decide a winner.

My regular partner in class and sparring, John, said he really noticed the difference in my defensive abilities, and that I was getting back into the groove. He and I both liken sparring to dancing, and I was finally relaxing enough to just enjoy the dance and not worry about the steps!

This past Monday I began to re-think how I should be fighting.

I've been trying attacks that my body can't execute fast enough, so I really focused on defenses, reading my opponent, and scouring for counter-attack opportunities.

It paid back in spades when I bested one of the guys I consider a top adult fighter, one whom I've hardly had opportunity to score on since returning to sparring, and whose kicks I usually end up eating far too often.

At the end of class, I was again facing the same fighter--but this time with all eyes on us as we finished our match. I think the score was 3-2 in my favor, and the winner is first to 5 points. I watched carefully for a twitch, a sign of commitment to some move from my opponent. Then it came, in the form of a big roundhouse punch! Vigilance paid off as I leaned into a defensive side kick, catching my opponent in the side as the punch bounced scoreless off my shoulder.

I could hardly believe the referees called 2 points in my favor, ending the match 5-2!

That was a beautiful end to a fruitful night.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

11 Months

I have a curse, and it occurs every 11 months.

From my first ACL tear in December, 2007, to the next in November, 2008 was 11 months.
From the second ACL tear to a broken rib this month, October, 2009, was 11 months.
I plan to take September of 2010 off from any Karate-related activity, just to be safe.

It's been a while since I blogged, so let me fill you in.

August was busy with a lot of camping, and a severe shortage of opportunities for me to go to core classes. I maintained my conditioning, but didn't really have the new open hand form memorized. It seemed life was pulling me every which way but where I wanted to go!

September was filled with weeks of getting back to the swing of things, most notably the annual 3 school cross-training sparring classes. Members from 3 of the local schools gather together every 2 weeks leading up to the Diamond Nationals, the largest martial arts tournament of its kind, to spend time sparring with other fighters we don't see on a regular basis. I learned tons and was looking forward to sparring in tournaments again this year.

October came, and so did the Diamonds. It's a 2-day event, and I signed up for sparring and weapons on both days. The first day, Friday, is principally an intramural event, the second day is an open event to competitors nationwide.

I cranked out a 1st place weapons form with my Bo, besting 5 other competitors in the 35+ men's group. Then it was on to sparring.

There were 5 of us in the advanced belts, significant in that our rank allowed us to score points with head contact whereas the lower under-black belts have to avoid it. 2 pairs of us were from the same school, so they mixed up our order to avoid fighters too familiar with each other.

Since it's single-elimination and not round-robin, I pulled a bye with 2 other guys. My main training partner John waltzed through the first match, then the other two guys with a bye had their fight. That put my first match for the weekend with John, which had me somewhat concerned as he's a fantastic fighter and one I was hoping not to face right out of the gate!

The first clash had me executing a double side kick. Due to weird timing and physics, my supporting leg just happened to be in the air as John advanced on me, resulting in getting knocked on my butt. Hard. On a hotel conference room floor, devoid of the padding we have available at the school.

I danced a bit to shake it off, and we proceeded with the match. John and I were both going at it hard, and I returned the favor knocking him on his butt a short while later with a nicely executed front kick.

The next clash had me holding him at bay, but he blitzed me with a perfectly timed back punch just as I was chambering for a side kick. Unfortunately I took it full force on my left side, just barely above the protection of my rib guard. I was fine for about a second, then the pain hit me like a 2 X 4! I took some time to recover and finished the match, but I knew something was up with my ribs.

The following morning, Urgent Care confirmed a broken 6th rib on my left side.

I wasn't able to compete Saturday, including my Bo form, so I spent time video taping everyone I could, and made John buy me lots of drinks at the finale that night!

While I'm waiting to heal, I still go to watch the Monday fights and chat up folks, all the time watching...watching...watching...

John and I have talked a lot about what it was that allowed him to slip inside my kicking range, and with input from a few other fighters I've decided to return to a right-side forward fighting stance.

My right side is my bread and butter. My right leg is much more facile, and my right hand faster than my left, and in point sparring speed counts more than power--so it makes sense to get the faster side back in front. That was confirmed by a lot of the video I recorded.

Plus, I have a slight vision impairment in my left eye that results in less peripheral vision, so I can't see someone's big back punch or round kick coming around!

It's been 2 weeks now, and 2-4 more to go, mostly depending on how I feel. I'll gauge my readiness to return based on whether I can do sit-ups or push-ups at all, let alone getting up to any significant quantity of either.

For those of you who spar, how do you determine the best side to put forward?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Seeing Red

Whew, what a busy month July turned out to be!

I tested for my half-belt (or "stripe") at the end of May, the day after officially having all restrictions removed by my surgeon. It felt like the toughest test I'd done, but I was very proud of my performance and felt stronger than ever.

Throughout June and into July I suffered a string of weird minor injuries, all outside of Karate class.

I strained both quads sprinting way too hard during a routine Saturday morning run, was knocked out of commission for a week with a nasty virus, and two weeks ago I twisted my left ankle something fierce stepping into a pothole on a local walking path that was overgrown with grass.

Waking up with stiff joints and pain has become de rigeur in my morning routine until I've loosened up with a hot shower. I'm OK with it, though, since it's a predictable thing.

What I didn't predict was testing for Red belt just shy of 2 months after my last belt exam!

It went well, but with all my down time I was less conditioned than I cared to be. This was most noticeable when doing slow-count kicks. Remember those??? Well, for Red belt and above, you no longer do them holding a barre or against a wall to steady yourself.

You're in the middle of the room.

And you darn well feel it when the test is done!

I talked to my instructor about having such a short interval between belts after the test. The curriculum requires a progressively higher number of classes between belts as you move up through the ranks, but he feels I'm ready for advanced belt classes based on my progress since returning from injury. Wow, how cool is that?!?

Tomorrow night's class is canceled. My school's head examiner for black belts is personally conducting a special class for advanced belts, which is predicted to be well over an hour long--possibly closer to two hours. It's intended as a preview of black belt screenings, and I'm both nervous and excited to take part in it.

When I went to watch the Family That Fights Together during their final screening back in November, the Examiner spotted me coming into the lobby and took time out--right in the middle of the screening--to offer his condolences, emphasizing that "there is life after this."

You see, he's a 5th Degree black belt with reconstructed ACL's in both knees.

We're an immense distance apart in rank, but wear the same scars marking our initiation into a regrettably elite club.

I look forward to working out with him if for no other reason than to thank him for his encouragement and his faith in me.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

All together now

Before I ramble on in this post, I want to congratulate BobSpar and Black Belt Mama (now legit) on earning their black belts.

Way to go, guys, hope to join you soon!!!

The family and I went for a trip up North last weekend, and taking that time off from Karate and running Saturday paid off. The nasty burning sensation from straining my quads is pretty much gone now. Whew!

Monday night I was back in sparring, and my quads held up well; just a slight bit of stiffness while stretching gave any clue to having strained them.

My first few sparring classes back I was, to put things bluntly, full of piss and vinegar. No matter what I told myself about relaxing, I was getting way too aggressive for my own good!

Monday's class went incredibly well. We worked on some shadow drills, learning how to read others and anticipate their position while concentrating on footwork fundamentals. Then we ran a series of 1-point matches in groups, and I bested 4 people in a row, including one of our assistant instructors.

As my buddy Thunder John keeps reminding me, I just need time and patience to get back what I lost in sparring...but 4 in a row sure goes a long way towards boosting my confidence!!!

There were a few new things I was trying in sparring as well, namely new equipment.

The standard issue boots are just top padding, with straps under your toes and an elastic wrap to hold everything in place. Remember that bruise picture? I blame it somewhat on the boot design, which tended to trip me up a bit the way that I spar, often causing me to stub one toe or another.

I replaced them with fully enclosed Ringstar SuperMaxx sparring shoes and can't say enough good things about them so far. They keep my toes from folding funny, are lightweight, non-marking, and the soles have just the right amount of friction to mimic bare feet on our mats.
Now I know why 4/5ths of the class own a pair!

The other bit of equipment that was new is a rib guard. I had a full chest shield, but it tended to ride too high, exposing my midriff too much. This was evidenced when Thunder John caught me with a square back punch near the liver, which nearly floored me. That same punch on Monday night was much more comfortable to receive, so it was an investment well worth the money spent.

Tonight is the first core class I'll attend 9 days, so it should be interesting. I'm feeling much more put together now!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Feeling Torn

For the past 2 months or so, I've been running on Saturday mornings with 2 other people from my Karate school. At 7 am we head out for a perfect 4-mile loop, ending up at the coffee shop a block from the school. It's a great way to kick off Saturdays, and good incentive to get some out-of-the-classroom exercise.

The course is perfect, being flat crushed gravel for the first 2 miles, then rolling hills the last 2 miles. You get a nice warm-up while its flat, and just about the time you've caught your second wind you hit the hills.

2 weeks ago we ran the course backwards, hitting the hills first. Not withstanding the fact that I was still recovering from a nasty cold, it was a much tougher run, and all 3 of us needed to catch our breath at the halfway point. For the second half, we pretty much went from fast walking to occasional 50-yard sprints.

I hit one particular sprint pretty hard, and felt some funny muscle thing in my quads, like a group of muscle fiber I don't usually engage that way. Nothing painful, just new muscles being put to use. I was still sore after a week.

Friday while my daughter was sparring I decided to use the time to work on the Summer Goals program, which includes running our form 150 times outside of regular class between now and the end of August. I went through my Bo (staff) form and everything was fine until the last move, which involves a strike while going down on 1 knee.

I made it about 1/3 of the way to the floor when my right thigh lit up like it was on fire. Ouch!
G-Shaft commented from under her sparring helmet, "Knee problems?" I replied that it was my thighs, not my knees. For the remainder of the time, I simply avoided motions that aggravated my thighs.

Since that day, I researched the problem and concluded that I've got a level 1 quadricep strain. Since I have a week full of meetings keeping me away from Karate anyway, I'm resting and stretching, and will pick up a pair of compression wraps. Walking and gentle running don't hurt, I can bend my knees fully, but quad stretches are awfully tight at the moment.

Sudden explosive movement is what caused the problem, and what would aggravate it further; therefore I'll just run (gently) and attend core classes next week. No kickboxing aerobics, no sparring (except as a spectator.)

So to those of you who jog or run and are considering mixing in some sprints, take it easy! I went all-out, and my thighs are paying for that decision.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Weaving Wisdom

So I tried the weaving thing, and it looks kind of interesting:

This is my prior 8 belts woven together, and the total weight is probably around 5 pounds.

It actually came out looking pretty cool, and is symbolic of how knowledge and ability gained at each belt level is woven into the next.

I don't know if I'll keep adding to it in the same fashion, but for now it's a respectful reminder of the road I've traveled so far.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Still Standing

Well, I can't say as I made it through sparring class without injury, but I am still on two feet.

The injury was minor, but after a while it got to be some kind of cosmic joke--I stubbed my second toe on the left foot, next to the big toe.

Then that same toe was stepped on while we were warming up free sparring.

Then it was stepped on once more by someone else while I was refereeing a point fighting match.


It's a pretty shade of purple today, and I intend to get it checked out tonight when I can get a ride--I'm also home with some kind of mild flu-like virus, and a bit too lightheaded to drive myself anywhere.

Anyhow, sparring was a very joyful experience for me, even with the bruising (and possible breaking) of a toe. I was on adrenaline the whole afternoon, but fell into a calm, rhythmic place once I warmed up and did some free sparring.

Now I just need to put into action all the mental notes I've taken watching class for the past 6+ months!

Time to grab some late lunch and take a nice, long nap...

Friday, May 29, 2009


I'm free...I'm free!
And freedom tastes of reality.
"I'm Free" from The Who's rock opera "Tommy"

1. Saw Dr. K this morning, restrictions are removed.
2. "Have a good life," he said.
3. Made a pact with him that we shall never meet again under these circumstances.
4. Got the above song stuck in my head.
5. Testing for my next belt tomorrow morning.
6. Sparring Monday night...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A memorial

6 days until my final (I pray!) visit with Dr. K, where I should be officially released from restrictions on activity.

One of my goals this Memorial Day Weekend is to clean house. Time to finally get the summer/winter clothes turned over, toss or donate items, and especially important--organize my office.

In one corner behind the door is a small plastic wash tub. When I did Triathlons, it was useful in competition for quickly washing sand stuck to my feet from running up a beach before putting on socks and biking shoes. Most recently it's been put to service holding G-Shaft and my old belts until Mrs. Shaft needed something to soak her feet in.

And so the various colored belts from white through red came tumbling down and are currently lying in a sad heap on the floor behind me.

You know, they really deserve better retirement than that, but there are so many of them I'm not sure what to do!!! Our advancement system has half-belts, referred to as stripes, between each solid color belt. So the order is:
  • White
  • Gold
  • Gold - Green Stripe
  • Green
  • Green - Purple Stripe
  • Purple
  • Purple - Blue Stripe
  • Blue (My current rank)
  • Blue - Red Stripe
  • Red
  • Red - Brown Stripe (G-Shaft's current rank)
  • Brown
  • Brown - Black Stripe
  • Brown - Double Black Stripe
  • Black
So there are 17 of these dear, old friends, just waiting for a creative display.

I thought I might honor them with a vertical rack, and each belt would be hanging properly knotted in a nice array, kind of like a gun rack or sword display one might find in a hunting lodge. If I find a nice design, maybe I'll partner with one of the other parents I train with to sell a few to other students wanting to honor their history.

However, that's a lot of belts--so now I'm thinking of some kind of weaving. While a vertical rack shows progression, I think weaving them together shows the relevance of each belt's lessons to the next.

We'll try it this weekend and see how it looks.

What do you do with your old belts when you've been advanced?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Beautiful Thing

Sunday was my school system's Team Tournament, and the last one of the season in this area.
It features tag-team sparring for adults, and team forms for adults and youth.

My daughter and I presented a form together as part of the Family Performance division.
This is an open, non-competitive division for fun--and everyone gets to take home a trophy.
As a family of Scandinavian heritage, we had some fun with the form, calling ourselves Team Uff-Da. That's pronounced "Oof-Dah."

This blog from a local news anchor describes what I witnessed in this division far better than I ever could:

I am so proud to be a part of an organization that welcomes people of all abilities.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Sparring, sweet sparring...

My Karate school has an intramural team tournament coming up in a week from Sunday, so Monday night sparring classes for adults have focused on tag-team strategy.

Needless to say, the fighting gets pretty intense, but with some goofy moments as well.

I did extensive taping of our class this past Monday:

Check out #5 at 6:25 - the slide kick that was more slide than kick
Check out #6 at 5:30 - Ouch...

The tape of ground work was for the woman in the video. She, along with my instructor, are competing this week at the East-West Open, a "Martial Arts Olympics" held annually in St. Petersburg, Russia. Since some fights at that event include grappling, she's receiving a cram course in basic ground defense. I shot this so she has some study material to review.

Best of luck to both of them!

For Thursday's class we had a guest instructor who was well-versed in one of my favorite torture techniques, the slow-count kick. As a warm-up, we did a lot of stationary work, simply holding stances and fine-tuning them . Then we did slow-count kicks.

While working slow-count kicks, I idly remarked that it'd be interesting to combine stances with slow-count kicks; She took me up on the concept, and we did just that!

So imagine this for a strength exercise:

1. Begin in a fighting stance.
2. Rotate hips forward, squaring yourself up, then bend your rear leg and slowly squat until the rear knee touches the floor.
3. Raise up from the floor slowly and execute a slow-count front kick with the back leg.
4. Lower the kicking leg forward into a fighting stance on the opposite side.
5. Repeat, marching across the floor and back again. Slowly.

I hated it, and loved hating it...

On a side note, big thanks to Black Belt Mama for the free book. Should make for interesting, light reading before bedtime.

Monday, April 6, 2009

2 out of 3 ain't bad.

Today is week 16 since surgery, 8 more to go until no restrictions.

2/3'rds of the way, and feeling great!

That first week back was absolute murder on my quads, hams, and shoulders, but absolutely no complaining from my knee. I made it to classes Thursday evening, and though I could hardly walk Saturday morning, I went to a 30-minute class, primarily to loosen up all the stiffness. Last week my muscles complained far less, so I think my body is beginning to acclimate to my return.

At the end of Thursday's class we worked on some kicking drills, including an offensive side kick. No, it's not meant to offend, it's just an attacking style versus a defensive style.

From a fighting stance, the front foot crosses over the center line of attack as the rear foot steps behind the front. This leads to a natural chamber of the front leg for a side kick, and covers a lot of distance while delivering a powerful blow to your opponent.

My partner holding a large body shield was a 13-year old boy who plays football besides studying karate. Since the first side involved kicking with my left leg, I simply walked through the motions. My foot just touched the body shield, no hard kick at all. That was fine, just going through the motions.

Then we switched sides, and the instructor, Miss O, suggested she should probably hold the shield for me, knowing my past kicking ability.

The Kid, being reasonably good-sized, said not to worry--he's used to hard hits playing football...

...and promptly folded like a flying soft shell taco.

Miss O held the shield for me the remainder of the drill.

It's good to be back.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I'm born all over.

Monday I attended a beginner's class to 'wade in the water' a bit. Plenty of slow kick work and fundamentals.

That sucked!

Then I recovered and re-hydrated while watching sparring with a Cheshire Cat smile on my face, basking in the afterglow. It was tag-team drills, and an absolute riot to watch.

Tuesday was the intermediate belt core class.

The first half was open-hand form work, which came back to me quite well. However, while it looked good when I faced the mirror, somehow working form away from the mirror left me feeling unplugged, suddenly unsure of my moves. Strange.

The second half was spent working our Bo (staff) form. I had just begun this form when I was injured, but I still had fundamentals in place for holding the Bo, and remembering what each move was when it was called out by the instructor. By the end of class I could barely hold my Bo, and my shoulders were killing me.

That sucked--HARD!!!

But I got over that too and realized just how much I missed Karate.

How fun it is to push yourself, even with restrictions in place.

How nice my fundamentals still look.

How intensely focused I get while sensing all the feedback my body is giving me.

How priceless it is to come home dead tired and fall asleep with a grin so wide my cheeks hurt.




Thursday, March 19, 2009

Going Home...Again...and Lemonade

For the regular reader of this irregular poster, you'll notice the updated countdown clock.

After passing the mid-point of my 24 week rehab period, I made the decision to update the clock to reflect my return to Karate on Monday.

Am I crazy? No.
Just feeling fat, uninspired, and bored to tears.

The PT I currently do at home in many ways is more aggressive on my knee than perhaps 80% of my Karate activity. I may as well work out in the company of friends rather than in isolation!

Therefore I've decided to return--with certain restrictions until June 1st, the end of my 24-week "restricted" period.

Forms / Kata shouldn't be an issue, since they don't involve jumping or spinning kicks, and the few kicks that are present are with my non-operative leg.

I will make appropriate substitutions for the next 10 weeks:

- Instead of kicks with hard snaps, I do slow-count kicks, substituting a strength exercise for a power drill
- Kicks with my non-operative leg will be performed with the chamber action slowed down (which usually involves some degree of pivoting on the supporting leg)
- Spinning kicks? More slow-count kicks.
- Jumping kicks? More slow-count kicks.

So basically between now and June, I'll be doing a ton of strength work, deep stances, careful pivots, and drill on learning my new weapon form with the bo staff.

Come June 1st, I'll be more than ready to get back to sparring!

I want to thank Black Belt Mama for the "When Life Hands You Lemons" award:

Like any good blog award, there are some rules:
  • Post the logo on your blog.
  • Nominate blogs that show great attitude or gratitude
  • Link to the nominees within your blog post.
  • Notify the recipients of the award by commenting on their blog.
  • Share the love and link back to the person from whom you received your award.

Paying it forward, my nominee is a fellow Martial Artist, Bobspar.

Bob is a self-declared Middle-Aged Martial Artist, and the first blog I came across when seeking other Martial Artists with ACL tear stories. My own blog title is inspired from his attitude of not only embracing where he is in life, but also having begun his journey in the Martial Arts as a middle-aged person!

Bob found a particularly sour lemon to make lemonade--he was literally minutes away from completing his black belt exam when his knee decided to play a game of "Pop Goes The Weasel," tearing his ACL and delaying his black belt for over a year as a result. He is training hard for his test coming up this May, and I wish him the best of luck!

Friday, March 6, 2009

I've given up.

What??? Say it ain't so, Hack ol' buddy!
Big guy like you, strong like an ox, you say you've given up?

Yes, it's true. I'm done for a while, and giving up.

Giving up something for Lent, silly!

What, you read the title after hearing nothing from me for weeks and just assumed the worst? C'mon, gimme a bit of credit here!

As has often, but not always, been my practice in the past, I'm resisting nearly 7 weeks of temptation. This year I've given up alcohol (except Communion at church) and fried food--specifically hamburgers and anything deep-fried. Believe me, as casual as it sounds it truly is NOT an easy thing to do.

So why bother?

I don't consider myself a fundamentalist or terribly evangelical sort of person, but I do enjoy a good challenge. For those unfamiliar with the basic premise, before he faced his final series of challenges culminating in execution, Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the desert and facing temptation by Satan to give up his mission.

These 40 days are represented by the season of Lent, during which the Christian church asks its membership to sacrifice some practice from Ash Wednesday through Easter. Somehow giving up red meat and opting for Fillet-O-Fish for 6 or 7 Fridays in the Spring just doesn't resonate with me as true sacrifice.

Instead, I chose something I take for granted in my daily life, like the evening beer I drink while whipping up dinner, or the Wendy's I have after band practice on Wednesdays. Besides, I was putting on too much weight. Quoting Joni Mitchell, "You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone!"

Temptation? You bet. Worst temptation so far was Tuesday night. I cooked Beer Cheese Soup, where the recipe calls for one beer in the pot and one in the chef. Somehow it tasted different.

In conclusion of this topic I'd like to suggest to those of you who observe Lent to really think hard about what practice feels impossible to give up. Then DO IT. Believe me, after nearly 7 weeks, you will be a changed person.

This coming Monday the 9th marks my half-way point. 12 weeks since surgery, 12 more weeks until June 1st when (barring any complications) I will have no restrictions on activity.

I'm meeting with my Karate instructor Monday evening to review leg movements. I'm going to review the various stances and core movements with my PT next Friday.

I intend to return to Karate within a few weeks. There's no reason to do exercises in solitude at home when I can do them in the company of my peers! I'm running nearly 4 miles these days, and will add plyometric exercises shortly. Heck, some of those go beyond the boundaries of what we do at Karate!

My restrictions are fairly self-explanatory. Obviously I won't risk re-injury:
- No sparring (DUH!)
- No jumping kicks
- No turning kicks
- No snapping kicks (slow-count or slow-motion only)

But even with these restrictions, there's TONS that I can still accomplish.

I'm giving up on waiting.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Old doc, new tricks

Thursday's visit with Dr. K went as expected. No surprises, and I'm cleared to begin running. Granted, in the chilly state I live in it's not been above freezing the entire month of January, and mornings are still dipping into the negative numbers even today. Combine that with a nasty cold I've been dealing with over a week, and I'm just not ready to head out for an early morning jog! I do promise to post some pictures when I do, however, since the mornings are so beautiful this time of year.

Having been through all this before, I had some fun with Dr. K and the medical student working with him. As I sat on the table with my legs dangling down, he asked "OK, which knee are we looking at today?" I told him to guess. "Well, they both look the same," he quipped.

I replied, "If you can't tell, then you must have done a pretty good job!" as I pointed to the left knee. Truth be told, they did look very similar in terms of minimized scarring. The only real give-away would be the slightly shorter patch of hair around the left knee and shin, still growing back from being shaved.

He demonstrated good surgical results to the student with a cursory Lachmann test and a pivot-shift test that months ago would have insulted the MCL sprain accompanying my torn ACL. We also chatted about the mechanics and root cause of injury to each knee, making for really rich conversation between surgeon, patient, and student.

At my 6-week appointment last year, I was asked if I had any more questions. "Sure," I said, "Am I going to be able to play drums??"
A puzzled Dr. K: "Well, I certainly don't see any reason you couldn't."
Me: "Great! 'Cause I can't play them at all!"
(insert rim shot: ba-dum bum)

This year: "Am I going to be able to pilot a plane?"
A year wiser Dr. K: "Could you do it before?"

See, you can teach an old Doc new tricks!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

One down, four to go

Monday was my 6 week mark. This represents being 1/4 done with the 24 week protocol!

I celebrated today by forgetting my appointment to check in with Dr. K, and re-scheduled it for Thursday morning after my PT session.

Today's report: 30 reps @ 4 pounds, 32 sit-ups and push-ups. Numbers keep going up as the days go down!!!

Thursday, January 15, 2009


This morning's PT report:

- Flexion at 138°, full extension.
- Approved for slow-count kicks with the operative leg only, supporting on the non-operative leg. Cool!
- Step-down exercises are assigned to work further on strength and smoothness of transition when walking down stairs.

My last measured flexion in the other knee was 138°, so they both seem to be about the same. Further flexion is limited simply by my physiology, at least until I can kneel and sit on my feet!

Using 2lb. ankle weights for straight leg exercises (raises, abduction, adduction, standing hamstring curls). I can do about 20 reps without a pause, working up to 30 solid reps before increasing weight. By the end of the program, the goal is 10 pounds, 30 reps.

My non-operative leg is no stronger than my operative one, so I'm making an effort during PT to emphasize both legs equally.

For those who don't know what they are, slow-count kicks are an excellent exercise for strengthening your hip flexors. Their purpose is to enable greater height and control of kicks.

You begin in a fighting stance, then kick in 4 steps.
This example is for round kicks:

1. Pick up your kicking leg in its chambered position.
2. Slowly extend it out.
3. Slowly swing it just across that centerline.
4. Slowly swing it back.
5. Repeat 3 and 4 until your leg drops like a lead weight.
6. Re-chamber the kicking leg.
7. Put your kicking leg down (if it hasn't dropped of its own accord!)
8. Switch your stance and repeat with the other leg.

They are murder to do at first, but I've grown to enjoy slow-count kicks. When you begin, start on a wall or with a barre to grab, gradually progress to doing them without holding anything for support. Your hip flexors will be crying for mercy, so watch those first steps when you're done! If you do them for a while and they start to feel too easy, try adding ankle weights. Even 1/2lb. at the end of your leg is a huge challenge.

Kicking high takes two things: flexibility and strength. Leaning the torso way back does very little for improving kick height if you don't have strength, and slow-count kicks are probably the best exercise I know of to develop that strength. Enjoy trying them out--I know I will!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The 30's: Arriving and Leaving

Tomorrow I enter my 40's.

Today my PT confirmed that I've entered my 30's, so to speak...I have 133° of flexion in my knee!

That gives me a great feeling of accomplishment, especially in light of being just over 3 weeks out of surgery. By comparison, I was at 126° at this point with my right knee.

My final ROM in the right knee settled in at about 138° of flexion, -10° extension, so hearing my left knee is "in the hood" is quite exciting.

My extension still needs work, as I'm not quite into negative (hyper extension) numbers, but that mostly comes with time. I plan on prone leg extensions to push that issue. You lay on a bed face down, dangle the leg out with your knee at the edge of the bed and allow gravity to gently stretch things out into a slight hyper extension.

Taking stairs going up has become quite easy, but I'm still a bit unstable bending the operative knee going down. I'm fine until the last inch or two before my other foot lands, so I need some more strength work in that part of my range. I expect massive improvement when I begin squats in the next week or two.

I'm hoping my nighttime leg cramps go away soon. Other than ibuprofen--which is eventually gonna wear a hole in my stomach if I'm not careful--the practical solution has been a combination of a hot water bottle applied to the thigh and a large pillow between the knees.

The pillow keeps stress off of my sprained MCL, which I'm still nursing while in rehab for the ACL. Padding between the knees gives Mrs. Shaft a better night's sleep; I can sleep on my side comfortably and avoid waking her with snoring!

The weather around here is hovering near zero degrees, with forecasts into the negative double-digits next week. Boy I sure hope it warms up a bit before I start running!!! I'm looking forward to Robert Frost moments.

Happy Thursday, everyone!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Phase Won.

My rehab program is in 4 phases:

I. 0-4 weeks: Range of Motion. Goal: ROM of 0-120° and walking without a limp.
II. 4-6 weeks: Strength, balance, and proprioception. Goal: Unrestricted walking, including stairs.
III. 7-12 weeks: Power, speed, and more strength. Goal: Begin return to running program.
IV. 13-24 weeks: Function, agility, hopping, sport specific drills. Goal: Complete rehabilitation.

Sunday marked the end of week 3. My last PT visit had me at -3° to + 116° ROM, which seems far ahead of my prior rehab! I've been taking stairs leading with the operative leg going up now, but we're waiting on leading with the good leg going down until I demonstrate more control.

The busyness of the holidays has kept my mind occupied, and these first 3 weeks have simply flown by. Here's the basics of where I'm at currently:

- ROM: Objectively I'd say I'm well into 120°+ of flex, and extension isn't hardly uncomfortable at all.
- Swelling: I have dimples around my kneecap again!
- Scarring: Scars are healing up nicely, just one persistent site that's still rather swollen but not painful. My PT is having me massage the scars to keep them from bonding to the underlying tissue.
- Mobility: Haven't used a cane since the first week.
- Bruising: The last traces of pooled fluid in my foot have faded to nearly nothing now.
- Walking: I still catch myself in a conservative gait, working on lengthening my stride.
- Strength: Strapping on 2 lbs. of ankle weights for straight leg lifts currently.

Since swelling has gone down, my other ligaments have taken the opportunity to get some exercise of the knee-cracking variety. Things are still a bit tender in that area, so I'm careful whenever getting up from sitting for long periods. I still get these wicked charlie horse cramps in my thigh in the evening, but ibuprofen usually takes care of those. If they continue much past about week 6, I'll get them investigated in case there's funny business with nerves in my back.

I'm two days into my resolution for sit-ups and push-ups, hoping it's a good habit that will develop over the next few weeks. Can't wait to start running in another 3 weeks, which is odd since I'm not normally much of a runner to begin with--but it always manages to fire me up for the day.

Black Belt Mama is heading in tomorrow morning for some corrective surgery on a protruding sheath from the interference screw installed in her shin. Keep her in your thoughts that her healing will be quick and devoid of any PT requirements!

Thursday is the next check-in with my PT. Friday is my 40th birthday. I expect great things from both.