Fortress of the Will

by Jinryu

I don’t remember if I mentioned, but a couple of weeks ago at judo, I took a bad fall in judo.  My opponent was a good 40 pounds lighter than me (a bit under 20kg lighter) and at least a foot shorter than me.  He attempted a one-arm shoulder throw, ippon seoi nage.  This is one of the classic basic throws of judo– my opponent spins around in front of me with control of my right sleeve or lapel using his left arm, hooks his right arm under my right armpit, and does a forward twisting motion that should theoretically cast me over his right shoulder in a high arc, with me flipping forward and landing on my back.

 

There’s a few components to a throw– the first is the off-balancing of the opponent; the second is the entry to get your body into position for the throw (usually placing yourself in a good fulcrum position); and finally, the execution of the throw.

 

My pretty good for the first two elements– but execution of the throw is where it went all wrong.  Instead of him sending me over his back and flipping over him, he lost his balance halfway through execution.  The result was that I half side-dodged to avoid his throw, but at the same time, was half sprawled over him as we fell, because he didn’t let go of my arm.  Normally in a competition situation, this would be a failed throw because I didn’t land on my back or on my side.  But regardless, the way we fell with him still hanging on to my arm, I wasn’t able to break my fall.

Imagine doing a one armed right handed pushup– now imagine both of your legs are pointing about 30 degrees upwards, instead of towards the floor.  And then imagine that the vector of your force is forward, as if you are about to plow the ground with your face.  Now imagine that your left hand can’t help you (it’s blocked by his body) and that you can’t really chose how to absorb your impact with your right arm (because he’s got it locked in with both of his) and there’s no angle for you to tuck your head and roll.  WHat happens in this situation?

 

Well, in my whole case, my whole body weight landed on my right arm, and the weakest link was somewhere in my shoulder.

 

From what I have manged to gather from my visit to the physio last week, and reading up on the subject, and having [CM] do various physical tests on me, my condition is more than likely known as a shoulder impingement due to some complaints of the supraspinatus tendon.  To give you an idea of what this entails practically, it’s difficult for me to find the strength to raise my right arm to scratch my left shoulder if my right elbow is shoulder height.  Anything where my right forearm is parallel to the ground and left to right in front of me is kind of difficult.

The interesting thing is that a lot of the motion is covered by other larger muscles– so if I move my arm quickly in one fluid motion, I can put my right arm in those positions I just mentioned.  However, if I do the motion slowly, I might find that I have a lot of difficulty doing it.  This is because the large muscles don’t engage for slow movements unless the brain feels they’re needed– and the brain usually only feels they’re needed for larger more quick motions.

 

 

Being the former hospital employee that I am with limited medical training, I’ve been doing what most people of my experience do when they think something is wrong– be a cyberchondriac about it, and spend a day self-diagnosing myself.  I’m really grateful for Youtube, actually– there’s a lot of information that’s so quickly available, and of a pretty high calibre quality, that is helping me understand my problem in ways that my physiotherapist just wasn’t all that good at explaining.  Getting the same information from several different perspectives makes it easier than just reading the one or two paragraphs of my flatmates’ highly technical medical textbooks.

 

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I’m not sure how I feel about knowing what’s wrong with my shoulder though.  It will heal, no problem. It’ll take time.

 

But every time I get sick or injured, it’s just my habit: I feel mentally worn out.  I can say with a lot of confidence that I am a lot better at dealing with physical injuries and sickness than most people I know– I’m quite “tough” really.  But the fact of the matter is, I also go through a lot more injuries than the average person.  Which means that despite my higher level of physical activities, depending on how you evalutate “health” I may not be better off than the average person.

 

If we think of health in terms of biochemistry, body fat ratios and and cardiovascular endurance, then I suppose, yeah, I’m in great shape.

But if you were to think of health in terms of having a well-rounded body that is suited for all rounder use, I might actually score as unhealthy.  Acute injuries are one thing.  But I’ve got a pretty long list of in-between and downright chronic conditions, especially when it comes to joints.  This most recent supraspinatus injury is the most recent installment in a history of tears and strains to my right rotator cuff from all that badminton, especially when I was trying to improve my smash power.

 

I know that bumps and bruises are all part of growing up.  And it is true that a lot of my fellow orange belts in judo are mostly ten years younger than me.  But I have almost two decades of fighting experience at this point– and when this all started, I never would have suspected that it would all take so much of a toll on my body.

The experiences have been invaluable.  Both in terms of badminton and martial arts.  But having been able to train myself so hard in the past, I suppose it’s ridiculous that I’m only 31 years old and I feel like I’m reaching certain peaks in terms of physical condition.  Yes, I can improve on my mental game, on techniques and strategies– and I think, largely, this is what differentiates my style of judo from the other orange belts.  But I do not feel that my body is getting any stronger.  I mean, I’m certain I am getting stronger overal– but the weakest links in my physical strength are gradually getting worse.  I take an injury that shaves off 10 hit points from some part of me. I heal up and recover, but it only ever restores 9.9999 points.  Rinse and repeat.

 

I suppose my big gripe is that I have always believed in an interrelatedness between mind, body and spirit– but if the body starts to grow weak, where will I house my mind and spirit?

 

I’m probably getting ahead of myself though. I’ve still got a few more decades of ability left before I’m reduced to the  “average” person’s standards of physical wellness.  I don’t have to figure out how to deal with aging in just a day.

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