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Mabuhay! I'm an Asian American writer (Back Kicks And Broken Promises, Abbott Press, 2012), martial artist and teacher who was born in The Philippines, raised in Hong Kong and ended up in New Jersey.

19 June, 2017

Knee Saga

19 June, 2017


I have depressive tendencies.

I haven’t been diagnosed but I’ve read enough to see a lot of the characteristics of a depressive in myself; things like being alone, losing interest in stuff, not wanting to go anywhere or do anything, feelings of hopelessness, to name a few. I also tend to see things darkly. That, however, might just be a practical approach to things. I’d rather prepare for the worst so that I’m ready for it if or when happens – in my mind, it’s more likely when than if. If it doesn’t happen, that’s a bonus.

With the ongoing saga that is my knee, my depressive triggers have resurfaced. I had a follow-up appointment with my ortho last Tuesday and he examined my knee, which was feeling pretty good. During the examination, a sharp pain emanated from within the joint. As the days passed since seeing him, the pain has gotten stronger. (Over the weekend, though, it’s subsided but that’s because I’ve been off my leg for a lot of the time.) My doctor ordered an MRI that I got last Saturday. He also used the word ‘surgery.’ It’d be a 30-minute arthroscopic procedure but with a four to eight week recovery. He said at four weeks I’d be walking again, although not any long distances, and at eight weeks I’d be ‘normal.’ Whatever that means, I’m not entirely sure.

The last few days, my mind and my heart have been in a whirlwind of uncertainty. I coach volleyball. I don’t do a lot of the drills or jumps and runs I put the team through but I do need to be able to instruct and demonstrate. I need to be on my feet on court. I also have a summer job that pays hourly and I need the money. Knee surgery now would impact upon both of these things and not in a positive way. With a four to eight week recovery period, if I got the surgery now, I’d be better by mid-August. There’s plenty of volleyball left to coach and I can continue to prepare for the sixth degree black belt test in December I’m trying to get approved for. Getting the surgery now, however, would also mean no income because I wouldn’t be able to work.  On the flip side, and if the diagnosis isn’t so bad that I have to undergo the surgery now and I can put it off, I could possibly go about my summer as normal and get the surgery after the volleyball season has concluded in November or, maybe, even after the sixth dan test a month later.

Deep down, I know I’ll end up not taking or not being able to take test and that pisses me off and brings me down. I’ll either be laid up recovering, my knee will be in even worse shape, and/or I won’t be prepared. Since I was a kid, there are two things I’ve always wanted to be – a writer and a martial artist. I’ve been both to some level of success. In the 1990s, I managed to sell articles to various martial arts magazines and get paid for them. I’ve published a book and gotten a touch of respect and notoriety because of it. That’s not enough, however. I want to be a working writer. As for the martial arts, I’ve had several good years of training, teaching and competing. I had my own dojang (training hall) twice in my life but, more than that, I’ve tried to live my life and guide my actions according to the warrior ways prescribed by the codes of Bushido, The Samurai and The Hwarang. Even without a dojang now, I try to train at my wife’s dance studio whenever I can and, through my daily actions at work, on the volleyball court and more, I try to live according to what my black belt symbolises. Thankfully, so far, I am able to absorb and accept the situation I am in because of what I’ve learnt and taught as a martial artist.

For now, I’ll use my indomitable spirit and of perseverance to forge ahead and battle this renewed opponent, my knee, and its allies of age, injury and life. Throughout the battle, I hope I make the right decisions on when to get my surgery, if I do actually need it, and my training for the sixth dan test.

Thanks for stopping by.

02 June, 2017

Making Choice - Life 2 Juan 0

Making Choices - Life 2 Juan 0

2 June, 2017

Last autumn, I reinjured the knee I damaged in 1996. I was doing a lot of running, getting back in shape and training towards earning a guaranteed spot in the 2017 New York City Marathon (NYCM). I’d begun my training the previous April and was in a good groove. As a result of my injury, I had to forego my 2017 NYCM dreams. I followed my doctor’s instructions, did the PT (physical therapy) and slowly my knee was getting better. Before long, I was doing some cardio training (no running) and playing squash. Throughout all of it, I’d do some flexibility training and some light Taekwondo training when I could squeeze it in. I don’t have my own school anymore and I coach volleyball from August to November so finding a time and place wasn’t - and isn’t - always the easiest thing.

Recently, I’d gotten into another good groove. I was training regularly, eating better, and dropping weight. Then I discovered that the Kukkiwon (the world governing body of Taekwondo) will be holding special promotion tests in the United States throughout the year in various locations. One of them is taking place in New Jersey this December. This coming August, I will have met the time requirement to test for my sixth degree black belt and I’m using the test as impetus to up my training; all while monitoring the strength of my knee. I don’t know if my application will be accepted and, depending on my knee, if I’ll even be able to perform. If I am, I hope I am able to perform that deems me worthy in the eyes of the examiners, and my own eyes, to be awarded my sixth dan.

As life would have it, I reaggravated my knee two Sundays ago while mowing the lawn - our uneven, undulating lawn. I maneuvered the lawn mower to turn left but it got caught on one of the bumps and didn’t turn. My knee did, however. All this after completing the Euflexxa treatments my doctor recommended. So, I went back to the doctor, got another cortisone shot and was given a pair of loaner crutches. I’ve stopped using the crutches but I still have a minor limp and there’s still a little stiffness and an occasional shooting pain. I’m hoping in a week or so that the pain and limp will vanish enough that I can get back to some cardio and, eventually, light then regular Taekwondo training.

For now and for the next six months, that’s where my focus has to be. I have to give up squash, which is going to be a killer because I enjoy it, it’s a great workout and it’s my son’s and my ‘thing’ together. Without a school and master to train under, I need these opportunities like the Kukkiwon special promotion test and preparing for it is going to take up much of my extra energy and time. Like the old Chinese adage says, “One has to eat bitter to taste sweet.” It’s a choice I hate having to make but it’s one that has to be made. As much as I love squash and athletic pursuits, Taekwondo is a martial art and martial arts are about life. They’re not just the physical attributes one develops through practicing them. If you’re reading this and you’re someone who knows me well, you know that since 1985 I am and have always been a martial artist before most everything else. You’ll also know that I didn’t get into martial arts training for the physical benefits but for the psychological, spiritual and emotional ones. If I could have a regular place to train, I would be willing to give up almost everything else to train daily even if my knee wasn’t injured. The other option, albeit a forced one, is to choose to hang up my squash racquet and my black belt but that would be completely contrary to what martial arts are all about. Quitting martial arts just because my physical abilities have waned decision would be akin to giving up on who I am and what I’ve believed in the last thirty-two years.

So, while life leads two-nil in our current match, I’m hoping to pull a goal back in December. And after that, who knows? Maybe I’ll find an equalizer and even a winner. In the meantime, trying to see a positive out of all of this, I’m hoping that my predicament can be a lesson my son can learn as well; that one has to make sacrifices and choices that he might won’t like or want to make in order to get what he wants or needs.