Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Knuckle Push-Up

A few posts ago, I declared the "inside-out crescent kick" as the bane of my martial arts existence. The knuckle push-up is probably a distant second. I say distant because I actually kind of enjoy the knuckle push-ups whereas the inside-out-crescent kick…not so much.

Back when I was watching Buddy take his first classes and saw the knuckle push-ups, I thought I surely must be seeing/hearing something incorrectly. Surely I was not seeing these little kids supporting all their body weight on two knuckles on each hand? Well, that is exactly what I was seeing…and stop calling me Shirley. (Oh, c'mon, laugh - you've seen Airplane! haven't you?)

When I confirmed that what I was seeing was, in fact, these little kids holding all their body weight up on 4 knuckles, I started to get a little nervous. After all, they only had to hold up about fifty or sixty pounds. I had a heck of a lot more weight than that to hold up on my 4 knuckles! I thought to myself, "Self, this is not going to be easy."

And I was right. On my first night of class, Sensei told the new people that we could just get on our knees and rock forward with the weight on the 2 knuckles of each hand until we became more used to it…that we could build up to it. He then went on to explain the purpose of this unusual exercise. We punch, leading with the first two knuckles. This exercise toughens-up those knuckles. He explained that some women did not feel comfortable doing them for discomfort reasons or because after time, the knuckles seem to get bigger. I looked around and everyone, women included, were doing the knuckle push-ups. So, I tried. And failed. (But I didn't really fail BECAUSE I did try.) I determined that this was going to be one of those challenges I would work my way up to. I started on my knees and rocked forward on my knuckles, putting as much weight as possible on them. I'm not going to lie to you - it hurt. Mercifully, we only do ten repetitions of the knuckle push-ups in each class. (But, before you dismiss this as too easy, keep in mind that they follow 10 regular and 10 triangle push-ups!) Sensei then showed those of us new to this torture how to "shake it out" and get the blood flowing to all our filanges again. And it felt great.

And I did the modified version of this knuckle toughener for quite a few more sessions before I felt able to lift myself on my knuckles. And if you've been reading my posts, you have probably already figured out that I practiced at home, and up against walls at work, and I even push doors open with the first two knuckles of my hand to help that toughening process.)

Recently, Sensei started having us count each push-up out loud together. I don't know about you, but I'm so used to the regulated breathing that I try to use now, that it makes it more difficult for me to do the push-ups (knuckle or otherwise) when I'm counting them out loud as well. Sometimes, it is all I can do just to do the push-ups themselves.

But now that I've been doing the knuckle push-ups for about a year now, I can usually do them. I don't dip as deeply as many of the students who have been with it for years, but I do it. But some nights, I just don't feel I can pull (push?) my own weight. And on those nights, I stay on my knees and rock forward like I did when I was a brand new student. Can't really put my finger on why I feel like that occasionally - maybe just not feeling strong arm strength that night, sore hands from a hectic day of office work, weak from a cold or flu…Whatever the reason, I try not to judge myself and try not to feel like a failure when I just can't do them on a particular night in all their uncomfortable glory.

And I try to remember something Mickey Rooney said, "You always pass failure on the way to success."


Becky said...

Knuckle pushups, indeed pushups of any kind, are the bane of my existence. When I got out of Navy boot camp, I could do 100 push ups without even thinking about it. Now I struggle to get through 10.

We don't do pushups, or any kind of conditioning, in class. Sensei says we need to do that on our own time, so we can spend class time learning actual karate.

Martial Arts Mom said...

Your sensei has a good point. I sometimes wish we didn't do such a long warm up. But they know what they are doing and I respect them. I try to replicate that workout at home but on a lesser time scale.

m.a.l.s. said...

One of our instructors has some very noticable scarring on the back of one of his hands from some childhood incident. He likes to show that hand to the kids in class when they get out of line and tell them it came from doing knuckle push-ups on concrete and that if they don't be quiet and pay attention he's going to send them outside to do their push-ups on the sidewalk.

Michele said...

Knuckle push-ups --- I am impressed! When I was a brown belt, the class instructor would have us do 400 jumping jacks, 100 crunches and 50 push-ups. Each week the class size got smaller and smaller. Today, when I lead warm-ups, my focus is on stretching and balance.