Friday, September 19, 2008

Martial Arts for the (OLD) Ages...

One of my favorite bloggers, Black Belt Mama (I'm sure you all know BBM. If not, you HAVE to check out her blog at, wrote a blog the other day about not ever feeling she'd be the same after ACL surgery on her knee last year. After feeling almost confident enough to return to her karate class after about a year, her daughter had run into her leg and it set BBM back both physically and mentally.

Not since last year when she first experienced the injury, have I "heard" that despair in her written word. When BBM progressed through all the stages: Denial ("Oh, it'll be okay in a few days if I rest it"), then online ACL research - just in case it was worst possible scenario, she'd know what to expect, to the doctors appointments after realizing that "just resting it' was not doing the trick, to accepting she was going to have to have reconstructive knee surgery if she ever hoped to return to karate, we, her readers, could not-quite-literally feel her pain. I know I thought to myself, "Wow - what if that happened to me?" and I wasn’t as worried about the everyday stuff as I was worried that if it did, how would I live my life without martial arts in it? Here, I just found martial arts, and love it more than anything I think I've ever done besides marriage & kids, and one moment in time could potentially remove it from my life altogether!

I thought about the obvious - the pain. I thought of the other obvious - not being able to get around easily. But then the other hypothetical questions began swimming in the shark-infested-waters of my brain. Worse than the pain. Worse than the inconveniences. What if I were sidelined from martial arts for a lengthy stretch of time? It actually made (and makes) me cringe just to think of my life without martial arts in it on a regular basis.

I thought all this then, but I'm also thinking of it today because that fear, although not quite founded, is a real possibility in my hopefully very distant future. Don't know if I told you before but I, just like my dad, have flatter-than-flat feet (Flintstone feet, I call them). They are so flat, you could almost call them concave…really. As I've gotten older, I have noticed them aching more than before. I get actual pains in them for no apparent reason. My knee started giving me some trouble earlier this year and I started taking Glucosamine Chondroitin, which really has helped. But for some strange reason, maybe because I'm approaching another birthday in December, my ankles are starting to really rebel. My left one, especially, feels as if my ankle is sinking down into my foot. It is very painful. Not very often, mind you, but a couple of times, the joints have just "given out" and I felt as if I was going to fall, but caught myself.

I did not participate in karate class last Thursday because of the left ankle. When it initially started to cause a lot of pain, I thought maybe I twisted it or something without realizing it. It killed me to leave and know the rest of the class was going to do what I love to do so much. So, I did "give it a rest" for a few days and hoped for the best last night at class. I went, had a great time, as always, but did notice a lot more pain in the ankle as the night progressed - especially in some yoga poses we did as warm-up and then in walking kicking drills. It did not let me down (this time literally) and the knee nor the ankle buckled when all my weight was on it. (And remember in my last post - I have weight to put on it too!) So, I was relieved about that, but by the time we lined up to bow out at the end of class, I was in excruciating pain. I was limping and could barely walk on that ankle. By the time I lay down to sleep. I had "four-point" pain - both knees, both ankles. And I've noticed that on karate nights, I tend to get Charlie-horses in my legs. Getting older is so much fun.

There goes that nagging fear again…What if I couldn't practice martial arts on a daily basis?

Like I said, I just found martial arts. I wish I had found it when I was a teenager so I could have all those years under my belt and could have been feeling then what I feel now, largely due to karate. I may not be all that great at it, but I try hard and I think that goes a long way. So, I can't imagine not feeling that feeling of confidence it gives me. I can't imagine the not feeling safer walking down the street. (Although that stays with you - that could never be taken away - I would always feel safer walking down the street.) I can't imagine not feeling stronger - physically. I can't imagine not feeling stronger mentally. (But again, that is something that will always stay with me because of my experience in martial arts.) I can't fathom not seeing our senseis each week, my classmates, the new people just starting out and experiencing that feeling for the first time like I did.

So, what do I need to do to ensure I can be as healthy as I can be in order to not let these obstacles sideline me from what I love to do? Well, I've taken the first step…as I wrote in my previous post, I'm losing weight. If those OLD joints of mine don't need to support as much weight, then obviously, that has to be better for them and me as a whole.

I am going to look into some stylish but made for comfort shoes. I have heels for work, and love the way they look with dress clothes, but when the bottom of your foot is shaped like a flat board and the shoe is shaped like a 3" tall sliding board, you almost have to be asking for trouble. I am just going to have to find something more comfortable yet not sacrifice my professional look for work.

I will see if I'm taking the optimum dosage of Glucosamine Chondroitin. If not, I'll adjust that as well.

In other words, as I age, modifications may need to be made in my everyday life as well as in my martial arts journey. I will do everything in my power to continue in martial arts until the day I take my last breath. And that determination is what martial arts has done for me that drives me to make that statement.


Ikigai said...

Heck of a post mam.

Just some thoughts-

A lot of the older Okinawan Sensei would train well into their 80s and 90s. Basically until they passed away.

They did so by maintaining routine-oriented physical fitness, partaking in healthful Okinawan diet, and keeping stress to a low/manageable level.

I'd recommend really diving into what kinds of foods and supplements you can take to strengthen your joints and keep them "well oiled" (working at optimal level).

Also, never be afraid to balance training with rest. Martial arts are known for promoting 'never quit' mindsets, but most Sensei realize that pushing the body beyond healthy limits only hinders training.

You're body may be rebelling against your new activities now, but if you make very small, incremental improvements, there is no reason you can't be an 8o year old sensei!!

Martial Arts Mom said...

Wow - to aspire to be a sensei..or to live to be honorable goal. Problem is those mean, evil potatoes keep tempting me...I really enjoyed the ideas. And like the previous post...I know what I have to do...: ) I may have a never give up attitude, but the flesh is weak when it comes to my taters! Thanks!

Blackbeltmama said...

It's horrible when something you love is taken away from you. I don't mean to be an online pharmacy, but my PT told me to try curcumin and I think it really helps with joint issues. I also take glucosamine. Since we moved, I haven't taken either of the two regularly and I wonder if that's not part of my problem.

One of my teacher's wants to see me on the dojo floor tomorrow morning. I can't seem to think of a good enough excuse not to go so I might be returning, pain and all.

Martial Arts Mom said...

Oh, BBM, go for it! I bet you'll be happy you did. And seriously, even when I "hurt" after karate, it's a "hurts so good" kind of thing. (well, kind of...)Let us know how it goes!

Anonymous said...

Hi Martial Art Mom!

I am a fellow MMA lover. I have been training for the past few years - so I share your passion and understand the benefits if gives.

I also represent Elations, a new fruit juice-based supplement drink with 1500 mg of glucosamine and 1200 mg of chondroitin. It's in a liquid form so it's easier absorbed throughout the body making it work in less than three weeks. It's an easier form to swallow than the horse pills and tastier one.

I'd love to send you a sample to try. I really think it'll help your poor joints. Check out for more info. on the product and for fitness and nutrition tips on how to continue to do the activies (ma) you love most!

If you'd like sample, please feel free to contact me direct via e-mail at

Best of luck,

Anonymous said...

hey, I might be able to help you in the shoe department! (this is Rose) Being on my feet ALL Day and LOVING shoes, I have found Liz Flex to be some of the most fab shoes I have ever had. Like walking on air. They have them at Macy's and you can find them on ebay. Also look for Aerosoles - they are lower, but also really "airlike" for those days you want to dress down. Once again, check ebay. They have some great deals.

Martial Arts Mom said...

Hey, Rose, I will check out the Liz Flex shoes (bet Liz's guy is a happy camper, huh? LOL) My most comfy dress shoes are aerosoles but are starting to break down with age. (They still look good but aparently structure is going south)

And the other anonymous - As for the joint juice, I'm pretty happy with the horse pills as the beer price is right for my beer (or should I say water) budget. I've priced the juices and have found them to be too cost prohibitive. (I'm telling you I'm beyond broke!) But thank you for the offer.

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Meg said...

Oh wow. Thinking about giving up martial arts is a hard thing to consider. I can truly understand and sympathize with you for that one. I wish I could tell you how to fix the foot and knee pain. Have you spoken to your instructor about possibly modifying your stances to help alleviate the pain?

What Ikigai says is true, you need to rest in order to heal. You also need to treat your body right, and it sounds like that's what you're doing with the glucosamine. Flaxseed or omega 3 oils might be a good thing to look into also.

Good luck!!

Lizzie said...

Hey, thanks for visiting my blog. Sorry about being in pain. I'm 22 years old, so I don't know what's being old like. I just don't want to get old!!!

Lizzie said...

Oh, I forgot. What martial art do you train in and study?

Martial Arts Mom said...

We do many different disciplines. Mostly Taekwondo and some karate, as well as judo, jujitsu and basic self defense. My belt is in Taekwondo.

minivannija said...

Having recovered from a minor (at least I'm telling myself that) achilles injury, I know from where you speak. I was absolutely beside myself in despair thinking that my martial arts journey could be sidelined so quickly after it started.

Also, I suffer from the flat feet curse as well. Not even halfway through a 45 minute class the bottom of my feet are burning in pain, and from nothing out of the ordinary really. My Grandmaster suggested shoes for martial arts, but I really like training in bare feet, I feel like I can really get my foot position better when I can actually see my toes.

Definitely do the glucosimine/chondroitin thing, and my mom swears by this fruit extract stuff (much like was advertised in the comment above), and she has severe degenerative arthritis.

Good luck, and remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

minivanninja said...

Wow, I must be tired, couldn't even spell my screen name correctly LOL!