I won’t forget this day. It was May 9 of this year and like always I made my way to the gym to lift some weights. I remember it was a good workout, but nothing out of the ordinary. The following day my forearms were a bit sore probably from the weighted dips I had done the previous day I thought. The next day at Kobudo practice my arms ached and made it a bit difficult to do Bo basics. Now I thought I had really over-done it with the weighted dips. By Monday’s Karate-do practice my arms felt like they had been bruised and beaten to the bone, but little did I know that it was only the beginning.
By Wednesday I had cold symptoms and by Friday I had full-on flu symptoms – cough, aching, fever, no appetite – you get the picture. Things just kept getting worse. Within a few weeks I was in the hospital for two weeks suffering from some mystery illness. The bad news was that despite all the tests I went through the doctors never figured out what was wrong with me, but the good news was that my immune system kicked in and I started to recover; albeit slowly.
When I got out of the hospital my weight had plummeted from 80 kg to 58 kg; I had lost most of my muscle mass, flexibility, strength and was anemic. When I took a photo of myself soon afterwards, my body looked like an 80-year-old man! My doctor told me to take it easy, not do anything strenuous, and focus on my recovery. It was hard. I remember going for a walk around the block and being completely exhausted afterwards. When I made it back home I would have to lie down.
A few weeks after being discharged, my appetite and stamina slowly started to return, but I was still feeble. Regular Karate and Kobudo practice was essentially impossible; I was just too weak. Although I would “walk through” some Karate kata, my main focus was on regaining my strength and flexibility. For that I used a combination of traditional kigu undo, weight lifting, stretching, and kihon.
I started my rehab with sanchin, kihon and kigu undo. I don’t know why but I decided to use the Uechi-ryu sanchin and kihon I had learned from Minowa sensei and Yoshimura sensei to rehab myself instead of Goju-ryu a long with some light chiishi exercises. I don’t know why I settled on these exercises, but It just seemed right at the time. I did this every other morning for about 20 minutes. After a few weeks I started to feel some of my strength, stamina and flexibility return.
Once some of my strength had returned, I started going to the gym. The first time I stood under the pull-up bar was depressing. Before I could do about 12, now I couldn’t even do one. When I went under the squat rack the best I could do was to a few back squats with an unloaded bar (20 kg). When I got home from the workout I was completely exhausted even though I had barely lifted anything. Needless to say, I had a long road ahead of me to recover, but during the next six months I regained most of my body weight, as well as some of my strength and flexibility. These will take a bit longer to get back to where they were before I got sick (and I’m not sure they’ll ever be 100% the way they were).
The reason I’m bringing this story up is not for sympathy. No, the reason I bring it up is because becoming ill was a positive in some respects. It acted like a catalyst for me to rethink many aspects of my life; including Karate-do and Kobudo. For those, it focused my attention on the reasons why I practice and what my goals are in my training. I realized that teaching Karate-do is not something I enjoy anymore, but oddly enough teaching Kobudo is something I thoroughly enjoy. This doesn’t mean that I will stop practicing Karate-do, it just means that I won’t be teaching it formally anymore. I look at it as a step in taking more responsibility of my Karate-do. At times I realized that I was relying on my students (i.e. teaching them) to motivate myself to train, and that was not an appropriate attitude.