Tag Archives: 4th Dan

What Really Is Pain, Can We Hide It?

These are mine, these size seven hairy hobbit feet belong to me, even the black and blue, bruised one!

The Black Foot

The Black Foot

Now you’re asking, what the heck? 

One Good Foot at Least

One Good Foot at Least

How did you end up with a foot that colour and shape? Ouch!!!! 

This misshapen mess happen back in August 2009, just two months before I took these battered feet and started a journey into complete and utter darkness and despair, it was a result of the last great thing I achieved before slipping from reality for a while.

The strange thing is, I don’t remember actually doing the damage, not once apparently, but twice, I don’t remember a feeling of pain, not until hours later anyway, the occasion was greater than the pain, the mind was focused elsewhere, I was lost in the moment, a determination for the end goal suppressed everything else.

My karate is obviously something I have discussed on the odd occasion on this blog, although it is not a big part of my recovery, it has built my character, I started training in October 1980, shortly before my seventh birthday, incidentally a month before Victoria was even born, naturally it has formed a large part of who I am, therefore I share a little of my karate history.

I have previously written about passing my black belt at 10 years old, way back in 1984, I then passed my 2nd Dan (2nd degree black belt) in 1987 at 13, then a long wait, the rules of our association are such that you have to be 21 before taking your 3rd Dan grading.

So I waited, during that time my instructor emigrated to Australia in late 1989, he left myself, just 15 and my friend Darren, a little older at 17, in charge of a very successful club, we were young and the challenge was hard at times, but we worked together well, until Darren’s work and family commitments left me in sole charge a few years ago. When I turned 21 I started to prepare for the grading and passed at my first attempt in October 1995.  From there the requirement was to wait a further four years until 4th Dan, at this point I felt no rush, I was still young.

To be honest I lost a little enthusiasm, not for karate or my club, but rather for the association we were in at the time, their emphasis was on a core of clubs close to the senior instructors, with just take and no real give for the rest of us small fry.  I ran my club, attended the odd course, competed in their competitions, but found no encouragement for me, my training or my club, there was an extremely disappointing conversation with one senior instructor which put the nail in the coffin so to speak in terms of my attachment and loyalty to the association, this conversation I will cover at a later date, it shows the shallowness of those we sometimes look up to for leadership.

When the association suffered a split in 2003, I saw my chance to move on, the club met and we agreed to move to the new association that had been formed, I felt a renewed enthusiasm for something new, it wasn’t long before that enthusiasm was rewarded, I finally got recognition.

Within a year of joining this new association, I was invited onto the Squad, I was 30, I had been training almost 26 years, I felt like I had finally made it, I was selected for my first European Championships in 2005, I had never abroad at that point, I had to rush through a passport application, a year later I journeyed to Sydney, Australia, for the World Championships, a fantastic trip, which I still intend to write about one day.

I had just over four years on the squad, but the 300 mile round trip for training almost every weekend for most of the year took its toll, both financially and physically, so at the beginning of 2009 I took the decision to retire.

So upon retirement I began preparation for taking my 4th Dan, my squad instructors had been encouraging me to take it for some time, but I put it off, it was difficult enough for me to concentrate my training for the squad, I had no instructor to return to at my club, no one continuing my training like the other squad members, after the squad sessions finished I was on my own, it was hard, especially since my drinking was on the increase, not a problem or an excuse for numbing the pain at that point, but nonetheless I was drinking more than I should have been.

So August came around and to be honest I hadn’t trained anywhere near what I wanted to, but I decided to go for it, with the attitude that pass or fail, it didn’t matter, I was relaxed and just ready to go, I would accept the result whatever it maybe.

The grading takes the form of three parts, a series of basic combinations, then onto kumite or free fighting, then kata (a set routine of movements).  I completed the basics, a little tight, but I was happy with them, then the kumite.

In our group I would be the second fight up, the first fight between two actual club mates took place and well, the taller of the two a six foot plus Nigeria hit his friend and concussed him, when the other guy was taken to first aid I was called to face the six footer, me just 5ft 4½, oh well, here goes!

I was pleased with my fight, I just took it to him, in fact he didn’t hit me until the last punch if the fight, he caught me a glancing blow on the nose, drawing a little blood, nothing to bad, I was allowed to sit back down, my fights were done for the time being, so I went to the first aid table just to get some tissue for my nose, then I saw it!!!

I looked down to see my ankle twice it’s normal size! 

Where did that come from?

This didn’t look right, but I didn’t remember doing it, I remember throwing a few kicks, but don’t remember and significant impact or pain, I still to this day can’t pinpoint a moment when it happened.

A friend who was watching, whilst awaiting to take his 5th Dan, later told me later he had winced when I threw a kick which hit my opponent with some force on the point of his elbow, he then said he winced even harder when I did it again, a second time my foot collided with his bony elbow a second time at some force, a gluten for punishment or what?

So I looked down to see the swollen mass stuck to my foot, the bruising hadn’t appeared yet, just the swelling, so I asked the first aiders to take a look, immediately their conclusion was it was broken!

So as the others fought and the grading continued, I sat with my bust foot wrapped in ice!  A paramedic turned up to check out George who had been concussed, he was to be taken to hospital just for a check up, the paramedic was asked to look at my foot, immediately he said it looked broken and I should go too!

But I still had part of my grading to do, I hadn’t finished yet, I can’t go!!!

Then Sensei Adel came over, he was on the grading panel that had just judged my basics and kumite, the two Senior Japanese instructors where almost done with everyone else’s kata grading, they would soon be waiting for me, could I continue or not? The first aiders did their job, they said no, so he turned to me!

At that point adrenalin was still in control, there was no pain, just a swollen mess, so I asked a question I shouldn’t really have asked of him at this point.

I asked if it was worth me continuing?

He shouldn’t really of answered, but we had a great relationship, we had roomed together on that trip to Australia, so he looked around to make sure no one was listening and simply said yes.  That was it for me I had passed the first two parts, including the kumite, which isn’t my strong point and all that was left was kata, which was my speciality, so my answer was simple, let’s do it, I’m ready to continue!

So I was almost immediately called up for kata, first my kata of choice, that went okay, the foot held.  Then kata of the examiners choice, oh joy, they’ve chosen one with a jump, a jump that will land with all my weight directly on my ballooning foot!

In actuality the jump went fine, it was a few moves later, when I simply had to stand up on that foot, that I wobbled, but other than that, I was pleased given the circumstances.

After deliberation between the examiners panel, the results were announced, to my relief I had passed, at the point there was still no pain, the adrenaline, the moment, the thrill, the nerves, all these feelings had blotted out any pain, the foot looked immensely painful, friends looked and quickly looked away in discomfort, but I still couldn’t feel it!!

Over the coming hours, as the excitement wore off the pain began to conquer all the other feelings, I then had to endure a 3 hours drive home, foot wrapped in ice, sat in the back of an incredibly small car, trying to stay comfortable!

The first aiders only let me continue on the agreement I would get it checked out at hospital the next day, when I returned home, but I didn’t actually bother, I was still high on success and I didn’t fancy a long wait in our hospital here in Newark, so I just got on with everything.

Over the next few days the bruising came out, the swelling increased and I wore so incredibly loose shoes and got on with my day to day life.

A friend of mine, a former nurse, took a look at my foot a few days latter, he said the bruising showed it was broken in two places, one at the front of the ankle, probably a chipped bone and the other a bone in the right of the foot, which explained the two kicks my friend spoke of, which I just don’t remember.

I guess at times our pain can be masked by our other feelings, we can suppress pain, both physical and emotional, it almost always hits us afterwards, sometimes when we think we’re gone far enough to be free from it.

Actually I think I’m experiencing this at the moment, my tiredness and physical exhaustion is kind of masking the emotional pain I should be feeling for my Nanna, I haven’t dealt with that yet, I haven’t had the uncontrollable tears yet, I’ve had tears, but not to the point where I just let go, lose control for a moment.

That time will come, I’ve felt the emotion come close to the surface over the last few days, but other feelings and circumstances are suppressing it, but I’m sure it will come.

For now, I continue to rest, a few more days off, then back to the grind stone again!

I’d rather forget and not slow down
Than gather regret for the things I can’t change now
If I become what I can’t accept
Resurrect the saint from within the wretch
Pour over me and wash my hands of it
Cause I could spend my life just trying to sift through
 What I could’ve done better but what good do what ifs do
 Oh oh
 Oh oh
 There’s something I should tell you now
(Forget And Not Slow Down by Relient K)

Am I Clark Kent or Superman?

Ask anyone to describe a karate instructor and people will come up with many differing images, I’m not a little old guy from Okinawa or Japan, I’m not a big and brash larger than life type in a multi coloured karate suit adorned with badges, I’m not a muscular lean mean fighting machine, I am or was quite the opposite. I’m only five foot four & half inches and yes the half is very important, but as the years took their toll, then the middle age spread started to grow, the beer belly was well and truly formed, but I could still move, my technique was still good, I still had a passion for teaching.

As my life at home started to deteriorate, the work dried up, money became sparse and my drinking got worse, the only constant, the only place I could feel normal, the only place I could forget my problems if only for a few hours was at karate.

I never drank before teaching, I made sure of that, teaching was the only thing that took me away from it all, I’ve been doing karate for thirty two years now and teaching for the last twenty three of those, I wasn’t about to throw away the only good thing I believed I had left to hold on to.

In life I was a wreck, in karate I still commanded respect, I was still successful and the club was going well, very well. I guess I became two completely different personalities, at home I was weak, hardly capable of normal functioning, but when I picked up my bag, walked to the Leisure Centre and put on my karate suit, it was like Clark Kent entering the revolving doors and coming out as superman. My suit became my superhero costume, with the suit and the black belt on I was a completely different person, I could forget all my problems for those few hours and lead people, inspire people, but then the suit came off and the darkness took over again. I would walk over to the pub after class and the madness would start all over again.

On a Tuesday or Thursday night, I would finish at 10pm, then down four pints in the pub and go home to find any alcohol I had left in the house and continue drinking until I fell asleep, often waking in the earlier hours to finish the can or bottle that was still held tightly in my hand. At the weekends, both Saturday and Sunday, I would finish at 5.30pm, go to the pub, drink four pints, then go to the shop, buy two bottles of wine and drink them when I got home, as well as finishing anything I had left over from the night before.

I am naturally a shy person, I find it hard to mix with people when out of my comfort zone, but when I put a karate suit on it’s all very different, I can approach anyone, give advice to people I don’t know, start conversations with anybody, but take it off and I was back to being comfortable only in my own surroundings, but even that little bubble was beginning to burst.

Now I’ve stopped drinking I am trying desperately to bring my two alter egos closer together, to become one person again, it’s not easy as
my karate persona is far more developed than my natural self, but I’m trying and Church is definitely helping in that respect, I’ve still a long, long way to go, there is still a lot of hard work to go, but the two aspects of my life are slowing coming back together and I feel like I am gradually beginning to be somebody again.

When I can only see the floor
You made my window a door
So when they say they don’t believe
I hope that they see you in me
(Be Somebody by Thousand Foot Krutch)

Everything is out in the open now, I’m not hiding my drinking or the suicide episodes from anyone any more, there’s no need, I not proud of what I was, but I am proud of what I am becoming, I am proud of the way I’ve turned things around, I am proud of the strength I’ve shown since I put down the bottles and the blades and sorted my life out.