Tag Archives: Stitches

Karate And Me – Part 7 – 1989 A Year To Grow Up



So 1988 finished on a high after recovery from an injury, then 1989 should have been plain sailing, continued growth, I guess it was but for wholly different reasons.

An injury that happens due to an accident or an incident, like my ruptured ankle is one thing, but an injury that can’t be seen or can’t be explained is another thing.  As the new year moved on, I was still training five times a week, Sunday was the busiest by far, it was a three and half hour slog every week, firstly teaching beginners for one hour, then two hours training in the general class and then an additional half an hour for just the brown and black belts, it was a hard day.

In early 89, I found that I would wake in the early hours of Monday morning, suddenly wake in pain, my shins just below my knees would be screaming in pain, when this happened there was no getting back to sleep, there was no position I could find to ease the pain, nothing I could do, I would just lie in bed crying with the pain, for weeks I kept it to myself, but then eventually I told my Mum and she arranged an appointment with a Doctor.

As the weeks went by I began to get aches and pains in my knees too, during training and after, it never really went away, but that pain on Sunday nights/Monday mornings was the worst.

Up until I was 15 I was under 5ft in height, suddenly in the first few months of 89 I had grown to pretty much my current height of 5ft 4½ inches, when I saw the Doctor he explained that I had Osgood-Schlatter Disease, it sounds severe, but essentially is severe growing pains.  He explained that the growth plates within my lower legs were not growing at the same rate and the pressure of my training was causing the pain, even the pain that would wake me in the middle of the night.  There wasn’t much that he could do, other than prescribe painkillers, it would eventually go, in other words I would grow out of it too, but it could be sometime, he advised that when the pain became severe to take time off training.

Over the coming months I would skip training for weeks at a time when it became bad, I tried to train through it, but it wasn’t always possible.

In terms of competition,  I still competed, but for the fighting my growth changed the category I was in.  At that time competition was catorised by height with under 5 feet and over 5 feet, all my success had come at under 5 feet, everyone was pretty much my height, we were all well matched, now it wasn’t so.  My first competition in the new height group was the Nationals, although I didn’t change the way I fought, I still waited and counter attacked, it made it harder, the distance changed because most of my opponents were now inches taller and so this changed my timing, that first competition I got through to the quarter finals, but lost to the eventual champion, he must have been almost six foot, his reach was way beyond mine and he just picked me off at random, it was a learning experience to say the least and from there I had to re-assess my style of fighting.

Over the summer I took more time off training, the pain wasn’t going away and at times it got worse, especially those Sunday nights, I came to dread going to sleep on Sunday night and not because it was school the next day, because I knew it was going to be painful.

Then one evening during the early summer Alan asked if he could speak with my Dad and me after a class, he took us aside and then dropped the bombshell.  He had decided that he was going to emigrate to Australia, only it would be this coming October, but he needed to organise the people who he wanted to continue running the club.  My Dad had been helping take the money at the club for some time, he helped Alan out where he could, which allowed Alan to concentrate on just teaching, so Alan asked if Dad could keep doing this, but it was his choice of instructors that was the big bombshell.  I was only fifteen and my club mate Darren was only seventeen, but Alan had decided we were the two people he wanted to continue the teaching at the club, Darren being older would be Senior Instructor and I would be Assistant Instructor, Darren’s Mum would become Secretary and handle the admin and my Dad would collect the money and help Julia organise things.

I don’t think it was so much as a request from Alan, I’m not sure he really offered me a choice, but I didn’t refuse and neither did my Dad, he had already approached Darren and Julia by this point and they had agreed, so did we, so it was all set.  After the next club grading at the end of September Alan would step down and leave the country just a few weeks later.  He had arranged for a couple of other junior students to run the Lincoln club with the help of their parents, but at the last minute those plans changed and a couple of other seniors who ran other clubs in the Lincoln area took over that club.

I don’t think at that time I really realised what that would mean in terms of my life, I was fifteen, it was just karate, although a big part of my life, I didn’t see it having such a big influence on the direction that my life would follow from that point.  From this point on, my life would begin to revolve around the club, my life choices were formed around what was best for the club and it’s students, although I didn’t have much of a plan for my life at that point, they would all have to revolve around the club I was now tied to.

My main apprehension at that point was how I would be received by other members of the club, mainly by our adult section.  I was senior than most of them in terms of grade and experience, but I was a junior in terms of age, our adult section ranged from ages 18 through to people in their 50s and 60s, if I was to be taken seriously by them and other club instructors, I had a lot of growing up to do.

But in those early months, my fears were all for nothing, the seniors seemed to understand the pressure both myself and Darren found ourselves in and helped us as much as they could, they stood by us and the transition went smoothly.  If anything is was our peers, the other guys that were of a similar age and grades, they were the ones that fell away, some left to go to college or university, others I guess found it difficult to adjust to us teaching, they simply left overtime, but the seniors, they stayed with us and encouraged us, I will never forget that, the respect they showed us both.

As the year came to a close there were once more a number of competitions, the first of which was just a week or so before Alan left at the Regionals, as a club we had our best competition yet, we returned with numerous trophies.  For me I had a break through, this time in kata, for the first time I made the individual final for kata at a Regional level, I finished fourth, but it was a break through, especially as my effectiveness in the fighting was now challenged by my lack of height.

As November came around my, knees were still causing trouble, when I returned to the Newark Open, I made the finals of the kata and the kumite, but in the last round of the kumite I clashed knees with my opponent, my knees were already aching, but due to the pain and bruising, I decided to withdraw, I regret it now, I should have just gone for it, but at the time I sat out and watched the others compete in the finals, thinking that I could have beaten them.

A week later I went back to the Ipswich Open, once more in the morning I made the kata final and then in the afternoon competed in the kumite.  I made it through to the quarter finals and then faced the tallest guy in the competition.  I remember the early exchanges, I waited and he attacked, again he out reached me and I wasn’t quiet as quick as I was due to the lack of training over the last few months, so it was hard, I just couldn’t match him.  Then he came in with a punch to the face, I tried to get underneath it, to block and counter as he came in, but he hit me full in the face, I just remember everything happening in slow motion as I slowly fell to the ground.

When I came around I was flat on my back and it seemed there was blood everywhere, the referees rushed over to me and then the first aiders came over, my mouth felt numb and I put my tongue to the left side of my mouth and realised I had a large hole in my top lip, it was torn wide open.

The first aiders helped me back to their station, while the referees disqualified my opponent.  I had made it through to the finals, but first there was the small problem of the hole in my lip.  The first aiders said they couldn’t do anything for me and it would have to be stitched at the hospital.  One of the local volunteers agreed to drive myself and my Mum to the hospital.  I was helped up to go to his car, I took a few steps across the hall and once again everything went into slow motion and I found myself once again slowly slipping to the floor, I had collapsed again, by this point it was obvious I was going to take no further part in the competition.

I was taken to hospital and eventually had six stitches in my lip.  I made it back to the venue just in time to collect my two trophies, still in my blood soaked suit.  For the second time in two weeks I made the finals, but couldn’t compete in the final, I regretted the decision not to compete in the finals the previous week even more.

I couldn’t eat properly for a number of days, it felt like half my mouth was closed due to the swelling, my parents kept me off school for a few days, by the time I went back to school it looked a mess, the dried blood had scabbed around the stitches and it was still swollen, it didn’t look good at all.  They told us at the hospital that the stitches would dissolve after a week or so, almost three weeks later I still had four stitches still in there, the other two I had managed to get out with my tongue and my teeth, eventually a parent of one of my students, who used to be a nurse, cut them out for me.  I still have the scar on my lip, in time I would add to it, I’ve only had two sets of stitches in my life and the second set would be in the very same place as the first!

So 1989 came and went, the nineties approached and the growing up was to continue.  When you take responsibility for something, especially at the age that I did, I guess you have no choice but to grow up quickly, what I originally found daunting I would begin to grow into, I would begin to grow as a person and a student myself.

Against the sky
Streams of light
Call out to me and you

We leave as one
We’ve just begun
To find the solace we’re due
This is the life we must choose

We will make a brand new start
From the pieces torn apart
The break of day is before us

Cast your sorrows to the wind
Let the highway take us in
As we escape the disorder

This desert road
That we call home
This is our destiny
We’ll chase the setting sun
As we outrun
A life of agony
God how we ache to be free

We will make a brand new start
From the pieces torn apart
The break of day is before us

We will make a brand new start
From the pieces torn apart
The break of day is before us

We’ll make our way
We’ll make our way
We’ll make our way
We’ll make our way