Thursday, November 13, 2008

On the Benefits of Being a Crippled Martial Artist

For most of the current year, I have had a problem with my right knee. Torn meniscus that caused a wonderful stabbed-in-the-knee-with-an-icepick pain with any torque. I had surgery, and in theory, once it heals, it'll be almost as good as new. Not quite, of course, but with luck, close enough so I won't notice it much.

If you are a martial artist, it is easy, I think, to feel confident if you are fit, strong, fast, and trained. Take away some of these things, and that changes.

In our art, my teacher has a saying, "Your silat is only as good as your legs." By which he means that we have to do a shitload of leg training ...

But -- if your legs aren't so good, then what? Does that mean what you have is no good?

Since I've been dealing with this -- to a relatively minor degree -- since the spring, my answer is, no, it doesn't mean that. It might mean it isn't as good as it could be. Or, maybe it doesn't. Because if if you need a crosspoint screwdriver and all you have is a regular flat-blade, you can sometimes make do.

Fortunately, in our version of silat, the art is positional -- i.e., it is based not on speed and power, but on position and timing. Being able to dart about hither and yon like a gazelle is useful, but not always necessary. If I can see you coming far enough away, I might be able to hobble into a place where I can be ready when you arrive.

What that means in practice is that I have to pay better attention, because I need more time than when I was Nijinsky and could leap about with nimble alacrity.

One learns to compensate for handicaps. It is good to know that you can, and the best way to find out is to have to do it.

I knew this in theory, of course, since compensation has been part and parcel of my entire life, but the actual doing of it the last few months was a good lesson. Even if my knee heals and lets me get back to where I was before, learning how to deal with a nagging injury has been most useful. There are enough tools in the box so that some things can be substituted if necessary.

I think the proper attitude is, "Yeah, I'm a crippled, slow, old man, but I can still take you out ..."

11 comments:

Bobbe Edmonds said...

Exactly WHY is there a photo of the Kama Sutra at the head of this post?

Steve Perry said...

All the leg work ...

Anonymous said...

oz anon here.

Any idea's where I'd find out if they teach your branch of silat in oz? I must admit I'm curious.

Worg said...

This is an interesting post. I was thinking along the same lines after the harimau discussion.

You can also learn things about the opponent's body that you didn't know before. I had a blown disk some years ago, and it's taught me so much about the spine that I didn't know before.

Also my pain tolerance is just crazy now. Once you live with real mindbending pain for a good while, lesser problems just don't bother you so much.

VC said...

Hmmm,

A. Sneak up on the wounded old man and test his theory?

B. Take his word for it?

Since there is a non-zero chance of an ass whipping and an injured lion is the most dangerous kind...

I'll take hia word for it.

Dan Gambiera said...

One of the best martial artists I've ever met says it best:

Sooner or later you lose your speed, you lose your strength, and everybody learns your tricks. Then you find out if you're any damned good or not.

Steve Perry said...

Oz --

I dunno. Given that there is a lot of back and forth between Oz and Indonesia, I would think it is possible, but I don't recall any Sera teachers from down under.

There is silat there -- the PD site is: http://www.silatpd.org/

Glider said...

Well, since I have had similar knee surgery a few years ago, and it didn't solve the problem, I can't use my leg martial arts much anymore. To compensate, I must admit, I know pack a .380 auto almost all the time. Yes, I am licensed for concealed carry. I am also the same age and find that my skills have diminished more than I like to admit. I can fend off one attacker for a short while but if there are two, the conealed .380 is faster than my aging abilities. So far so good. There comes a time when one has to admit their limitations and, unfortunately, I have reached some of mine. Getting old is not for the weak.

Steve Perry said...

God made men; Sam Colt made men equal ...

Anonymous said...

Anon-in-Oz: Thanks muchly for this I'll go have a look.

Nataraj Hauser said...

I remembered reading an article on training while advancing in age. I thought it was in Black Belt magazine but didn't find it in their archives. Doggedly, I bent Google to my will and found what I think is the same article, originally published in Black Belt in 2002. The online version of Bob Orlando's "Training Smarter, Not Harder: How To Continue Improving Your Martial Skills Despite Advancing Age" is HERE at Orlando's own page. I did not re-read it before posting this link, but will do so tonight.