Well over a month ago, I suffered a pretty painful injury during a karate seminar as a result of trying to spar like I was still in my twenties. I was doing pretty good, for a few minutes. In my head, I was moving with the same speed and grace as I did when I was first graded as a black belt. In reality, I was moving with the level of grace that a thick sap slowly moves its way down the trunk of a tree. And I paid the price in pain…
My opponent caught me with a straight punch to the upper ribs, with his dominant hand, no less. There are three important lessons to be learned from that experience; one for me, one for him and one for both of us. The lesson for me is that I shouldn’t have walked into an oncoming punch. Although I was throwing an attack of my own at the time, focus should be on preserving and protecting oneself first. You can’t protect yourself or others if you get taken out.
The lesson for my opponent is that at his level of skill, he should have been able to control his strike and even halt it short of impacting. One of the differences that I’ve noticed with Shotokan as opposed to Uechi Ryu, is that the practitioners are all in, on every strike, even in practice. Although this can be useful in developing strength to your strikes, it can be detrimental to one’s overall control. But I digress…
The lesson for the two of us, is that even a strike that isn’t at full power can still be devastating when properly applied. After all, if a strike from 1 to 10, where 1 is a light touch and 10 is the intention to kill, I seriously doubt that my opponent, who just happens to be a practitioner in the same dojo as I am, had ANY intentions of killing me. But the results of that strike have been enough to keep me on my ass for the past month, proving that an effective strike doesn’t have to be “all in” to be effective.
The past month has been increasingly difficult, especially in the first couple of weeks. I’ve had a hard time moving and every little thing, including but not limited to sneezing, coughing, burping and farting has sent me into spasms of pain where I’d be seeing stars for several minutes before it would finally subside. Don’t even get me started on the challenges of showering or using the washroom. A month has passed but the pain has not, although it is getting better. Damaged muscles can take weeks and even months to heal. But I’ve learned to appreciate some important aspects along the way…
My father has been wheelchair-bound for almost 20 years, now. Cursed with a degenerative spine, he’s been living with constant, 10 out of 10 pain for years. Nothing has ever worked for him or is expected to. It’s pain he simply has to live with. And although my pain is nowhere near at the level his is, I can appreciate certain aspects that constant pain causes. Here are a few things that you should never say to someone who is in pain:
1. “The pain can’t be that bad.” I’ve spent years hearing people talk to my mother and make that very comment about my father. For one thing, what’s only a 5 out of 10 pain to one person may be much, much worse for someone else. No one has the right to gauge your pain for you.
2. “Why are you so tired?” Constant pain is exhausting. People don’t tend to think so because when a person is in pain, their last thought is of getting sleep. The problem comes from managing that pain over a long period of time. It takes its toll on the body and can be devastatingly exhausting. Most chronic conditions will be like this. I have a dear friend who has fibromyalgia (hopefully I spelled that right) and although she wears a brave face, the constant pain makes getting through the day with a smile quite challenging.
3. “You’d feel better if you got up and did something.” No, no, I would not. I’ll be the first to admit that one shouldn’t just flop down and refuse to move until ALL pain has subsided. Besides the fact that sitting idle can be a problem for someone with type-1 Diabetes due to poor circulatory and nerve-related issues, there’s the danger of stiffening up from doing nothing, which can extend the amount of time required to heal. Don’t even get me started on loss of muscle mass and atrophy. But sometimes you gotta baby that injury and allow your tissues to heal. This can mean putting your feet up and letting the finely-tuned machine that is your body do its job and fix the injury before you push yourself.
Everyone’s pain is different. I can honestly say that although I’m not on the same pain level as my father, I can certainly sympathize with some of the issues he faces with his back being out of commission. Makes me appreciate all the more, how some people, even medical professionals, try to push him in ways his body is incapable of responding. Don’t ever judge someone else’s pain. You can never tell how an individual may be feeling or dealing with a particular pain. And no one has a right to gauge your pain but you. Food for thought…☯️