Dead Guys Can’t Kick

Two weeks ago I was sparing at a black belt camp in Louisiana and was kicked by a very handsome 6th degree. When I tried to get up my right knee laughed at me and said, “put your butt back down, woman.” I couldn’t walk.

Getting hurt at this kind of cam is rotten because I had to miss the following 48 hours of training and I had to lie around in a fairly primitive room, no tv, no Internet connection, no telephone for the next day and a half. just me, my goofy brain and a bag of ice.

When I got home two things became apparent.

 1.My knee wasnt’ getting any better.
2. It’s impossible to look hot wearing  a big ugly knee brace doing the zombie walk. (I’m waiting for the What Not To Wear people to jump out of my closet)

My orthopedic made an ugly face and sent me for an MRI.
Yuck! For twenty minutes I had to lie in a big shaking, quivering, humming and banging machine. I’m sure an MRI costs millions and millions of dollars, so why is it so noisey and aggressive? They gave me head phones with music but the MRI was so loud I couldn’t hear.

As I left, the MRI lady took my $300 dollars (and I have big insurance) and told me to help myself to a bowl of pens and emory boards. I looked at her with  “an emory board, seriously?” kind of expression. But she didn’t get it. Why does an MRI place give away emory boards.

The next day I hobbled into the doctor’s. office. I smiled. “Ok, give me some good news, it’s stretched, strained, twisted?”
He smiled right back, “ACL and Mencius are both torn.”
I was crushed and kind of wanted to cry, but I didn’t. (I waited till I got to the parking lot)  I handed him a list I’d made earlier. “Diana’s summer Fun List”

Chasing and annoying kids, taekwondo, tennis, running, rock climbing, swimming, skiing, hiking, water parks.  “Can I do any of this stuff?”

He read the list then shook his head. “Well, you can still annoy your kids just not chase them.”

“Surgery?” I asked.

“Well, at your age you need to really think about that.”

Did he say “‘at your age?” Oh my lord talk about adding insult to injury, like I’m Granny Maw Maw. Didn’t he read my list? Those are the worst three words any man can say to a woman…every. What a dummy. I feel sorry for his wife.

 I really- really wanted to cry, or kick his ass, which would be tough with one leg. “I want to fix it. Soon, today.”

He shrugged, “Ok, I understand. It’s an outpatient surgery but the recovery will be a few months, 4-6.”

“Let’s go, the sooner the better.”

“We’ll have to do a  graft.”

“Excellent, from somebody else?  Can I have  a 24 year old Asian girl graft?”

He just stared at me so I tried to explain. “If I get a young Asian graft maybe I’ll kick better and who knows my math might improve.”

Fine, I’m a reverse racist. I want the qualities middle age white women just don’t posses. He wouldn’t laugh, but I thought I was pretty funny.

“It will be a cadaver graft,” he state flatly.

“A dead guy? I get dead guy parts?  That’s not gonna help my kicking.”

He shrugged and smiled, obviously thinking I was marginally insane. Then his nurse came in to schedule the surgery.

So, I’m out of the game for 4-6 months. It sucks. Sometimes I  whine but the Martial Arts world is filled with guys who have had the same surgery or accident and injuries far more hideous. Maybe tearing my ACL it’s like my innationa into a super duper special fraternity of steler kickers. Who knows, maybe my cadaver could kick through the roof…maybe I’ll get a little piece of Bruce Lee.  

Then…in six month…it’s on, baby!

Moms Working Out…Bravest People Ever

Right now we have three moms who have started working out at our Taekwondo school. It’s awe inspiring. It’s also the hardest thing imaginable. And these beautiful moms in their tee-shirts and sweat pants, have no idea what great things they are doing and saying to their kids.

When an adult starts trying to learn taekwondo the thought process goes something like this.

Oh my Lord, I’m a spaz. Why did I agree to do this? I look like an idiot. I’ll never be able to do this. Hey, I was kind of awesome tonight. This is impossible. Holy Cow everyone here is so good and I suck. Why can’t I do this? It’s so simple. Hey, I got it. No, I really am a super spaz.

But most nights you leave class smiling because you’ve worked out really had and you had fun…And you don’t quite.

Here’s the great part. Your kids are watching you struggle and they see you dig down and try even harder. It’s not easy, but you don’t quite! Your children watch their mom persevere even though it’s not easy.  Is there any greater lesson you can teach them or example you can set.

Most parents watch from the sideline. If your kid isn’t an all-star athlete you spend years encouraging and cajoling. We say over and over, “hang in there buddy! You’re doing great. Don’t give up.”  We lie, we bribe and we pray. But we don’t actually remember how it feels to be awkward, uncoordinated and not really good at something. It’s been so long since we put ourselves out there and tried to learn something completely new.

New moms working out know exactly how that feels…and their kids watch…as they refuse to give up.

Also, I think “new moms working out” are turning their sons into better fathers and husbands. Being a mom, especially a single mom, can be staggering, overwhelming, all consuming. It it’s your life and world. By spending one hour a night, three nights a week, you are standing up and saying, “I deserve this. I deserve three hours a week to be a better healthier person.”

And your daughters will know they deserve time of their own, things and activities that are fun and good. You are telling your daughters to be strong.

“New moms working out” are also sending the message that health and exercise, taking care of our bodies is really, really important.

I wonder if the “new moms working out” know they are cutting their rise of alzheimers because they are learning something new?

And finally, here’s some good news.  We were all exactly like you just a few years ago, thinking the same thoughts and struggling with the exact same insecurities and fears.

 In martial arts white belts line up on the last row and there’s a really good reason for that. Nobody can see you back there so you don’t have to feel as though the whole class is watching! We’re not, we’re all watching ourselves, in the mirror, hoping nobody, especially the instructor, notices how messed up our form, technique or  jump spin side kick is.

So train on and be proud! Everybody else is.

Embarrassment and the Middle Aged Martial Arts

After hanging around and working out at a Martial Arts School for almost twelve years…I’m officially the oldest and slowest student in the school.  And it sucks.

I’m a middle aged second degree, surrounded by teen aged hot shots who are faster and quicker than I ever was. Their spin heel kicks buzz past my nose like a Gulf Stream Jet. Their youthful crescent kicks crack past my face like Indiana Jones’ bull whip. Still, I come back to class week after week.

Granted in a dark alley I could probably beat the poop out of most of my classmates because I’m pretty strong, I’m still pretty flexible,  I watch a lot of classic boxing, and I’m a whole lot meaner (mortgage payments and bankruptcy court have made me mean. That stuff hurts a lot more than a side kick to the ribs).  But when it comes to playful sparing, I’m doomed.

I wasn’t always the oldest and slowest in the class, but over the years all of  the other adults have dropped out because of injuries (like hip replacements and pace maker installations) time constraints, family, church and embarrassment. 

Embarrassment?  Yes, it’s embarrasing being the oldest and slowest. My running joke  is “my spin heel kick is so slow you could grab a cup of coffee waiting for it to drift past”. My kicks are pretty, maybe even elegant, and very strong but they are ridicilously slow compared to everyone else. After twelve years…that’s embarassing.

I have other middle aged friends in other schools, from blue belt to black, and no matter our rank our embarassment is the same. We know  the money is in the kids classes. So what’s an instructor to do with old, dedicated, Taekwondo war horses like me?

1. Please don’t give up. Don’t assume I can’t get any better and focus all your attention on the younger students. Fix my square block, stretch my hamstring.  Even if I’m old, I come to class because I still want to get better.  If I were a runner I’d expect to continue to get faster, the same is true in TKD. Fix me, you’re not going to hurt my feelings. And if you do, I need to suck it up and be thankful you took some time to work on me.

2. Sometimes, tell me when I get it right.  I know my front kick won’t look like the fifteen year old cheerleaders I’m standing next to, and my butterfly kick looks more like a dying moth, but when I land a 360 pole block, without stumbling around, say something nice. Genearlly, my daughter Lexie (also a 2nd degree) is the only one who says something like “good job Mom”. I know I didn’t get as high as everybody else and it’s not really that important, but it’s a huge deal in my brain and to my body.

 I know all this sounds kind of needy but you’ve got to give me a reason to keep coming to class, even though I’m the oldest and slowest. There are a thousand reasons I can skip class. My husband and children would be much happier if I stayed home.

I used to have an instructor who would regularly praise the teenagers for not giving in to peer pressure. He’d go on and on about how great the 16 year olds were for hanging in there.  Oh my gosh!  You can’t imagine the looks I get from grown ups at work when I have to explain a bruise the size of New Mexico or broken pinky. “Your still doing that”? they say, with a funky “bless your heart” smile.

So, all I need is one word from you and I’ll be back tomorrow night. Because you still inspire me and I still think I can get just a little bit better. And please, don’t give up on me yet.