Fridays have become my training days. My factory work is over, and I have a day to focus on martial arts. Recently I’ve started training with a local college student in Krav Maga, and then Sundays I teach Haidong Gumdo. So for my own workout, Friday and Saturday represent the vast majority of my time.
Those of you who have followed our Haidong Gumdo adventures for a while know that I got the name “Sword Gimp” because of a permanent semi-crippling injury to my left knee. This means that advancing in martial arts has been an exercise in caution and adaptation.
Today I pressed hard at Haidong Gumdo, and the Pakose in stance focus three tweaked my knee so badly that it hurt to stand. I had already hammered on my basics, and I could have called it a day with the first challenge.
There were some reasons why I didn’t. First of all, I don’t have a lot of free time to train, which means that I have to take advantage of all the time I can. When I can’t train the way that I want to, I train the best I can. So I brought my stances up about four inches (surprise, yes, they do have that much depth to them) and worked slowly. After half an hour I wasn’t flinching with every left step. After an hour I had to remind myself to keep the stances shorter because I had forgotten the injury in the ongoing quest to breathe. When I hit the two hour mark the sun was down, the moon was shining, and every Lutheran mosquito in the county had used me for communion, but I didn’t notice my knee amidst the shaking legs, trembling hands, and double vision (slight exaggeration but you get the idea).
The point is that I got 90 minutes of forms practice in that I wouldn’t have gotten if I had made one of two errors. If I were a younger man, I might have just grit my teeth and forced the moves down where I wanted them to be, a virtual guarantee of further injury and days without training. If I had simply quit, I wouldn’t have gotten in I have no idea how many repetitions of SSGB 1-11.
I simply did forms, without counting, without stressing, nothing but the focus on the natural beauty around me and the flow of move to move. I got to train in maybe the last summer wind of autumn. I got to put in the time to refine the technique and prepare for my promotion exam in 5 weeks now (5 weeks now?!?!?!). I got to remind myself once again that I’m not there to be the best martial artist Mr. Brandon Ozborn or Mr. Scott Frankovich can be. I’m out there to honor my art with my own body, age, and what wisdom I have.
So, the moral of the story is that when training hits physical obstacles, we can assess. Do we need to stop? Can we modify our stances, our pace, or the exercise we’re working on in order to work around the injury. (Pull the hip! Get off the line! Extend! Flow!) Can we learn how we injured ourselves and figure out how to avoid that injury?
Whatever the answer is, move forward. If training needs to stop for the day so an injury doesn’t stop us for a month, do that. If you need to half-stand in stances but you can go through forms, do that! If you can stand in place and practice your draw-sheathe techniques in a corner, do that! Whatever you can, as best as you can without harming yourself, that is mudo to my best understanding. Don’t focus on how you can’t go forward, but put your energy to what you can DO to move forward.
Glaciers move foward one kilometer at a time, the same as anything else. What makes them so impressive is that while mountains and valleys may turn them aside, they never stop while they have any weight at all. Train like nature. If you can’t flow like water, flow like ice, and keep moving forward!
Speaking of moving forward, two of my students told me that while I had made them winded before, I had never really driven a class to exhaustion the way other masters had done at various workouts. The understanding that I got was that they were curious what it would look like if I did. Of course, to avoid being a total tyrant I’ll be right there working out with them!
So, if there are no new students to excuse you for a break (“Mr. Malbraaten, why don’t you show our new student the four basic stances while we work on Ssangsu Gumbup 1-7 in continuous loop… again…”) we will do what Mr. Park called an “Olympic workout”. Bring a bucket. I’ll tell you what they told me when they taught me to train this way: Bring a towel for the sweat, and remember if you have to throw up, throw up IN the uniform and make a break for it!
Looking forward to the workout! Remember this is our last sunday of Fighting September, so bring your safety swords and some attitude! We’re going to have a blast.