Hello and welcome back to Second Chance to Live my friend. I am happy to have you around my table. Thank you. In today’s part of the series, I would like to share with you what helped me to advance in my physical recovery. In my experience, my physical recovery began when I got involved in sports and I don’t mean watching them. As I mentioned in Part 3 of this series, I taught myself how to walk again following the car accident, brain injury and after being taken out of a full body or Spica cast.
Because my left leg and foot were fixed in the cast for 4-5 month, my left leg did not grow longer during that period of time. As a result, my left leg was shorter than my right leg once the Spica cast was removed after my left femur had healed adequately. My Mom told me that I walked with a limp for a long time. With time my left leg grew longer, however to this day my left leg is about 1/4 — 1/2 inch shorter than my right leg.
As a result of being bullied, my parents enrolled me to begin taking judo. Judo was my introduction into martial arts. I took classes for several months at the judo school and then stopped attending classes for a reason. I can’t remember. In my freshman year in high school, I joined the wrestling team and continued through my sophomore year. In my junior year, I tried out for the track team. Although I made both the wrestling and track teams, I remained on the JV (junior varsity) squads. In my sophomore year, during lunch break in the area where students “hung out” when not in classes; I had my fill with being bullied. After being punched in the face by one bully, I did a double leg takedown, pivoted and proceeded to pummel him.
After being pulled off of the back of the bully, both he and I were sent to the principles office. I do not remember what was the outcome of the visit to the principles office, but I do remember from then on I was left alone by the bullies. From that point in high school, I realized that I could stand up to bullies. During high school, I worked out with weights to improve my strength and abilities in wrestling and track. I also spent many hours after school and on the weekends working in the acre yard our house sat on. There was an abundance of large trees on our property, that produced an endless supply of leaves and falling branches. Branches that needed to be picked up before the grass could be cut and the leaves cut up by the lawn mower.
I also dug ditches, transferred leaves from one compost pile to the other, planted evergreen trees, helped my Dad build rock walls. A large project that I worked on with my Dad was digging many post holes to put up a pine slat fence around the perimeter of our newly constructed in ground pool.
Although the work was hard, long and my Dad was demanding I am thankful for the work ethic that I developed during those years. Although my Dad would many times tell me that I did things in a “half-assed” way, the times that I worked hard and did a good job, he praised me. I believe that the work ethic that I developed through working and completing projects my Dad set, and expected of me; set the stage for me to not give up. I remember my Dad telling me, “You may hate me now, but in the future, you will thank me for it.” He was right. I am thankful for the work ethic that he instilled in me. Thank you, Dad. Looking back, as explained in Parts 1-6, I realize the work ethic I developed during those years kept me from giving up on life.
I remember during my earlier years in college that I continued to be bullied. I remember distinctly that around the age of 20, I made the decision that I no longer wanted to be bullied. I believe this decision helped me to stick up for myself several more times. In the process of sticking up for myself, I continued to train with weights and grew in confidence. I also no longer presented myself as a victim. Because I was committed to getting a degree and a good job — see Part 4 of the series — I did not have money or time to explore martial arts. My time and money were focused on my struggle to fight my way out of the proverbial “brown paper bag” that living with the unknown conundrum of a traumatic brain injury and an invisible disability.
Although I was not able to continue to train in any formal martial art setting (dojo) or under the instruction of a martial arts instructor (Sensei) I continued to have a fascination with the martial arts. When I was studying for my master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling I attended several Shaolin Kung fu classes and after being deemed unemployable and declared disabled I took a semester of Aikido at a junior college, here in Charlotte. And then while training at a 24-hour Fitness, I was introduced western boxing, Brazilian jujitsu, and several contact martial arts. In the process of my watching and asking questions, I found my martial art, muay Thai kickboxing. It was at that 24-hour fitness where I started practicing Thai kicks.
Through a series of events, I was told I could no longer work out there by management, which was a gift to me. Several months later the owner closed the gym without giving any of the members notice. A professional that I was working with at the time told me about a program that the YMCA offered to help individuals like myself. Individuals living on a fixed income for various reasons. The program offsets the monthly fee according to the individuals monthly income. When I heard this news, I went to and applied for the program. I was approved and have been working out at the YMCA since that time. If you have a YMCA in your area and are living on a fixed or low-income ask the YMCA if they have a similar program.
Shortly after beginning to work out at the YMCA, I was introduced to a fellow martial artist. He had trained in Thailand and had been a student of the martial arts for over 30 years at the time. At the time, he was a 5th-degree black belt. After speaking with him, he connected me with an instructor (Sensei) of a local martial art academy. After meeting with Sensei, he kindly allowed me to start training at his school without charging me. I had truly been blessed. I began training at the school in May 2000. What I would learn, through training at the school; was that my Sensei’s, Instructor had originally trained under Bruce Lee. The kindness of my friend introducing me to my Sensei and the kindness of my Sensei opened a new world to me.
As time unfolded and through attending regular classes I learned how to execute proper technique and build upon those techniques. After eight years training at the school, I was given an opportunity participate in an 6 1/2 hour test to determine whether Sensei would allow me to enter into a 10-month black belt cycle in preparation to test for my black belt. I joined 15 other individuals in this 6 1/2 hour test to enter the black belt cycle. To read what was required to fulfill the requirements of the test to be considered to enter the 10-month preparation to test for my black belt, click on this link: Traumatic / Acquired Brain Injury– Do Not Give Up on Your Dreams! Part 3 of 3. Three weeks after the test, I met with Sensei.
He gave me the results of the test and told me that I had passed and would be allowed to enter the 10 months black belt cycle testing period to qualify to enter a 2-day black belt exam. I was stoked to be able to begin the black belt cycle and did so with the other candidates in January 2009. In early February 2009 something terrible went wrong. During one of the physical conditioning classes, while running laps around the mats, I started to have pain in my right knee that was followed by the knee “locking up” or being hard to bend. When this occurred I tried to continue running, but could not continue to run. So I made the decision to leave the school and go home. The next day, I set up an appointment to see a Dr. to have my knee looked at.
The next day my right knee continued to “lock up”, which made it difficult to walk, much less run. Now I was confronted by the possibility that I would not be able to continue with the black belt cycle. All my time, training and dedication during the previous 8 years came into question. I had hit another proverbial wall, despite my hard work and determination. The next day I was fortunate to able to see a Dr. The Dr. diagnosed a tendon bruise and referred me to an orthopedist. He sent me for an MRI. I had hit a proverbial wall that did not seem surmountable, even after overcoming a hospital stay of 16 days with orbital cellulitis in August 2008. Second Chance to Live — My Presence has been my Absence Part 1.
After meeting with the orthopedist to discuss the results of the MRI, I learned that I had 2 meniscus tears. A medial meniscus tear and an anterior hood of the lateral meniscus tear. The orthopedist suggested that I have surgery to repair the menisci. I decided to get a second opinion. I got a second opinion. Thankfully, while speaking with a friend at the YMCA he told me that he had similar meniscus tears. He also told me that after a 3rd opinion he was told that if the surgery was completed, to repair both tears; that his knee may become unstable. Thankfully I received this information and after consulting with family and another professional I made a hard decision. I realized that I needed to accept what I could not change to get better.
The hard decision that I made was to bow out of the black belt cycle, so as to not have long-term ACL or PCL ligament damage. I began attending physical therapy appointments and then decided to begin rehabbing my knee on my own. I walked the warm pool at the YMCA 60 minutes 3-4 times a week — backward, forward, then forward and backward to strengthen my knee. I also participated in some light weights and riding the indoor bike at 0 resistance. After 9 months of setting out on my recovery program, to strengthen my right knee around the torn meniscus; I regained full function of my right knee. Although I regained full function in my right knee, I made the decision to not put my knee in jeopardy by returning to the school.
Instead, I made the decision to begin training on my own, at the Y using the heavy bags that I had advocated to be a part of the YMCA’s amenities. I resumed my training in different martial art disciplines over 6 years ago and have continued to train 4-5 times a week. My goal has been to sharpen the skills that I learned while training under my Sensei’s instruction and to develop my own skills and style. My own style of martial arts, combining skills that I learned from Sensei and skills that I taught myself. In 2013 a friend of mine videotaped progress that I had made through continuing to train on my own. Another friend video taped my continued progress to enhance my physical recovery process in August 2014 and in August of 2015.
I uploaded these short demonstrations to my YouTube channel and would invite you to watch them. You may do so by clicking on the below-highlighted links. Through engaging in repetitive mirrored movements I continue to increase my ability to use both sides of my brain and my body. In the process, I have improved my balance and muscle coordination, as well as my hand-eye coordination, concentration, agility, and body awareness. Another benefit of my training has been an increase in my physical and mental conditioning. And what I have discovered is that as I have trained my brain and body I have increased my ability to use these benefits. Use these benefits to enhance other skills and skill sets to enhance my quality of life.
I also play online solitaire, which serves to enhance my hand-eye coordination, concentration, and focus. Playing online solitaire increases my visual and mental acuity. Playing online solitaire enhances my awareness and increases my response time to visual and external stimuli. Playing online solitaire increases my hand speed and accuracy of movement. Playing online solitaire, consequently; improves my physical recovery process.
To read Part 8 of this series, you may click on this link: Part 8.
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