Saturday, September 26, 2015

Adapting Gekisai Dai Ni Kata

Gekisai Dai Ni is my hardest kata. It's extremely hard on my joints because of the rounded techniques, which take place on all three planes of motion: coronal, sagittal, and transverse.

For Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, movements on one plane of motion are best. Movements on two planes of motion are okay. Movements on three planes of motion are a no-no because they most strongly force the joint into a closed-pack  position, with the highest congruency. In plain English, they mash the joint into its socket or capsule the most tightly, which gives it lots of opportunities for the stabilizing tissues to snap, tear, break, sprain, and so on.

Coincidentally, in a hypermobile person, a position at the end ranges of motion, with the most joint congruency, is often the most comfortable: everything is as tight as it can get. Many EDSers enjoy sitting with our legs contorted in unusual positions because, if we pin our legs down as far as they can go in any direction, we at least know where they are, and that they're tight. It gives a false sense of hope that our limbs will stay put. Over time, repeated activity at the end-range of motion will lead to further laxity and weakness. Then, when we need to do normal things in more reasonable ranges of motion, we fall apart easily and don't know why. (Well, now you know why.)

All kata in Okinawan Goju Ryu Karate feature rounded movements ("tripled" movements, when referring to planes of motion). It's one of our fundamental ways of moving, and for some applications it is indeed the most stable and effective.

With EDS, I reduce a lot of my dislocations by simply reducing my range of motion to five degrees fewer than the average person would move (which is 15-20 degrees fewer for me, and I'm EDS Classical Type, not even Hypermobile Type). It took six months to learn to walk this way, and six years to learn to live this way.

In karate, I reduce my stances, especially Sanchin-dachi (Three Battles stance), by just a few degrees. I have three goals with my stances:
1. Don't dislocate
2. Get the same functional outcome
3. Get the same aesthetic outcome

There are times when, curiously, I lose control of my legs. I can be standing, but unable to move. My fellow karateka will sometimes remind me what to do or encourage me to take the next step because the delay is very noticeable, but I'm stuck! EDS is given to neuropathy and radiculopathy, but I've never seen research on momentary paralysis. (Perhaps it's a Chiari-I Malformation thing. I haven't jumped down that rabbit hole of research because I don't have it yet.) I finish the exercise and then take a break. Lack of control of major muscle groups is at least a sign of fatigue.

For upper body movements I have the same goals with my thumbs, shoulder blades, and wrists.  It's even harder with my upper body and I stand a good chance of being sore in the clavicles and ribs for weeks if I ignore those goals. It can interrupt my breathing, and make me even more susceptible to blacking out. I'm getting pretty good at managing it, though. I keep my knees bent and my eyes open until my vision comes back. I don't fall over anymore.

Gekisai Dai Ni is my hardest kata. I took second place in a tournament two days ago, but popped my ankle in the middle of the first neko ashi-dachi (cat stance). Stupidly, I finished the kata, because I didn't fall over, and my head was in "the zone." When I stepped on my busted ankle for the second neko ashi-dachi, I knew I'd made a big mistake. I took care of it immediately after.

My ankle already been coming loose for days and I ignored it, since that's not uncommon. Rookie mistake. I was so pumped for the tournament that I didn't pay attention to my body, and that's where I went wrong. I splinted the next day, but the pain crept up into my knee and hip, so that the whole leg was wrecked by Saturday morning. I missed out on Spirit Training and the karate family Potluck, both of which are highlights of my entire karate life. Instead I'm in bed with my leg elevated, blogging about planes of motion.

For some joints I've learned to finish kata with a dislocated joint, and put the joint back in place later on. It just pops out again if I stop and try to fix it in the middle of a kata. My fellow karateka are used to hearing me popping bones around, so they don't freak out, which is great for my emotional health.

Gekisai Dai Ni is my hardest kata. I need to practice it. I need to modify it and practice that. I could always ask for a different kata, but I want to master it in my own way, even--especially--if I can get through it with adaptation. That's the name of the game.

The best part about my second place ribbon is that the person who took first place has been working very hard on his performance, and he's worked with me on kata a lot! He deserves that blue ribbon, and I'm proud to take second. What a great memory, to compete next to someone who has worked so hard, and for much longer than I have!

Be well.