Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Shisochin, The Great Ankle Biter


My ankles aren't happy. It's like I can feel every booboo I've ever had.  This kata and I are going to become good friends and I'm going to learn how to use my legs better.

My last PT showed me how to modify my gait and it may be applicable here. Because I have Pes Planus (flat feet), my feet pronate (turn inward). That puts valgus (inward) stress on my knees. As long as I turn my feet out a little bit more when I walk it widens my gait and reduces that valgus stress.

The footwork in Shisochin kata is 99% zenkutsu dachi, a long stance which puts a great deal of stress on the ankles. I couldn't do a single stance without my metatarsals separating, so I'm going to have to modify it.

Here's the thing about modifying moves: Mark Twain advised that we learn the rules, then break them. Zenkutsu dachi is one of the stances I struggle to master because it's big and it's painful. However, it's going to take getting this stance right to learn what I truly can do, so that I only adapt what I truly cannot do safely.

More research will be necessary! It's exciting! Still, at this point in the discovery process it's pretty painful, it would be nice if I could sleep. :)

Be well.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Swimming In Zanshin

Higaonna-Sensei says in an interview, "when I get a knee injury, one would normally think, what to do? [...] One should learn to live with it. [...] Stress is a person's biggest enemy."

This is a very hard lesson to get behind, though I understand his point. Learning to live with it is easier when the injury doesn't change and is localized. I suppose if I had one bad knee, with pain that didn't change much in severity, or didn't require an immediate and improvised adaptation to my day, I probably wouldn't get choked up.  This is something to work on.

But Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome does change, and it changes from moment to moment. A lesson that speaks to me more is the concept of Zanshin. This is not a word we shout for a stronger punch. It is not a kata, a level, or a formality at the beginning and end of class. It is not a part of our uniform, or a move, or an application. Zanshin is integral to our very way of being, and translates to the concept of residual awareness. That is, after a match has ended, or after a kata has finished, one still does not let one's guard down. Zanshin is the concept of always being ready for more, never being unready when the next adventure begins.

Zanshin can be overwhelming for me to follow because I get tired. I get physically, intellectually, and emotionally tired, of always having to take care of my body. If it's possible to have clinical compassion fatigue for one's own body, I've waxed and waned through that state of mind like ocean waves change with the weather and tide. Those waves range from gentle, rippling nonchalance to thrashing, wild swells that can even drown me in their whitecaps. My world becomes very small as I dive into managing my needs. Luckily, at some point I always manage to come up for air. It is in those moments when I break through to the surface that, even with all the air I need, I am forever preparing myself for the next time I will go under. All people experience certain aspects of their lives in waves. With EDS it can be rapid-cycling, or lingering, or stormy for a long time, so it is best to be ready.

What can we do? We can practice the best habits as often as possible: eating well (or managing our tube feeds/TPN), staying hydrated, managing our energy levels, keeping in contact with a healthy support system, and so on. We can educate ourselves: read an anatomy and physiology 101 book, learn basic medical terminology so we can communicate with our doctors, get proper testing to establish baselines for our most vulnerable body parts and systems.

No enemy is going to worry about whether I am ready for the next blow. No ocean concerns itself with the swimmer. The more I learn, the less effort it takes to be ready. Knowledge is power. Zanshin is the practice of being ever ready to use that power when necessary. Zanshin is how one learns to swim through the waves.