A tough few days - week 3

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March 21st 2009
Published: March 21st 2009
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First of all, happy birthday Hannah! Sorry I'm not around for your birthday. You'd better be reading this.

Last I blogged was Wednesday, which was a lovely, sunny day in which I was very upbeat and singing a lot. A new student arrived called Antonio from Brazil - he's 16 and staying for 5 years and speaks not a word of Chinese or English. This makes communication fun, and him turning up to the Mandarin class meant that learning the Chinese for various animals turned into animal noises and drawings. We didn't learn as much as we have in the past, but damn if it wasn't the most fun.

Unfortunately the weather on Thursday was appalling - it went down from 24 degrees to around 8 overnight, and it was overcast and drizzling. We started the morning's training with break falls (falling in a way to protect certain vital parts like hips) and grappling. These are great fun, and I really want to get better at both, but they're very hard on the body. Obviously if you don't know how to do a break fall properly, there's a good chance of hurting yourself when you fall badly, and I hurt my shoulders through placing my arms incorrectly. This was followed by grappling, which for us involves shoulder rushing someone's stomach, grabbing round their lower back and the back of their knee and forcing them off balance so you take them down. This can also involve hooking your foot around the back of theirs. Again, great fun, but big potentials to be hurt (more so for the grappler than the grapplee, surprisingly). We got a chance to spar which was fantastic - I was far more aggressive than the other Catherine (who seemed apologetic about sparring) and managed 3 takedowns to her 1. I've also noticed that she tends to drop her guard a lot when we practice moves, so I took advantage of this prior knowledge and bopped her on the nose a few times. She'll learn to keep it up soon enough.

However, all this fun left me with badly aching shoulders, not a good shape to be in for power training that afternoon. I tried massage and even a nap at lunch but nothing helped, so for the first time I went into power training with a major physical complaint.
Naturally, Shaun injured his foot during sparring, so we were mainly concentrating on upper body work. So the two sets of chest presses were set up (the guys doing around 80kg, the girls doing more like 40kg) and we were set off with a leisurely 50 press ups. Now I liked to imagine before I left that my upper body strength wasn't bad - I did the real weights at the gym instead of the girly tiny weight and could hold a plank for a good 2 minutes. HA. It makes me want to curl up with embarassment that I ever thought that I had a strong upper body...or anything. It's a typical girly physique, alas. My 50 press ups morphed into 20 (rest) 10 (rest) 5 (rest) 15 rubbish ones (collapse). At this point I went to do the chest presses and was told to do 20. I managed 5 before I started struggling, and Wong Shifu came over to see what I was whinging about. He took it off me and held it at arms length for about 10 seconds trying to check that the balance was right, before telling me it wasn't heavy. I carried on, but really straining, making whingy grunting noises and gritting my teeth and he said I only had to do 15 and (embarassingly) helped me finish them by taking some of the weight. Afterwards I lamely explained I'd hurt my shoulders, at which point he told me to rest and do another 30 push ups, and then watched me do them badly. He then explained I'd been doing them wrong and needed to put my hands either side of me and have my body right against the floor, and then push up so that my arms are completely straight. Now, I reckon that if I hadn't hurt my shoulders, already done 50 press ups and 15 chest presses I would have been able to manage this. As it was I couldn't manage one. After several attempts of lowering myself and struggling pitifully to push myself back up he said I shouldn't try to force myself to do something my body couldn't do, and set me practicing punches with dumbells. I was left in no doubt (through his repeated taking pity on me and letting me do easier tasks) that I was now the rubbish girly student, and this is a frustrating place to be as this is exactly where I didn't want to end up. I completed the rest of power training (which included frog jumps, followed by an exercise that went frog jump, round kick; frog jump, round kick across the hall) but felt very down. I tried calming down during Tai Chi and Qi Gong after class but I felt very agitated and upset.

This feeling unfortunately rolled over into Friday morning, where I seemed incapable of understanding a new move in the Tai Chi form we're learning. Now, these moves aren't especially difficult, I've learned harder ones faster, but I think my mood from the previous day had sucked away some of my self-confidence and I really struggled. Bao Shifu was not feeling patient that morning either, meaning that every time I didn't get it he sighed loudly and went through it even more slowly again. This didn't exactly help.

However, that morning was power stretching, and I've developed a perverse enjoyment for the pain of power stretching. For one, it's something that doesn't require all the physical power and ability that I'm patently lacking, and for another there's a sense of achievement when it's finished that you've endured the pain. So off we went, and this week I was last of everyone, which is nice in a way in that it gives you more time to warm up. He definitely took it harder on me this week than he had originally, and the pain was quite excruciating, but it's only 30 seconds that the stretch has to be held for. Moving on to the right leg, Catherine was counting to 30 while I tried very hard to breathe slowly and deeply whilst gritting my teeth and making the odd agonised noise, when she reached about 26 there was a fairly loud "crack" sound. It was very similar to the sound that a joint makes when it's been stretched, and there was a similar feeling of discomfort relieved - as if that was what was meant to be happening all along. However, Wong Shifu immediately released my leg and starting bending and straightening it. I tried to explain that it was okay and wasn't painful and he could carry on the last 4 seconds of stretching, but he just swore (in English - I found this weird though it doesn't surprise me that he's picked up a few swear words during power stretching...). A translator was called over, and Wong Shifu then explained that I'd torn a ligament as I'd tensed up when I realised that the stretch was nearly finished. He explained that it wouldn't hurt now while I was warm, but when I cooled down it would be very painful and I wouldn't be able to kick or stretch with that leg until it heals, which will apparently take about 2 weeks. He'd experienced the same thing in his time at the Shaolin Temple and had continued training kicks for the rest of the day, only to find he couldn't move the leg when he woke up the next morning.
He watched me do some kicks with that leg (slowly) afterwards and concluded it wasn't too serious, and I could continue training but just take it easy with that leg. In the meantime I've been prescribed some Chinese medicine in the form of quite smelly red herbal pills, and extra Qi Gong - so a very traditional attitude to healing.
He was right about the pain, once I'd cooled down it started hurting quite a lot. It's okay to stand and (to an extent) walk, but I cannot in any way crouch if I put any weight on that leg (meaning that I have to crouch on my left leg with my right extended - great practice for my crouch stance). It's also difficult to draw that leg towards my body, making putting clothes and shoes on my legs difficult and washing extremely hard. Overall it's not an agonising pain where I need pain killers to function, but more an irritation meaning I can't function properly and my training will be impaired. This is very annoying when you consider that my 2 weeks of rebilitation is another quarter of my time here, and I can only hope that it's better by the time of my basics and 5-step grading on the 5th April.


23rd March 2009

And to think that Owain and I were feeling sorry for how stiff we were after merely running 13 miles!

Tot: 2.27s; Tpl: 0.049s; cc: 9; qc: 50; dbt: 0.0521s; 2; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 2; ; mem: 1.4mb