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I had another good class last night. We did a lot of break falls, and my sempai, Micah, complimented me on how well I was falling. It's good to know that my ukemi hasn't gotten too rusty during my break.
Naturally, break falls can be rather hard on one's body; or at least on my body. I had to pay special attention to maintaining proper form for the falls or I'd risk aggravating my previous injuries, or even worse, causing new injuries. Ukemi, in a way, is self-correcting. With practice, we learn how to avoid doing the things that hurt. :-)
I've got one or two small injuries -- a toe that got stepped on pretty hard, and a bruise here or there -- but three major injuries. The first is my left ankle, which I sprained in two places pretty severely a couple of weeks before my wedding in April of 2002. I took some time off from aikido for physical therapy at the beginning of 2003 -- 14 weeks or so. This was after spending most of 2002 wearing an air cast and doing my best to keep up in class, but training really aggravated the ankle pain. The physical therapy worked pretty darned well and my ankle is at 95% health. I was able to go back to regular training in March of this year. After I got back into training, I spent a lot of time working on my tenkan and zengoundo movements to minimize the strain I put on my ankles and knees.
The second is the carpel tunnel syndrome in my wrists. This was a preexisting condition that I've had since high school. The aikido training actually helps with the problem as I've felt less pain and had fewer problems after I started training more than four years ago. I think the wrist stretches and the pins help keep my wrists supple. While I was out for the physical therapy on my ankle, my wrists flared up and I started wearing braces pretty much all the time for a few weeks. Now I will sometimes wear the braces at work (computer work) and sometimes to sleep. Overall, I've been pleased at the beneficial effect training has had for my wrists.
The third major injury is to my right shoulder. I've injured that should before when I was first learning how to do forward rolls. Even before that, I had tendinitis in that shoulder (actually in both shoulders) from lifting weights. But things had mostly healed until this past summer when I injured it again. We were working on one of the kumijo when ukejo's jo get's planted on the mat and he goes over it into a break fall. The break fall isn't always necessary, but we were doing it this time. I was ukejo, and when I went over, the jo sliped and my arm got stretched out behind me. The result was probably a small tear in the muscle. I feel pain on the posterior deltoid and the point of the deltoid. I've probably got tendinitis there again as well. Considering how well the PT worked for the ankle, I'll probably be seeing my doctor after the new year about my shoulder.
In the meantime, the biggest problem I have with it is when I slap while taking a side fall or break fall. I found last night that if I slap closer to my body, the shoulder doesn't hurt. So just like I spent a lot of time getting my turning movements so that they didn't hurt my ankles, I'm going to spend a lot of time working on slapping when I fall. The thing is, when you do things right in aikido, it shouldn't hurt.
In general, I find that after I've been training consistently for a couple of months, a short break, a skipped class, can help me recover enough that I'm not too sore from exertion or aggravating my injuries. I tend to dislike the breaks, but I want to be able to train for a very long time so staying physically healthy is a prime concern. A little wear and tear is normal, and we train hard, but I'll be thirty in ten days, and I'm beginning to feel that fact that I'm not 18 any more.