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StefanHultberg
02-25-2016, 03:53 AM
I have read a little bit, both here and elsewhere, about Rheumatoid arththitis (RA) and martial arts.

The reason is of course that this is the diagnose I got a few weeks ago. Stupid rheumatologist – what does he think he is after 10 years at university and 25 years as a rheumatologyspecialist – an expert?? The arrogance of some people huh :)

Seriously though, the flareup that preceded the verdict was a nightmare, going from being a reasonably functional person to not being able to tie my shoelaces, button up a shirt, barely being able to get out of the bathtub. Serious pain and functionality problems.

Reading about RA, especially considering future aikido training, was like watching ”The shining” and reading about the medicine was like watching ”arachnophobia”. YIKES to both!

But anyway, there are a billion opportunities in every situation and there are valuable lessons in every failure and every ailment. Finding them, even if they are legion, is not always easy, though.

I am searching for the opportunities in terms of aikido when it comes to RA – what are the aikido-lessons here? I also do consider what is reasonable in terms of aikido-training together with a ”handicap” (in this particular question I was much inspired by a clip of a lady brilliantly passing her shodan test sitting in a wheelchair).

How do I develop my techniques so that I can truly achieve optimum effectiveness with a minimum of ”muscular effort”. When it hurts to tie your shoelaces how do you execute a koshi-nage?? Any quick ways to kitai-techniques anyone??

What is reasonable in terms of ”etiquette”. If you basically cannot receive any of the osae-waza, cannot roll (not to mention tobu ukemi), cringe at the idea of kote gaeshi – and don't mention shiho nage, and have to bow out after 10 minutes... Can you expect club members to put up with being almost exclusively nage when training with me? Is it ok to do walk on-walk off training, sitting out certain techniques just to be able to ”survive” the lesson? Is it ok to expect your training comrades to treat your whole body as made of glass? Is it ok to go to Iwama if you have to sit for several days and just watch if there happens to be a flareup when you're there???

What risks should you reasonably take in order to train, where do you actually decide to quit for the evening – do you quit when you feel the first twinge of pain or do you continue like a true samurai, still smiling on two broken legs and with a burst artery???

Those are some of the many questions. Any input would be welcome.

Many regards

Stefan Hultberg

lbb
02-25-2016, 09:35 AM
You're not going to get the answers to all these questions at once, and to be honest, they are mostly questions you will have to answer for yourself. Everyone's experience is different, everyone's situation is different and how each of us responds to the situation is different.

"What if, what if, what if, what if" is the cry of the newly diagnosed RA patient. It's the question you want answered, and it's the question that can't be answered. You will never know that you can sign up for a few days at Iwama, or summer camp, or a dinner-and-dancing date, and not have a flareup come along. That luxury is gone from your life forever, and right now you're in a bad place with a lot of uncertainty. You'll never have that kind of certainty again. What you can develop in its place is resiliency, resources, management of your condition and good coping strategies. You won't get those overnight; they take time to develop, and it's hard.

You need to be comfortable with your rheumatologist -- you need to have a conversation about your activities and the kind of life you want to lead. Your rheumatologist will almost certainly put you on medication. Please, for God's sake, do not fall prey to the "I don't like to use drugs" silliness that infects some people, and if you have such people in your life, don't discuss your medical condition with them, as they will not have anything helpful to offer. There are some forms of complementary medicine that may offer some relief, use them if you want, but don't turn your nose up at medicines that have a proven track record of treating RA. Not every one of them produces the same results for every patient, so your doctor will probably start with something that has minimal side effects, and it will take a while before you can tell whether it's working for you. Your doctor should also offer strategies for how to manage flareups -- for example, I have a prescription for prednisone that I don't normally take, but if I get a flareup, there's a short dosage schedule I use to knock it down.

As for outside resources, honestly, I would limit the time you spend on the web, on forums and the like, but this may just be my preference. I find that there's a lot of "awfulizing" that goes on in such places (sorry, I have no idea how to express that in Danish, it's not even an English word, but I find it very useful). You can get a great deal of sympathy with how awful it all is. It's what some people call a "pity party" -- taking a perverse enjoyment in a miserable situation. I don't find that helpful; rather, I think it's an excellent way to remain stuck.

Where is aikido in all that? That depends. There will be some days you can't train. Guess what? That's true of everyone. There will be days you can't do everything. Guess what? Everyone has the same problem. There will be days when Sensei snaps at you, "Stay connected!", and you can't even fully open and close your hands. Those days will be hard, but everybody has days when they can't stay connected with whatever body they've got to work with. People who don't know what they're talking about will advise you and lecture you about what you should do, how you should train, what you should eat, how you should feel. That will be hard too, until you learn to shrug them off. And...people, some of them at least, will have compassion. People who are wise will have compassion even if they don't understand the details, will offer support without pity, will have some understanding of what it takes for you to train and will respect that. You'll have some great days on the mat, and you'll have days that aren't great, just like everyone else. If you can learn to take a bad day as just that, one bad day, not the beginning of the end of your life, to let it come and let it go, then you'll be all right.

Janet Rosen
02-25-2016, 03:48 PM
Stefan, a longtime budo friend has had RA or a similar ailment for many years and I will alert him to this thread.

rugwithlegs
02-26-2016, 12:09 AM
I was cheering inside while reading Mary's response. Lots of passion and truth.

The closest I came to your situation - I had constant knee pain and a physician told me I had arthritis. After a few medications, I demanded a referral to a rheumatologist - who did an MRI of my knees and told me I had a torn meniscus and that I had been misdiagnosed. By the time I had gotten angry enough to advocate for myself, damage had been done to the joint. I am glad to read you were smart enough to ask for a specialist!

I was researching the guidelines for practice that O Sensei wrote, and he did advocate Aikido be a healthy method. As a chronically injured person, I had to reexamine how I trained. In doing so, I also ended up reexamining traditional Aikido and also a bit of how Aikido is allowed to evolve.

Mary is right, you will have your own path, and some days will be better than others. But, maybe some of this will help:

http://john-hillson.blogspot.com/2015/12/the-fifth-guideline-aikido-should-be.html

Carsten Möllering
02-26-2016, 04:50 AM
Hej Stefan

First and foremost I would like to mention two kinds of certain training-methods that helped me dealing with my rheumatikc disease. Albeit it was not arthritis but a certain kind of soft-tissue rheumatism, actually also affecting one of my eyes.

After having dealt with this typ of rheumatism for about 10 years, starting a certain typ of qi gong and also nei gong helped a lot. Eventually I even didn't need medication any more. The chronic Inflammation finally ceased.
According to rheumatologist practicing qi gong / nei gong is well known to have this effect on rheumatic diseases.

Second method that goes together with this and also connects to aikidō was the Body Work of Dan Harden. For it teaches to use the body in a certain way that doesn't rely on muscular strength and helps to move in very soothing way. But nevertheless developps great strength.

How do I develop my techniques so that I can truly achieve optimum effectiveness with a minimum of "muscular effort".Both methods of practice are closely linked to the certain way of practicing aikidō of Endō Seishiro.
It is not only very soft, using body structure and internal movement instead of great muscular strength, but also a way calming the body just like practicing qi gong and Body Work.

Actually these three methods or ways of practicing are one and the same. And alltogether they improved my physical state considerably. I am happy to say that I'm free of any medical conditions by now.

What is reasonable in terms of "etiquette". If you basically cannot receive any of the osae-waza, cannot roll (not to mention tobu ukemi), cringe at the idea of kote gaeshi -- and don't mention shiho nage, and have to bow out after 10 minutes... Can you expect club members to put up with being almost exclusively nage when training with me? In my aikidō-world it is commonly accepted to be only nage. It must be said, that we usually change partners relatively often. And learning ukemi is seen as important part of practice.

Is it ok to do walk on-walk off training, sitting out certain techniques just to be able to "survive" the lesson?My teacher has an issue in regard to his hips. He is a rokudan, he is fluent in Japanese and well known to some Japanese shihan, visits hombu every year et patati et patata ...
... and he has a chair in his dōjō to sit down after demonstrating and while watching his students practice what he just showed. He is of my age ...

Is it ok to expect your training comrades to treat your whole body as made of glass?To deliver oneself, one's body during practice to one's Partner is a priceless gift. And it should be handled that way.
According to Endō sensei - and all other teachers I know - aikidō is about helping each other grow and becoming free. So, if the body of your partner is made of glass, it's a good opportunity to learn to deal with it in a way that doesn't break him ...

Is it ok to go to Iwama if you have to sit for several days and just watch if there happens to be a flareup when you're there???I've experiencde people travelling only to look on Endō sensei teaching. mitori keiko - training by watching - is a certain practice in itself ...

What risks should you reasonably take in order to train, where do you actually decide to quit for the evening ...I think, to learn to decide this by yourself is one of the most important aspects of practicing budō.

Ganbatte kudasai!
Carry on practicing and adapt your practice to whatever your needs may be. It is my experience that your partners will learn a lot.

All the best to you!
Carsten Möllering

tarik
02-27-2016, 12:48 AM
Reading about RA, especially considering future aikido training, was like watching "The shining" and reading about the medicine was like watching "arachnophobia". YIKES to both!


Mary is right on. There are many many kinds of RA, and even within the same kinds, how people's symptoms come and go is highly variable. I have symptoms that range from a flu-like response to feeling like I'd had a heavy workout the day before to not being able to move or to easily injured soft tissue and muscle cramps all over my body. You will have to learn how your own disease develops and responds to the numerous treatment options and that will change over time.

I can say that you probably already realize that RA is not 'arthritis', it's an auto-immune disease and arthritis is merely one of many side effects of the disease. You CAN live a nearly normal life, but you will always have to make adjustments to accommodate your disease and deal with flare ups.

But anyway, there are a billion opportunities in every situation and there are valuable lessons in every failure and every ailment. Finding them, even if they are legion, is not always easy, though.

I am searching for the opportunities in terms of aikido when it comes to RA -- what are the aikido-lessons here? I also do consider what is reasonable in terms of aikido-training together with a "handicap" (in this particular question I was much inspired by a clip of a lady brilliantly passing her shodan test sitting in a wheelchair).


My training has not changed significantly, although there are plenty of times when I simply sit and train from sitting. I put tennis balls on a chair to protect my mats and use that instead of suwari-waza when I'm feeling a flare up and find that techniques can be easily adapted and equally effective. Also, sitting and watching when my body cannot handle the training is a VERY effective training tool.

How do I develop my techniques so that I can truly achieve optimum effectiveness with a minimum of "muscular effort". When it hurts to tie your shoelaces how do you execute a koshi-nage?? Any quick ways to kitai-techniques anyone??

Talk to your teachers. Once I learned how to minimize 'muscular effort', I don't find any techniques overly difficult in that regard. I never lift in koshi-nage anyway (I drop), and the techniques of aikido (and judo) don't require you to take dangerous postures that damage joints.

What is reasonable in terms of "etiquette". If you basically cannot receive any of the osae-waza, cannot roll (not to mention tobu ukemi), cringe at the idea of kote gaeshi -- and don't mention shiho nage, and have to bow out after 10 minutes... Can you expect club members to put up with being almost exclusively nage when training with me? Is it ok to do walk on-walk off training, sitting out certain techniques just to be able to "survive" the lesson? Is it ok to expect your training comrades to treat your whole body as made of glass? Is it ok to go to Iwama if you have to sit for several days and just watch if there happens to be a flareup when you're there???

I cannot speak for the places you train, but all of this is ok in my dojo and the other dojo I frequent. When I cannot fall, my partners can still get effective training by taking me to the point of kake and stopping (although sometimes that is harder on my body than just falling).

I frequently encourage people who cannot train full bore to come and do what they can anyway. Many people do, many do not, mostly because they believe that they should only train if they can train at full power.

You need to speak to your partners and find out what they are willing to accommodate.


What risks should you reasonably take in order to train, where do you actually decide to quit for the evening -- do you quit when you feel the first twinge of pain or do you continue like a true samurai, still smiling on two broken legs and with a burst artery???

You have to learn when the pain is doing damage and when it is not. Then you have a choice, and it is all yours.

[
Those are some of the many questions. Any input would be welcome.


Ganbatte.

Janet Rosen
02-27-2016, 06:55 PM
I frequently encourage people who cannot train full bore to come and do what they can anyway. Many people do, many do not, mostly because they believe that they should only train if they can train at full power..

Tarik, thank you for coming over and offering your input!

To the above, I say, having dealt with non-RA fluctuating disability, the biggest barrier to training within one's capacity is one's own mind - when I felt inside like a "second class citizen" it made me feel apologetic and sit out a lot or stop training - when I was able to accept my capacities as they wax and wane I felt better able to accept training any given day as best I could, and to make my limits known to others with a simple smile.

I've trained without suwariwaza and koshinage since 2000. No biggie. When I have to, as Tarik notes, I just go to the point of balance-break in both roles (though sometimes as uke I have to fall because it's easier on my knee than trying to maintain balance); if I have to sit down after one iteration of weapons kata in order to save my knees for partner practice, and then sit out part of class later on too, I do so.

I also find as we age more of us at seminars are looking around for training partners who don't want to kneel or take breakfalls, and we partner together very happily.

kewms
02-27-2016, 08:00 PM
I've been fortunate enough to avoid chronic injuries and illnesses. But FWIW, my response to any partner's limitations is basically "do what you can." I learn at least as much from slower, more subtle practice as I do from flinging people (or being flung) in all directions.

Just please be up front with your partners. If you tell me that you're choosing not to fall, then that helps me evaluate my own technique more accurately.

Katherine

StefanHultberg
03-02-2016, 03:28 AM
Dear all

Thank you so much for your comments, truly encouraging, inspiring, full of insight....

Aikido, truly, is a path with no end, no limits.

All the best!

Stefan