most stiff is the head, a knee update

This post originally appeared on my AikiWeb blog…

There is a man named Takagi in the dojo who trains intensively and regularly. He is very quiet and serious. His job outside the dojo is to work with elderly people in functional rehab. So he is basically a physical therapist.

He approached me last Friday and told me through an interpreter that he wanted to help me sit in seiza. I said, “you are the right man to help me with this problem, because I have the knees of an 80-year-old,” then I laughed, but Takagi-san didn’t laugh with me. (Japanese people don’t have the same sense of humor we do. I hate Japanese TV comedy, for instance, but I thought my knee joke was at least a little bit clever.) Then I explained that the doctor said I have a bone problem, so I didn’t know how much he could help. But he still wanted to try.

So on Friday he did some range of motion exercises with me, and back stretches and then an incredibly painful massage of my legs, mostly on my hamstrings. It was one of those massages where the masseuse grind their thumbs or fingers into the muscle, compressing it against the bone. I had this type of massage in Mongolia, too. But there it just made me feel like crap, whereas Takagi-san’s actually made me feel looser afterwards.

It was a great thing because after the seiza session on Wednesday, my hamstrings tendons had been in pretty much constant pain, and his massage actually helped settle them down.

After he was done, he asked to try seiza, expecting me to be able to get down all the way. I couldn’t and he looked disappointed, but said, “Sunday,” so we had a date.

Today (Sunday), he did a slightly different routine, with the ROM exercises focusing on the hip joints and the massage focusing on the Achilles tendon. Again, I had all I could do to keep from crying out in pain during the massage. Afterwards, he wanted to see me in seiza again. My butt was a hair’s breadth from my heels. He was annoyed, so he grabbed me by the belt and essentially pushed me back and down. Again, intense pain, no luck.

Then, using my belt, he did small rotational manipulations of my hips while I was sitting in seiza. It worked–still intense pain while down, but my butt was on my heels and my back was straight! Incredible!

After he changed, he came over to where I was chatting with Crampton-sensei. He said to sensei in Japanese that my knees are stiff, my lower back is stiff, my spine is stiff, but most stiff of all is my head.