weekend 2 – contemplating crippledom

This post originally appeared on my AikiWeb blog…

In Angry White Pyjamas, Twigger quotes an instructor named Chino as saying that he had decided to die when he came to the Yoshinkan.

When I re-read AWP on my trip to Seoul last month, I was struck by this. Just a week or so before, Carter-sensei had told me some stories about Chino and his “textbook” form. I decided that because of my knees the only way I would be able to get through the course was to be determined to be crippled by the end of the course.

This was a nice idea. It helped get me through 40 minutes of seiza in the pre-course meeting. And it is probably the only way I can get through the course. For indeed, I am weaker and less well balanced and more unsure myself on my feet as each day passes.

However, the reality of being crippled is something quite different from being crippled theoretically. The reality is that crippling yourself for aikido means, at least in the case of degenerative joint disease, being unable to perform aikido in addition to putting up with pain. The pain is not just in seiza, and it is not just on a bike, or getting up from the toilet. It is all of those things, plus collapsing the knee when attempting seiza ho and crumpling to the floor when meeting any resistance in shikko.

Is this the meaning of spirit? It is one thing to finish a fight with a broken limb or a sprain in the midst of an adrenaline and endorphin rush. It is something else to train every day and maintain focus when your whole world is searing.

In medicine, they teach you not to judge other people’s pain. Nevertheless, it is hard to believe that there could be people who could train effectively on the mat and not be able to stand up out of a chair. By default, this is the goal I have set myself.

On Friday, Payet-sensei demonstrated kneeling into seiza ho and then standing again in perfect form in the blink of an eye. Right now, it takes all my willpower and concentration to stand up out of seiza ho, and I am reaching for the bathtub to push myself off the toilet.

My job this weekend was cancelled, so I spent most of the weekend in bed, trying to lie still. At night, I wake up with throbbing in my knees. During the day, my knees crunch and twist abnormally when I get a bite to eat. How long can this go on?