Do you need one? “Aikido and joint replacements,” by Stanley Pranin

“Many were forced to curtail or entirely stop certain physical activities or risk becoming invalids.”

Today I was doing a bit of research on the subject of joint replacements. This was prompted by a recent discussion with an aikido friend of mine who is considering a knee replacement.

I did the requisite google search and found a few comments on the subject from aikido practitioners, mostly on hip replacements, which appear to be far more common. It seems that people in their 50s and 60s are the most frequent candidates for these surgeries. The years of wear and tear on the body, the accumulation of injuries, and constant pain are what commonly bring people to the point of considering surgery.

Based on the anecdotal evidence of aikido practitioners I came across, most seem to have been satisifed with their operations, and have been able to return to training, albeit with certain limitations on their activity while on the mat.

Several aikidoka who had undergone operations stressed the need to carefully select the doctor, clearly specify the type of activity level you expect to engage in following surgery, and discuss the pros and cons of the different types of surgery and materials used, and possible risks of failure.

Previous generations of active people did not have the many options we do today. Many were forced to curtail or entirely stop certain physical activities or risk becoming invalids.

Although the results of years of physical activity affect everyone in some way eventually, those who take care of their bodies, maintaining flexibility and keeping a normal body weight, can postpone or even avoid these invasive surgeries through intelligent lifestyle choices. But in the event surgery seems to be the best course of action, today there are many options that promise to permit the return to normal life and activity, and the technology is steadily improving.

I think our aikido readers would be very interested in the experiences of those among you who have had or know about cases of joint surgery. Please tell us about the  conditions that brought on the decision to choose surgery, the recovery time and physical therapy needed, and the eventual outcome and return to active training.


  1. Had hip replacement 21 November 2011. Was back teaching early March 2012. Found a good surgeon, there were no complications, rehab went smoothly, problem solved.

    Need to be careful with ukemi, but then again, at my age ….. 😉

    Any question welcome, will try to give advice.

    John Goverts
    Dojo-cho Kaishinkan Aikido Dojo, Rotterdam, Netherlands
    6th Dan Aikikai

  2. I had an unavoidable total replacement in December 2011. The surgery was successful, however knee surgery recovery is difficult and long. Although I was back training at about 6 weeks my movement was very limited. Over the last 16 months I have continued to improve. I still have some knee cap pain when my knee is under load but even that is subsiding. A part from the limited bend which stops me sitting in seiza. I move as well as ever.

  3. As John Goverts said (above), find a good surgeon. do rehab, problem solved. I’m a believer!

    I’ve been training since the early 70s. By year 2000 there were early symptoms of osteoarthritis in one hip. By year 2007 I was nearly immobilized and in severe pain on both sides. In summer 2007 I had bi-lateral resurfacing (that’s replacement 2.0 — see below). After 6 months of physical therapy I was a normal “civilian”; after 12 months I resumed full time teaching; after 2 years my shikko was better than it had been in many years, and today (2012) I continue to progress.

    I am fully mobile, fully active, and nearly pain-free. The only caveat is that “rehab is forever” — without regular maintenance of the musculature around the hip joints, weakness sets in fairly quickly, Also I am stingy with my back rolls, avoiding sutemi almost completely.

    Resurfacing is a very important option for us. It is less invasive, more stable, less rigid, longer lasting.(20+years projected vs 7-8 yrs for professional athletes). It is widely available in EU and India. It is less common in the US, but fully approved by FDA. Most (but perhaps not all) US insurers cover it under the code for “total hip replacement”.

    Aki Fleshler
    Multnomah Aikikai, Portland, OR, US
    6-dan, Shihan, Birankai North America

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