Sep
27

The Fat Man Always Slaps Twice: “Adventures in Arthroplasty, Physical Therapy, Fear, and Ukemi,” by Mark Hauer

“I ‘awoke’ with 72 staples
in my right butt cheek!”

If you visit the Shin Do Kan dojo in Madison, Alabama you might notice a chubby, middle-aged gentleman wearing a green belt, rolling up and down the length of the dojo.

This is hardly a remarkable sight. People a little older and people much younger are doing the same thing-searching for the perfect mae ukemi .

Ideally, with the perfect forward roll, the only sound you should hear is the whisper of cotton fabric brushing across the tatami surface, that and the gentle exhalation of breath. Our middle-aged gentleman, more often than not, thumps and wheezes.

He is the antithesis of silence. If he were a ninja, he would be chosen only for missions that required a noisy distraction. Well, he’d be chosen for one mission, I guess. But he would be fondly remembered.

“Don’t forget to breathe out and relax.” This bit of encouragement is from our head instructor Hudson Harris, 3rd Dan Yoseikan Budo, 4th Dan Yoshinkan. As always, his mae ukemi appears effortless as does the rolling technique of the rest of the instructors, and more than a few lower belts.

But not that middle-aged green belt! While not quite as noisy as a tumbling box filled with rocks, he does make his presence known. But he’s game. He endures. He groans through ushiro ukemi, sweats through the breakfalls, even performs an occasional ratchet fall (although it clearly makes him nervous).

Each class he’s a little better. Sometimes his rolls actually approach the definition of smooth. Not often, and only sometimes. But it makes the hard work worth it. Especially if Harris sensei or Mike Morris sensei (Hudson’s second-in-command) can see ANY improvement at all. “Not bad” is a sought after accolade. By the way, that middle-aged green belt is me. My name’s Mark Hauer. I’m 52. I’ve had both hips replaced and still do Aikido. I’m not crazy. I’m not self-destructive. I’ve simply taken advantage of modern medical technology.

So if you are a person that suffered an insult to one or more of your joints through misadventure, arthritis, or a mixture of both, let me assure you it’s not the end of the world. You can come back. Really.

But it will take hard work, and certainly isn’t easy.

But then… you study Aikido. And when is Aikido EVER easy? Well, the falling down part is… Back in 2004 I was in a car wreck. A Dodge Ram 4×4 truck, all chrome and sinister black paint ran a red light and t-boned my ancient Chrysler Alliance at an estimated speed of 55mph. It really is true what they say about high stress situations: time appears to dilate. Tick takes forever to become tock.

It’s hard to reconcile what I felt with what I thought I saw. That giant chrome and black truck didn’t blast through the light, it glided up to my little car with the stealth of a predator, paused, and only then ripped out my car’s front end. A microsecond later my hip slammed against the side of the door as gracelessly as a side of beef dropped onto a timpani drum. The roof collapsed. The windshield exploded.

The engine dropped beneath the car. All four tires lost their grip and the Chrysler began spinning across the street: slowly at first, it seemed, and then faster and faster. Just before the car dropped into the deep ditch, the airbag exploded with an anticlimactic “pop” and knocked my glasses into the back seat and friction-burned my face. I limped out of the hospital later that afternoon. Miraculously, I had broken no bones, but I was one big mass of aching purple/black bruises. Oh, and a partially torn pectoral muscle. The emergency room doctor and the x-ray technicians said I was lucky to be alive, much less surviving the wreck with only deep bruising. Only bruising… Good God — I felt like the walking dead.

Walked like it, too.

Less than a year later, I had my first hip replacement — it was the hip that slammed so hard against the door, of course. I’d had six months to prepare for the procedure, warned by my MD that at the present rate of my hip’s deterioration I’d soon be a candidate for a wheelchair if I didn’t have surgery.

“You’re talking a couple of years, right?” I’d asked.

“I’m talking months.” “Oh.” That conversation certainly gave me that special sick feeling of approaching doom. Instead of simply feeling sorry for myself I started researching hip replacements on the internet. I learned of a new procedure that allowed active individuals a chance to stay active. It was called “hip resurfacing.” Hip resurfacing, I learned, is more bone conserving than the standard total hip replacement procedure. Instead of lopping off a chunk of femur and sticking the standard metal spike with a ball fixed at the end in its place, the surgeon leaves the femur intact and sands the femoral ball smooth, capping it with cobalt chrome alloy. The acetabulum, or hip socket, is likewise smoothed and capped with cobalt chrome alloy. The result is an incredibly durable, rugged hip joint that is practically impossible to dislocate and provides the patient with full range of motion (ROM).

At that time finding an orthopedic surgeon performing the technique in the US was a rarity. Ironically, one pioneer of the procedure had a practice near my former hometown of Galesburg, Illinois. Myron B. Stachniw, MD not only performs the surgery, but is a recipient; having had both hips resurfaced some years before, and is a walking testament for the procedure’s efficacy.

Marty, to his friends, is an affable bear of a man, and an avid outdoorsman — when not putting 12 hour days in surgery, of course. He and his surgical nurse, Debra Florio, patiently answered all my questions, no matter how ludicrous, by telephone, email, and eventually in person.

[For more information regarding the protocols involved prior to, the day of, the day after, as well as what to expect weeks and even months post-op, please take a look at Marty’s site :

http://www.midwestorthopedicservices.com/pages/about.html

(No, I’m not getting a kick-back. I wish I were. Those kind folks make some serious kale)

(Oh, yeah…another great resource for extra hip-related subjects is: http://www.surfacehippy.info/)

I was assured that yes I could go back into aikido, yes I could do my rolls and breakfalls, yes I could go back to all my old activities after undergoing physical therapy… and healing.

My surgery took about 30 minutes, which is faster than having your teeth cleaned. Physical therapy?

About 8 weeks. It took about 7 months to get brave enough to stand on the mat again. And like so much of Aikido, it was the mental/emotional components of the art I had the most struggle with.

Unfortunately, I was back in class barely 10 days before my follow up X-rays showed my “good” hip as being not so good after all. I had been so dedicated to physical therapy and strength training I had no warning symptoms that my right hip joint was collapsing. None. Unlike my left hip, I had no pain, no contractures, no loss of ROM, no sensations of fire ants swarming the hip capsule. A day after gutting out some standing rolls… I had to make plans for more surgery. I was pissed, and not in the British way!

A few months later found me back in Galesburg, Illinois. The surgery took a little longer this time. An hour and a quarter as opposed to 30 minutes. There was a complication. After opening me up and examining my hip, Dr. Stachniw decided the eroded femoral ball wasn’t strong enough to resurface (the femoral ball and neck might fracture from the stress of the procedure).

He had the anesthesiologist cut back on my happy juice just enough to tone down my cheerful babbling and gave me the bad news: I was now a candidate for a THR (total hip replacement).

“You mean I’m going to be a cripple?” I remember yelling, when it sort of sank in that I would not have the hip resurfacing (Marty and Debra only had to repeat the bad news about a dozen times before penetrating the happy drugs that made linear thinking such a chore. Marty and Debra definitely earned their money that day) “That sucks! Isn’t there something like, I don’t know, bone spackle you can use?” Hey, I was grasping at straws in a mental condition that made straw grasping akin to higher math.

“No. The new version THR has the same size femoral ball as the resurf. You can still do your aikido.” “Promise?” “Promise.” “That’s good! Now.. uh.. what were we talking about?” I asked a few seconds later.

It took about another half-dozen repetitions of the THR explanation before it stuck, as they say.

At least that’s the way I remember it.

I could be wrong. I must remember to ask them about it again. Right… I “awoke” with 72 staples in my right butt cheek. This was a few more than the first surgery. Did you know that if you ran a plastic spoon, or even a credit card across surgical staples, it sounds like someone playing the washboard in Zydeco music? This discovery entertained my nurses no end.

“Please stop that Mr. Hauer. Would you check his meds? Maybe he needs something stronger?” Okay. It entertained me to no end. But you know, if only I’d had both hips done at the same time I could have been my own one man band-anything to combat the tedium. Because… Hospitals are boring. Rather, recuperating from surgery is boring. Fatigue is the main factor. Reading is a herculean endeavor, as is following conversations. The meds keep the pain at bay, but also sap your energy. Physical therapy begins shortly after you’ve metabolized the majority of the anesthesiologist’s magical bag o’ tricks out of your system… say, a couple of hours after surgery, tops. One of the first things (see Marty’s website) physical therapist has you do is get out of bed. Simple? In practice it isn’t.

Hospital beds are designed to hold the patient in place. The damn mattress is cupped and grips you so firmly if you so much as wriggle to get a little more comfortable, the skin at the surgical site pulls against the staples. The pain is akin to that of a severe carpet burn. After sitting up, which will have your heart racing as if you’d run a mile, and sweating as if you’d run that mile in New Orleans summer time, they’ll also want you to pivot, put your feet on the floor, grasp that really cool aluminum walker parked at the side of the bed, and stand up.

This is the moment of truth. Some people find it easy. Others are terrified their new hip is going to go sploing! and self-eject across the room. Don’t worry. It can’t happen.

For me, standing wasn’t too difficult. However, my newly bionic hip felt as if I had a tall boy beer can stuffed into the hip capsule. My proprioceptive sense was definitely awry. I wobbled, but soon regained my balance. I did reach down to reassure myself my hip wasn’t jutting out too grotesquely (it felt as if the hip stuck out a foot), but all my hand felt was a neat, flat, surgical dressing.

I shuffled with the slo-mo confident strut of a cocky centenarian. Well, I started out confident. Then I hit the end of my “leash.” “Yipe!” (Or insert the more likely pejorative here: m—– f—–r! )

The physical therapist had forgotten to unhook my pee bag from the side of the bed and reattach it to the walker.

“Oops!” she chirruped. “I bet that smarts!” I was savvier the following year, late in 2006. This time I KNEW the importance of a slick plastic leaf bags. Leaf bags? Yes. Simply place one under the hips and you can slip n’ slide right out of that bed.

Also, having undergone the surgery before, I had fewer qualms trusting my new right hip, even if it WAS a THR rather than the coveted hip resurfacing.

Note: when that SAME perky Physical Therapist burst into my room in 2006, I made sure there were no additional, er, hangups. I could tell she remembered. Oh yes, because she had a little embarrassed smirk when I mentioned last year’s mishap to her.

More notes for FUTURE THR or hip resurfacing candidates: given the amount of pain you are no doubt enduring, please allow several months before surgery to adopt SOME form consistent physical activity (swimming is ideal) and please modify your diet to the healthiest you can stand. Small, positive changes to your lifestyle will reap you enormous benefits pre-op and post-op. Believe me. Also, if you smoke: quit. It is as simple as that. Smoking impedes healing. It will also give you cancer, emphysema, etc. As a former 2 pack a day smoker, if I could quit, anyone can quit. True, I miss my beloved coffin nails every day. But I don’t miss all the colds and bouts of debilitating bronchitis.

I feel and function better without them. So will you.

I’m not going to be over detailed about what to expect from physical therapy once you are back home waiting for the all clear from your doctor to go back to work. What I will say is this: do what your physical therapist tells you to do. In my case, I got off my butt every 2 hours and made myself walk outdoors with my crutches, practiced going up and down stairs, did partial squats, practiced some simple proprioception drills (for example: balancing on one leg). I also performed all my post-op exercises before naps and after naps. Yes, you will nap. The meds make sure of that.

If you are serious about coming back: demand special exercises from your Physical Therapist. Tell him what Aikido demands of you. Challenge your Physical Therapist to meet and exceed those demands. You are going to need to rebuild your core strength and flexibility and your endurance.

Physical Therapists love a challenge. Many of them are former jocks. He/she will take this as an excuse to happily put you through wringer. Let ‘em. In this case, it’s good to let them see you sweat.

Jack Bice, my primary therapist at “Johnson and Hayes Physical Therapists,” showed a nearly ghoulish amount of anticipatory glee when I arrived for my appointment. Practically Simon LaGree-worthy, even without a moustache to twirl, he nevertheless gave off that vibe of cheerful eeeviiiil.

After the usual warm-ups and measurements of ROM (range of motion) and strength levels, Jack would get out the hated ankle weights and step-up boxes and my morning 60-90 minutes of torture would begin. If you really want a challenge, ask your physical therapist to rig the rebounding station against a wall so you can play catch with a medicine ball while balancing one-legged on an instability disk.

Imagine his glee when I showed up with another new hip, almost a year to the day of rehabbing the “old” one. “Hello, Mr. Hauer. We have some new exercises I just know you will love! Muhhuhhuhhuh!” When you finish your official PT, now you have to demonstrate the discipline to train with no one standing over you to crack the whip. After I finished my experience with “Johnson and Hayes” and had tossed aside first my crutches, and later, my cane, I was highly aware that I wasn’t 100%.

The question none of my physical therapists were prepared to answer, was just how to prepare my body for ukemi post-metal. Once again, the internet beckoned. One of my primary tools came from Aikido Journal, a magazine I’d been reading for years, long before I’d stepped foot into an actual Aikido dojo.

The first person I contacted through the internet was Ellis Amdur. I’d read many of Ellis’ blogs, as well as having purchased and read his books “Dueling With O’Sensei,” “Old School,” and enjoyed his DVD “Ukemi From the Ground Up.” Ellis has been affiliated with Aikido since the early years having begun practice in 1973. I was sure he would have some interesting input. Especially given his encyclopedic knowledge of different styles and training methods.

I know. I can hear you tut-tutting me: why didn’t you ask your instructor first?

I did. My situation was a “first” for him. Unique. Hudson recommended I cast my net wide. That’s the great thing about Hudson Harris. If he doesn’t know something, he’ll say so. His ego is never in play.

“Consider this research for class,” he said. “Let’s see what happens. I expect you to share what you learn.” Ellis proved quite approachable. Here is his answer to my first letter:

“1. Take a copy of my DVD (Or another DVD that specializes on ukemi) to your surgeon and ask what s/he thinks of this type of activity for the hip joint.

2. There is a different style of aikido ukemi, based on the work of Endo Sensei, promulgated by two European guys (based in Sweden, I think), that is very very soft. I think they try to convert the vertical drop into horizontal movement (I know nothing more than this). But I do know that the folks at the Puget Sound Aikikai in Seattle are very closely associated with these guys. I’d send an inquiry (use my name if you like — they know me) — to see if there is any material you can peruse or seminar somewhere you can attend.

3. I would want to strengthen my tendons as much as I possibly could. The question is if the surgery makes the tendons and ligaments tight around the hip socket (good – because that would maintain stability) or loose (not so good). Exercises to strengthen tendons is usually high intensity. You might check out Max Contraction Training (I’m doing it these days) — very short in duration, combining the best of one aspect of weight training and of isometrics.”

Over the years Ellis has been more than generous with his time. He’s also been patient when frustration and set-backs have had me railing and ready to quit. By the way, Ellis, thanks for listening to my rants, and showing so much kindness over the years.

This reminds me; if you want to read the best of Mr. Amdur and view his DVD on ukemi go to: www.edgework.info/buy-books-on-martial-arts.html

Once again, I’m receiving no kickbacks. But I will accept karmic points.

Another person I approached via email was the inimitable Robert Mustard Sensei, 7th Dan, head instructor of Aikido Yoshenkai Burnaby (as in metro Vancouver, BC, Canada). Rob (as he told me to call him) is blunt, funny, and a refreshingly candid speaker. He surprised me one evening with a telephone call. He called me, he said, because he hates typing.

Rob is a real proponent of yoga; and we talked at length about how the body ages and changes over the years, and the strategies he’s used to stay active. He recommended I take an honest inventory of my strengths and weaknesses, and re-train accordingly. Don’t train like a young guy, he said, because you are no longer young. You no longer have instant recovery and super-elastic ligaments and tendons.

Train your body as a unit, train for mobility and function. And clear everything with your doctor first.

“The important thing is to get back onto the mat,” Rob said. “Practice your standing techniques and footwork. Don’t take any falls until you feel confident. You should start by simply re-learning the basics: something as simple as just lowering yourself to the mat, and build from there.” Made sense to me. Some of Yoshinkan’s kihon dosa almost recapitulates certain yoga techniques.

BTW, Robert Mustard trained for nearly 10 years as a student of the founder of Yoshinkan Aikido, Soke Gozo Shioda, as well as under Takafumi Takeno Sensei, 9th Dan; and Tsutomu Chida, 8th Dan. Rob also became the Chief Foreign Instructor at the Honbu Dojo from 1991-1995. He makes a featured appearance in Robert Twigger’s hysterically funny memoir about enduring the intensive 11 month Senshusei training course (the same training the Tokyo Riot Police and all Hombu instructors undergo).

The memoir is the famous, or famously infamous, “Angry White Pyjamas.” After I ‘fessed up to having the book, Rob said it captured the experience fairly accurately. From what I understand, he and Twigger have become good friends since the book’s release back in 1999 and reminisced about the good old days several years ago when Twigger was visiting Vancouver.

We finished the conversation on a positive note.

“Don’t be a stranger,” Rob said. “Let me know how things go. Or I will hunt you down.” I have. Like Ellis, Rob has proven a good friend and ally over the years. Rob: Feel free to hunt me down; but you have to buy the rounds, old friend. I’m broke. You’re the one making the big bucks.

A book I think would be of incredible utility for the Aikidoka on the come-back trail is one I discovered on the remainder bin at a local bookstore, Mark Verstegen’s “Core Performance.” Verstegen blends yoga, Pilates, and weightlifting. Certain of the warm-ups listed in Verstegen’s book are dead-ringer set-ups for ukemi. Plus, he has different workouts listed for different sporting activities. Feel free to check him out on “youtube.” His books are still in print. He also has a website (hint: title of his book).

Also read anything by Kit Laughlin or Pavel Tsatsouline (yes, that Pavel: Mr. Kettlebell himself) their Individual books on joint mobility and stretching are incredible.

I also studied Donovan Waite’s DVD “Meeting the Mat” which I liked as much as Ellis’ DVD mentioned earlier, but for different reasons. Waite’s DVD is geared from the rank beginner to talented, VERY talented intermediate-to-advanced level students. I ain’t talented. But some of those back falls he demonstrates with such ease makes me wish I were talented. Such is life.

Other DVDs… I can recommend any Gaiam’s “beginning yoga” DVDs. I also liked “Basic Yoga for Dummies.” Really, anything “beginning” is worth glancing at: be it yoga, tai chi, etc. Do NOT try advanced for at least a year.

I could go on and on, list dozens of books and tapes. But what has worked for me might not work for you. Your doctor, your PT persons, might have a completely different opinion about what you can safely do. Don’t simply take my word for it. Do research. Listen to your body. Experiment conservatively, safely.

When should you begin ukemi? Again, listen to your body. If you had the Big Femoral Ball arthroplasty with no complications you can start fairly soon. Some people start early as four months. Others keep doing all their exercises and building up their strength until their new hip feels “normal.” Say a year.

Transient pains and discomfort are common post-op phenomenon. Unless your hip feels hot, or hot and sore with swelling, it’s usually nothing to worry about. If you have swelling — get thee to a doctor. If you have pain with a capital “P” and a temperature, go see your doctor. Use common sense. If you have severe pain-go see a doctor. Learn the difference between discomfort and pain.

Okay. The big day has arrived. Your doctor has told you, crazy Aikidoka that you are, that you can practice rolls. Where to start? There is a better than even chance your honking great scar site has residual sensitivity which may impact you (pun intended) by making you flinch if anything foreign presses, touches, or brushes against it. This is normal. I’d be nervous for you if you didn’t flinch-at first.

Something that helped me, more psychologically than anything, was purchasing a pair of McDavid brand compression football shorts with hex pads sewn into the hip. These pads are perfectly located for those of us with the THR or resurfacing scar. The padding is dense foam, about ½ inch thick. You can easily roll on a wooden floor with no distress… but that comes later. The important thing is it gives you an extra feeling of security. The first thing you need to do is relearn how to “greet” the floor. I recommend practicing seiza, and then standing, and then back to seiza, over and over. Don’t go until failure. Err on the side of caution. If you need support to stand, use it. I used yoga blocks at first.

When you get better at this, grab a bokken and practice cuts moving into and out of seiza.

Knee walking: we all hate it. But if you have access to your own mat (buy a pair of knee pads, if not) it is one of the best drills for building hip and back stability. Again! Practice with caution! We are building upon success. Train with success in mind. Baby steps. If someone makes a comment, ignore them.

Now, sit on the floor. Rock all the way onto your back, slap the floor, and rock forward into a sitting position. You can’t do enough of these. For a simple exercise, it certainly engages all your major muscles needed for ukemi.

Now, can you do all these? Good. The next order of difficulty is side breakfalls, which will further strengthen your ankles, legs, hips, back, shoulders, and arms. Not rolling breakfalls, simply side breakfalls. Basically, it is a gentle foot sweep followed by a gentle, non-impactful lowering of your butt to the floor using your non-sweeping foot, followed by a slap as you stretch out fully. Again, work for success. If you can’t coordinate the foot sweep, simply sit down (gently!) and roll back and slap.

Soon, you’ll be ready to do forward rolls. Assume the beginner’s kneeling stance. If you lack the flexibility at this point, don’t worry. Modify. Adapt. Just practicing getting into an approximation of the stance helps. Your body may not be ready for that roll. Some people find ushiro the easiest to perform post-surgery (not me…I’d lost so much flexibility it took me 3 years to relearn ushiro ukemi; talk about frustrating!).

Another option is to turn standing ukemi into isometric practice. By that, I mean assume the preparatory stance (hanmi) for a standing front roll and lower your body as close to the floor as possible — and hold it. Use both hands for stability at first. Do not tip over. Do not roll… yet. This may seem a little like overkill, but this will help strengthen your shoulder girdle, as well as your core.

(One of the best ways to regain fluidity with your ukemi is to turn it into a kata. It also makes it far less boring when practicing solo. Use your imagination when “linking” the falls)

The big, really big day arrives when you step out onto the mat in class for the first time in… months? A year, perhaps? Me? I was so nervous my teeth were chattering. That’s normal. Fear is actually good. Use it to fuel your practice, to keep you alert.

The first thing you’ll notice about performing your throws NOW is how different they feel. Well, you’ve got a different body. You may notice you’ve lost sensitivity. Again, that is normal. I recommend practicing everything at Tai-Chi speed. Especially if you get ambitious and decide to take a fall! Careful, mindful, intelligent practice will see you through. Slow it down. Break everything down to its basics.

And yes, you’ll suffer much frustration, maybe envy those lower belts that may have moved ahead of you during your recovery. Just keep practicing. It will come back. In many ways, you’ll be the better for it.

Frustration, namely the internal dialogue we have featuring “should” and “shouldn’t” has very little to do with the reality of the situation.

I should be able to do this technique.

I shouldn’t have to train so hard to perform the basics.

This should be easy!

This shouldn’t hurt.

Should and shouldn’t dwell in fantasy land. You were given a second chance. Just a few years ago you would have been condemned to crutches or a wheelchair. This is certainly better. The regrowing of bone and cartilage, the fabrication of biological replacement parts is not far off. They are already doing it for meniscus cartilage replacements.

As for myself? After that wreck in 2004, simply being able to breathe is a blessing. And being able to walk? That is beyond a blessing. As for practicing Aikido?

That’s just the gravy.

That’s pretty much all I have to say on the subject. All I can do is point you in the right direction. I hope it’s the right direction. Just remember, recuperation isn’t a solo effort. I had LOTS of help.

My folks, Rev. Billy Hauer and Carol Hauer stubbornly wouldn’t allow me to recuperate alone the first couple of weeks after my surgeries. Thanks! If I ever win the lotto it won’t come close to repaying the debt. My uncle, Dr. Christian E. Hauer, who had his hip AND knee replaced: thanks for giving me a heads up on what to expect. His wife, my Aunt Liz (Elizabeth) Hauer, who actually humbled herself and trimmed my godawful toenails during those weeks I couldn’t bend far enough to trim them myself.

Dr. Stackniw and Debra Florio gave me a new lease on life. It goes without saying that Jack Bice of “Johnson and Hayes Physical Therapists” of Huntsville, Alabama got me off my crutches and cane and back onto my feet simply so I could be thrown with great force onto my face again.

I also want to thank Hudson Harris and Mike Morris, as well as the entire Shin Do Kan dojo (www.huntsvilleaikido.com) for all their patience…and bruises.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention Christina Taylor, 3rd Dan, and Susan Taylor, 1st Dan, of Aikido of Alabama (www.aikidoofalabama.com) for showing me some new training methods that helped my ukemi no end.

I also want to thank Matt Gilliard, 2nd Dan, and Tim O’Neil, 2nd Dan, of “North Alabama Yoseikan” for their unstinting generosity in allowing me to use their sprung floor to overcome the terror inherent to sutemi, as well as all around coaching and instruction. Also Dr. Phil Farmer, President of the USYBA (www.yoseikanbudo.us) for his written insights in re to ukemi and Budo philosophy as put into practice in the real world.

A thank-you to my older brother Randy Hauer Senior Coach at Flatirons Weightlifting Club in Boulder Colorado. He introduced me to Comrade Pavel’s books on Kettlebells and joint mobility. Also a huge thank-you to the Madison County Library, both Bailey Cove and Eleonor Murphy Branches, on whose computers this opus was written.

Again: thanks Ellis, and Rob, and Stan.

I hope this article has been of some help.

Epilogue:

If you visit the Shin Do Kan dojo in Madison, Alabama you might notice a chubby, middle-aged gentleman wearing a green belt, rolling up and down the length of the dojo. Each roll, he strikes the mat a double tap. You may even hear the following conversation. Because, well, the instructor simply can’t take it anymore. Especially since this is SILENT mae ukemi practice. And the chubby green belt is not silent. “Mark,” he says. “Why the double strike?’ “Hudson Sensei, I mean no disrespect. But didn’t you know? The Fat Man Always Slaps Twice.”

Mark Hauer Bio

Mark Hauer has made Huntsville, Al. his home since late August of 2000. He began his erratic study of Aikido the following September, which continues by fits and starts, to this day. Mr. Hauer’s fiction and poetry has appeared in several magazines and literary anthologies. There is no truth to the rumor it was his work that proved the death of several of those fine publications, none at all. At present Mr. Hauer is a free agent when it comes to employment (hint, hint). He fills his time writing absurd tall tales while perfecting his 2nd favorite martial art: C’ur Lee Do (the art of the Stooge), with is signature kiah shout of “nyucknyucknyuck!” He can be contacted here.

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Comments

  1. I think that that “chubby, middle-aged gentleman wearing a green belt, rolling up and down the length of the dojo”, is a very brave, determined man.
    Thank you dear Mark for sharing your encouraging story.

    • Paul Hughes says:

      I am a fattish man of 63 soon to be 64 and I have had a full hip replacement. I wish I had seen this article before I had it done. You describe exactly the same things I have experienced. The worrying over whether the new hip would kill my Aikido career and then weird sensations when trying to balance on one leg and finding that it’s not grossly out of alignment. It was for me completely alien. I am very slowly getting some ukemi to work and get my confidence back up to a reasonably working level. Thank you for sharing your experience and research. I shall be perusing those gems you had uncovered. (By the way, as a younger guy I used to tap the mat twice – strangely it only ever occurred from my right hand?) I assumed it was to reassure me that I could actually do it? Anyway happy rolling.

    • Thanks so much for the kind response everybody. The idea for the article had been bouncing around in the old noggin for several years. But it was Stan who gave me a kindly push to get the thing written.

      I just hope the article will help anyone who quit their study of budo (or simply their favorite sport) into re-thinking their limitations.

      Again-thanks for the compliments and outstanding recommendations.

  2. …A lot of the folks at the old Oakland Aikido Institute worked up a system, fundamentally based on something Stan Pranin demonstrated – the symmetry of forward and back rolls. The good part, from your point of view is that it starts from kneeling for forward and sitting for back. there’s very little potential energy in the system. no drop. from kneeling, Extend one leg to the rear. reach for it with the opposite arm until your head is almost tucked in your armpit, you’re looking at the ceiling and THE SHOULDER OF THE REACHING ARM IS IN CONTACT WITH THE MAT. There should be little stability left in that position and you gently push into the roll. I find that beginners can explore the diagonal line of contact across the back. You may find other benefits. Back rolling is just the reverse of the process. I invite you to play with it…

    • Mark Hauer says:

      Thanks, Charles. I’ve been working with what you recommended. It’s very gentle with a lot of good stretch built in. Any further recommendations are always welcome!

      • Happy to help. We aren’t getting any younger, any of us. I’m beginning to have some knee tendon/ligament issues at 67. No new or creative perspective on arresting that problem. Pulled a groin muscle a couple years ago in a simple break-fall. I think the problem there can be addressed by an ab exercise most succinctly described as “suck it in”. Repeat often. Had a shoulder problem a few years ago. I had been omitting pushups in the interest of loosening my shoulders. Well, the looseness I was seeking did not materialize but the neglect of pushups caused a weakness which, well… I recommend “wall pushups” as lower impact and more “sustainable” than standard. Place your feet about 3′ back from a wall, door frame, whatever. Do the pushup in relation to that vertical surface. Start low, 25? 50? At this point I do 100 a couple times per week.

  3. Thank you Sir, for taking the time to write such a funny and very informative article.

    Warm Regards,
    Bogdan