Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Mega Update


The anniversary of my tearing my ACL was June 4. I can't believe that it's already been a year. It doesn't seem that long ago that I was in the dojang on a hot June afternoon (hot June - huh, with all the rain we've had in the Northeast, you'd still think it was spring) working on the 360 roundhouse kick when I landed improperly and heard that fateful snap.

Looking back on all that has happened, I'm surprised and quite pleased I've come this far. From doing the initial physical therapy to get my quad muscles back prior to my surgery, to reengaging in PT a week after my surgery, I didn't think I could come back as strongly. With the support of my family (tough love) and friends, I endured four long months of PT, survived the icy streets of Boston without hurting myself (knock on wood that it never happens), and got back to a level where I could start working hard in TKD again. Without a positive environment, I don't think I could have kept going, especially with how difficult life sometimes got.

If it hadn't been for one of my close school friends, I would never have gone to the hospital the night that I hurt myself. That would have been quite the problem; while I do recall limping back to my apartment after leaving TKD, I also remember I could not stand up a few hours after being sedentary. Thank goodness for friends more stubborn that I. :)

TKD Update

My school held its Black Belt Rank Ceremony on June 13. Grandmaster Kim chose to hold it on this day to commemorate General Choi's blessing for his choice to open up a school in Boston, and to celebrate the 35 years the school has been a fixture next to Fenway Park. He gave a fantastic speech after the belt-tying to over 50 students (all crammed into dojang 1), and definitely motivated me to work harder at TKD. In addition to receiving new black belts, we received an addition to our uniform. (At my school, as you advance a rank as a black belt, your uniform evolves along with your advancement.) 4th dans were asked to remove the tape along the black stripe on their pants; 2nd dans were asked to put on their new tops.

The 4th dans received their belts first, since they had to help tie on the rest of the ranks' belts, along with our Grandmaster. Then 3rd degrees; then 2nd degrees (1st degrees had their own ceremony). We were arranged by rank by alphabetical order, so I was at the very end. I remember waiting for a good 10-15 minutes in my line, standing as still as possible (while the kids tried hard not to scratch their ears and jump around). Luckily, Mr. Kim ended up tying my belt; while I don't associate blessings with having the grandmaster tie a belt, it sure did feel good to have him do that honor. Now I've got to practice hard to get back to pre-ACL tear level.

On another note, I substitute-taught a kid's class and half of an adult's class this past Sunday. It was a new experience for me, one that I was reluctant to partake in, partly because I feared not remembering the names of techniques and partly because I'm out of practice. I'm a very good helper one-on-one, but having a formal class bow at me and listen to my instructions is very strange, especially since I'm so inexperienced in teaching. I do want to get better so that I can be a good example for lower ranking students, but at this point, it just won't fit into my schedule.

The Knee

Since even before my 2nd dan test, I had been going to the dojang and practicing forms each Sunday. My knee complained a bit in the beginning, but I fought those complaints by taking it easy - performing at 70% rather than 100%. I'd been wearing my brace to practice since early February, per advice by my surgeon. By my 10-month post-op appointment in May, my doctor told me that I didn't have to wear it any longer. In my head, I whooped for joy, but then caution told me I should remove it only when I feel comfortable enough to do so. That day came after my test; I decided to feel out the knee in practicing forms. Turns out my knee is stable enough; jumping and snapping techniques are still iffy, but I don't have to rely on the brace any longer.

I still have some minor swelling in my knee, which is a result of excess scar tissue (or so my doctor tells me). I also still do not have feeling below my kneecap, an effect that will decrease with time but will never fully disappear. My doctor informed me that they had to disrupt some nerve connections in order to get into the site of the ACL. The size of the area of numbness is decreasing, but it's still odd not to be able to feel my razor go over my knee area when I'm shaving . . .

I have yet to try out other sports with my knee in the condition it is. I have been running and lifting (when I have time), and those activities haven't given me any trouble as of late. Here's hoping to an active summer!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

2nd Dan

I apologize to everyone who asked about how I did on the test and whether or not I got my next rank - I've been busy with finals and events for the semester end.

So good news - I passed the test and am now a second degree black belt in taekwondo! The rank ceremony is on June 13, so I technically am still a first degree until then. I already picked up my new uniform (with the new stripe on the upper portion), and my new belt is being ordered.

The test went really well - there were six groups of us testing: four groups of adults and two groups of kids. For the 35th anniversary of my school, my grandmaster only required us to demonstrate the forms, or poomse, of our rank (for anyone testing for 2nd degree to 4th degree). We had to demonstrate them well in order to pass, of course. I tested in the first group, and after we had gone through all three forms, my grandmaster told all the black belts on the floor that he wanted my group to go first because we had the crispest techniques. It was such a great honor to hear that! Now all the others know who to go to for forms advice.

I'm in the process of learning the 2nd degree forms. I've got Choong-jang down, and I'm onto Kodang. It's tough, but my knee's been holding up well. I have another doctor's appointment coming up soon, so we'll see!

I hope everyone is doing well themselves. I've got a busy summer ahead!

Friday, April 24, 2009


I'm testing for my second dan black belt tomorrow. I can't believe the date came so quickly.

I'm SO ready.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Back to the dojang.

I finally got my knee brace about two weeks after the February entry. It fits perfectly and while I've read a lot of material that's discussed how the post-op knee brace doesn't necessarily protect my knee from ACL reinjury, it still feels more appropriate for me to wear it for now. My surgeon told me that I should wear it until I feel comfortable working out/playing sports without it, which could take a long time (A year? Two years? Don't know . . .). It's a pretty lightweight brace - weighs about a pound and has been set to prevent my knee from hyperextending. I initially had to get used to activity with the brace on; six weeks later, the only thing I'm still not used to is being able to stretch my leg all the way.

I've been working with Cindy and Francis every Sunday for two hours on forms, from white belt to first degree black belt. Cindy has been an amazing help, pointing out the (millions of) areas for improvement. Granted, Francis and I have had to work on basics at this point to make sure our performance of the forms looks much better, but we now understand why each technique is executed the way it is.

During Wednesday forms classes, I'm able to take my learning from Cindy (who learns directly from JHK) to the other black belts. It's great to see someone's improvement over a period of time, especially when you know that you've helped them on that road to being better. Some of the black belts I've been in class with now know the nuances that Cindy first made me aware of, since I've been there to offer constructive criticism. It's times like these when I want to keep working towards at least third degree. Who knows if I can get there with my knee the way it is . . .

I'm looking forward to the test, even if it gives me butterflies in my stomach. I've been working hard for this and I know that I will do well when the time comes.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Just do it.

Nike's motto. I <3 that motto.

I had a six-month appointment with my surgeon today. Graft feels great, leg is strong, need to continue with weight training and cutting and pivoting exercises. I'll be getting fitted for a brace some time this week. I'm basically allowed to start doing sports again, but I have to listen to my body and not try to go above and beyond (which is hard, because I put 110% into everything I do).

Apparently, I'm eligible to obtain my second degree black belt sooner than I expected. I got my first degree in October 2007, and it's been about a year and a half since then (minus the 9 months that I've been out of commission). My Grandmaster wants the first degree black belts that he feels are prepared for the black belt seminars to train with him. By the end of the seminar sessions, if we've met/exceeded his expectations, we are granted our second degree.

The problem with this is that I've been out of practice for 9 months. I have little control in my left leg in terms of kicking techniques, and I'm out of shape in general.

So now what?

Once I get fitted for my brace, I'm going to jump back into the game. I need to get back on the horse and go for it. There's no way I'm passing up this opportunity, especially because I can finally move ahead in my training. I can get past that mental block.

In other news, I had been registered for 6 classes this semester (yes, 6 . . . at the graduate business school level . . .). I finally made the decision to drop one and just pick up an extra class in the summer because I couldn't deal with the workload. Now I'm taking 5 and working 4 jobs (yes, 4 jobs . . . UPS, the Registrar's Office, undergraduate accounting grader, and undergraduate organizational behavior writing tutor). I've been losing sleep because of the amount of coursework I'm expected to get done for each class, trying to balance working, and maintain my health. This decision might have repercussions later, but for now, my mental health ranks pretty high on my priorities.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

I've stopped counting.

I think I've hit the five or six month mark (24 weeks by January 7). There's been improvement in my knee (such as being able to climb stairs without wincing at the end of the day), but I think that my lack of physical therapy (and physical ANYTHING in general) is causing a minor setback. I was supposed to get fitted for a knee brace (the kind that provide a security blanket for you when working out) in mid-December, but my health insurance stopped covering me for that month. So, I moved all my appointments to January, but if my union screws me again and I end up not having health insurance, then I have to wait until February to start do cutting and pivoting exercises. What's worse is that I'd been so busy during the holidays that I didn't make time to work out. I think I've started to lose muscle mass again in my quad and that does not make for good further ACL recovery.

And there's still the swelling in my knee. My surgeon told me that it goes away after 9 months, but I'd love to see it go away now. I'm tired of the feeling of needing to crack my knee, the random popping noises, etc. I know that it's normal (for now), but I can't help feeling frustrated. I suppose it's normal when you can't do much about the stuff going on underneath the skin.

I've decided to get back into shape again (since I let myself go pretty badly this semester - full-time MBA program + working 2 jobs does not make for a good schedule to work out). My friend Melissa and I have made a pact to go to the gym together at least twice a week this month to get back into the swing of things, and eventually going five times a week once we are in shape. Workout buddies are great - it's much easier to motivate myself to go work out when you know you can't keep someone waiting.

These past two weeks I've just been doing calisthenics to get some physical activity into my day. I've maintained my knee exercises and stretching, and added pushups, situps, back extensions, and good mornings (all without weights). My surgeon has told me that I can do straight-line running, so that's next on the agenda when Mel and I begin our gym sessions next week. I've already seen improvement in my energy levels and mood, and I can't wait to keep this going.

Here's to a better year, and to a full recovery! For all those people out there who've torn their ACLs, I wish you luck in your surgery and recovery processes.

Happy (belated) new year!