Monday, May 19, 2008

Daily Practice - Recovery, Discipline & Goal Setting

Way back in 1989 I was still an avid surfer and made time several days a week to hit the waves at any of the local surf spots around Santa Cruz. At the time I was riding a custom-built Pearson-Arrow gun; 7'6" long, tri-fin, egg rails and a custom paint job. It was delightfully maneuverable for such a long board and despite coming to the sport late, I was able to carve it up with best of them. Actually, to be honest, I stayed out of the way of the best, but I was a local and had the right to say 'my beach, my waves' like any self-righteous local does.

One fateful day I heard the pounding of the surf from my house, loaded up the equipment and headed to Steamer's Lane to see what the noise was all about. What I found was a heavy north swell lifting waves at the Indicators to double-overhead in height. That is about 16' to 24' faces. If you stand on the peak of your one-story house with a skateboard and drop off then you get a feeling for the size of the waves. That high. It was, how do they say, epic. So I put on my wetsuit, waxed my board and swam out. After an hour and a half of ripping it up, paddling back out and ripping it up again I was caught 'inside'. Meaning the wave shifted and closed out on me leaving me fighting the churning surf. The difficult part was that all I had in front of me was a sheer cliff wall, the Indicators, with the stairs a quarter of a mile paddle away. I could hear my father saying, 'never walk into a room without a clear exit strategy.' Since I had overlooked my exit I proceeded to swim for my life. A wave would hit me and push me under. I would fight my way back to the surface, get my surf board under me, face the incoming monster wave, rinse and repeat. For twenty minutes I did my best to keep myself above water and away from the cliff but it is hard to resist the pull of the ocean and I soon was close enough to the wall to touch. But Fortune smile upon me because I found that the fight eventually carried me near the erosion control boulders. I surrendered to a wave and it lifted me up and placed me on my feet on a boulder while my board was jammed between two rocks further up. I heard cheers and looked up to see a group of spectators hooting and clapping for my act of daring. I waved and asked for help and several came down to haul me up. The first guy down to help gave me a high-five and said, 'Dude! That was awesome! I thought you were dead for sure. I hope your board isn't broken.' I laughed. It hurt, but I laughed.

The upshot of this tale of hair-brained adventure is that I tore the labrum (cartilage) and rotator cuff in my right shoulder. In a fashion typical of many of the men I know I shrugged the shoulder, said 'Ow' and went right back to my Silat training. Cimande, Rikhisan, Harimau in particular are very fun to practice when your arm is threatening to rip out of the socket of its own accord. But I did the old 'cowboy up, everything is fine' routine until last year when the pain began to overwhelm my ability for rational thought. And that being in such slim supply we decided that the time was ripe for repair. So at the end of November '07 I went under the knife.

The recovery was six weeks of immobilization when I wasn't doing physical therapy three times per day plus lots and lots of pain killers. Shoulder surgery hurts very badly. Something to do with jamming two flexible metal snakes into the joint I would guess. One of the snakes is a camera, the other is the scalpel. The repair was successful and within ten weeks I was able to leave off taking the pain killers and could tell that the pain I had lived with for over 18 years was gone. Hallelujah! That took me from the 'hard' part of the recovery to the 'long' part. I was warned that it would probably take at least a year to regain my mobility and full use of the arm. But I measure full use by being able to lift Leo and being able to punch my students. With the six-month anniversary of my surgery coming next Tuesday 27th of May I am happy to report that I can do both fairly well. I am still hesitant to put much strain on the joint as there is residual stiffness but as I rebuild my daily practice I am sure that it too will fade into memory.

Daily practice is something I can be fairly good at as long as I know why I am doing it. Early in my Silat practice I was able to be disciplined about training on a daily basis because I had youthful enthusiasm. Luckily I have been endowed with an abundance of youthful enthusiasm throughout my life and that has carried me a fair distance. But something that my experience, martial, personal, spiritual and business, has taught me is that discipline can get you to the gym but having a clear set of goals is essential to maintaining the long-term effort necessary to get a payoff.

Goal Setting
It can be difficult to remember your goals when you have stabbing pains in your shoulder, your arm is strapped to your body at an odd angle and your best friends are a steady stream of ice packs and Vicodin. The big one, being a good model for Leo and a good partner to my wife are not in question. But so much of my persona is built around practicing Silat that the months of immobilization became maddening. Despite the assurances of my capable surgeon I let doubts fill my mind of ever being able to perform at my previous level. And since I am right handed and was unable to write either, I took the opportunity to sit with myself and think about my goals. I also watched a few movies and read a few books that I had been meaning to get to, but for the most part I spent time goal setting. I am going to spoil the punch line by not revealing what those goals are, but I will divulge this; they are very clear, tangible goals and they include writing every day and punching my students.

Now you will have to excuse me. Since I have finished my writing assignments for today I have to see to my training. Jurus only improve when attended to on a daily basis.

1 comment:

Rianne said...

People should read this.