Mark Baldwin, 2nd Gup, Threshold, Dunedin
This is a tale of how a small car accident improved my Taekwon-Do.
I have been doing Taekwon-Do since 2012 at the Threshold club in Dunedin under Mr Breese. It has not always been a straight forward journey I have had a couple of hiatuses in training, one from breaking my right collarbone and one from breaking my left leg- both injuries occurred on the soccer field. Dangerous sport soccer!
The accident that has actually helped my Taekwon-Do occurred on April 19th this year when the work car I was in had stopped in traffic and a van driver drove into the back of it at a decent speed. As a Nurse Practitioner I was able to diagnose that I had received whiplash and a concussion, but my manager still insisted that ED check me out. They concurred with my diagnosis. The concussion meant I would be unable to participate in the South Island regionals sparring on the 12th of May, but I stubbornly refused to admit it, only pulling out on the morning of the competition. To compensate I entered power and speciality alongside the usual patterns. Whilst I will not set the world alight with my speciality I did walk away with silver in power, which surprised me.
As part of my own treatment plan for the concussion I saw a physiotherapist for an assessment. A review of the neck confirmed some whiplash and treatment with homework was started, but it was the balance test that really was an eye opener. I have always known my balance was not great- my side piercing kicks on one side are reasonable the other side wobbly as a jelly and I would not be able to hold it level for long before the hip would cramp. So a few tests from the physio, some with eyes open and some with eyes shut and a final test of facing away from the physio and being asked to do a squat.
So what did she see? I was advised that when I was doing the squat my body dives away to the right, suggesting that I had no core strength on the left. We then had a quick assessment with the Pilates instructor, who confirmed that I did indeed have little or no core on the left side. So what had my little car accident uncovered?
I was born with spina bifida occulta. Spina bifida occulta occurs when the vertebrae in the spine do not form correctly; in my case the spinal cord is not involved in the deformity and only one vertebrae is involved and usually this causes no issues. I do have some scar tissue at the base of my spine from skin grafts which restricts my flexibility a little. I also was born with a double ruptured hernia which left me with a scar across my lower abdomen and an abdominal weakness on my left side. It was this scar that left me with core strength issues and wobbly kicks. It was only the car accident and Taekwon-Do that highlighted this silent issue for me.
In the 2014 edition of the coloured belt techniques handbook in the red stripe syllabus there is the definition of ‘Perseverance’ and it states that we need “…to overcome every difficulty by perseverance”. This core weakness had been around for a long time, it wasn’t going to change without action and my Taekwon-Do would not improve to the standard for further promotions without addressing it, so I embarked on a journey of Pilates.
Pilates is named after the German Joseph Pilates and presents his method of controlled movements, which should look and feel like a workout. Pilates improves flexibility, builds strength and develops control and endurance in the entire body. It puts emphasis on alignment of the spine, breathing, developing a strong abdominal core, and improving coordination and balance. The core consists of the muscles of the abdomen, low back, and hips, and is where we derive our power from in Taekwon-Do. I have been doing Pilates exercises both in the gym on machines and at home since May, usually on the days when I have not had Taekwon-Do training. I have had focused exercises on my right shoulder to work the pectoral muscles, my shoulder is getting stronger and now doesn’t make weird clicking noises when it goes through its range of motion. The main focus has been on the core. Hip stability was an issue and it was not easy at the start, one exercise involves doing the ‘superman’ pose of opposite arm and leg straight out from the body whilst having your hips on a large gym ball. My instability was so great that every time I lifted the arm and leg into the horizontal position I would wobble and then face plant in to the floor.
What I noticed over time with daily exercise, was that my right side toned up very quickly and half a six pack began to appear for the first time ever, however the left side (weak side) was a lot slower in toning up. For a long time I looked like both the ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures you see in the infomercials for gym equipment on the television!
There is still a long way to go and I will continue to do my Pilates exercises as I train for my Taekon-Do, because I can see that my balance is greatly improving, my side-piercing kicks are now being supported by my core, not just my hip muscles as was the case before, and my tolerance for press ups is increasing. Planking is almost relaxing now!
So in summary, a small car accident allowed me to discover a physical flaw that was holding my Taekwon-Do back and once that flaw was known I was able to put a plan in place and persevere with my pilates to correct that issue. Every cloud has a silver lining.