Monday, January 9, 2017

Opinion: My Journey Beyond the Pain

Tom Christian, Baldwin City, KS

My name is Tom Christian; I grew up in Baldwin, and have lived in this area all my life. I graduated high school in 1983 and worked in the concrete construction trade for several years after that. Around 1987 I developed some low back problems that lasted about 6 months. Once my pain level had improved and I had returned to mostly normal activity I knew I did not wish to experience that kind of life limiting pain again. At that time there was a Martial Arts School in Baldwin. I had always been interested in Martial Arts and I knew that the stretching, flexibility and added exercise would help me with my fight to keep my back pain to a minimum. I was also sure that learning Martial Arts would be a lot of fun. I was correct; I spent a few years training with Master Gonzalez at the San Toku Kan Martial Arts School, and was within weeks of receiving my Brown belt when a job change forced me to leave. By the time I was able to return to training the instructor had moved and the school was closed.
Fast forward to 1997, the year my youngest daughter was born. My job had destroyed my back by this time and I was able to do very little. At birth my daughter’s weight was 3 pounds and 13 ounces and I could not stand and hold her. I had to pick her up and go find a chair to sit in just to hold her. I was unable to do much of anything. I could not ride in a car for more than 30 minutes. I couldn’t sit or stand for any length of time without moving. I could not bend or lift anything of any amount of weight.  After months of physical therapy, several evaluations, tests, doctors visits and a lengthy legal battle, I was considered 70% disabled based on my physical limitations.
Like many of you I was not willing to lie down and give up. With the help and support of my wife I spent more than two years getting to a physical and mental condition that I could fight the pain and function at some level of light duty every other day without making myself completely numb from pain medication.   It was a few more years before a 5 day work week didn’t leave me wiped out. During this time I did plenty of stretching and physical exercises to build and rebuild my body. There is great value and wisdom in keeping your body in motion. The more I push myself and the more physical activity I make myself do, the better I understand that lesson.
 In the fall of 2009 my daughter came home from school with an interest in a martial arts class that had started at her school on Wednesday evening. We went together to check it out and we both joined. My wife joined us a little later and we trained as a family until our daughter began collage. That was over seven years ago and we have been teaching people just like you and ourselves for over three years now. I have achieved my second Dan, and my wife will soon have her second Dan as well. I have also become involved in Ju Jitsu as part of my search to complete and round out my Martial Arts training and to keep my body moving, mostly pain free.  We have stayed with this system because it is adaptable to every student’s abilities or the lack of, and the support that is given from the top down to ensure that every student that wishes to be successful can be. Martial arts is not the only reason my pain is controlled but it is biggest reason and the one thing that has given me the tools to keep my pain at a minimum and allowed me to do more than I once thought I would be able to.  
The entire group of people within the Youn Wha system of Martial Arts is like one big family. Everyone you meet is interested in helping you be the best you can be. They are willing to help you overcome any obstacles you are facing with your training, and work around any limitations you may have.  Our young students and our new students all quickly begin to reflect this same attitude. Once you see how much other people care about how well you do it is hard not to pass that on to the next person you meet in class. You will find children and adults as well as families taking these classes. How many other sports do you know of that you can you enjoy with your whole family. In my opinion there is no such thing as a person who can’t do martial arts; there are only those who are not willing to try.  
Pain is a fact of life. It is different for everyone. But how we choose to deal with it is what defines us individually. You can allow pain to control your life or you can fight back and take control of the pain. If you allow it pain will confine you to your home and eventually a chair or bed. Or you can choose to push back at the pain, get up and get moving. An activity like Martial Arts that can be adjusted to your level of ability and also push you to go further, promote activity, flexibility, and physical strengthening has been the perfect solution in my experience. You don’t have to do Martial Arts to stay ahead in this battle but you do have to do something. Martial Arts training has been the right choice for me.  And it has been the right choice for several of our students and other people I know.  Rather you have had some kind of physical injury that has kept you from being active or you just have not taken the time to be active. Now it the time to get moving, your body will thank you for it. I remember my great grandmother at the age of 80 climbing into the loft of the barn and throwing 6 square bales of hay onto the ground and then she would climb down and load them onto a platform on her tractor. Take them to the pasture and feed them to her cattle every single day. Most people her age were limited to a rocking chair, recliner or nursing home. My point is that those people who never quit moving, well they never quit moving all of their lives. They may not be as fast as they were 20 years ago but they still do more than most people 20 years younger. Develop this attitude for yourself and become a part of the few who do what they want to do in life rather than the many that are waiting for someone else to do it for them, because they cannot.  My battle continues every day but so far I am winning the fight.

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