By Caroline Buhl
At the beginning of every boot camp MSK runs with the group of candidates to a glorious vista. It’s always early morning on the rail trail, often chilly, often misty, always a time when everyone involved has been thinking they’d rather be in bed! But as we stand gazing, just taking in the beauty and the peace, we recognize the truth in his words: that we are dazzlingly fortunate to bear witness to such glory and that an essential element of our practice is to be intentionally grateful for every such moment in life.
I am grateful to be here in black belt boot camp this spring. If you’d asked me a year ago whether I thought advancing to my fifth degree would be possible, I’d have laughed out loud! A year ago I was recovering from a full hip replacement. I’m lucky to have had the opportunity for surgery. Without it I would have lost my ability to even walk.
My right hip had degenerated rapidly after a sudden attack of inflammatory arthritis in the summer of ‘21; all the large joints in my body became severely inflamed. Swollen, stiff and sore, I spent months pursuing traditional and alternative therapies. I needed a wooden staff to help me walk and by the end of January ‘22 I could barely drag myself around with it. My shoulder sustained damage I struggle with still.
Although I continued to teach throughout that fall, I was unable to maintain my own training. All forms of impact worsened my condition. Too often adrenaline and habit got the better of me and I paid in pain when I tried to return to partner pad work and hard hitting on the heavy bag. It’s taken me a long time to learn how to put the brakes on my force and focus instead on form in my practice.
A friend guided me to a great surgeon and another shared his experience to prepare me for mine. Surgery, healing and restrengthening proceeded without problems. Removing that major source of inflammation lowered my body’s inflammatory response and made me feel much better. But when the question of testing this spring was raised, I was sceptical. Was I capable of the intensity required? Would my body allow it? Would it worsen my condition and trigger a return to the dread days of labored and limited mobility? I was filled with doubt.
I wrestled with these questions and talked them through with friends and family. Our daughter’s boyfriend swung my perspective. He said, simply, “Why don’t you just begin boot camp and see how your body responds?” In my mind, I’d been projecting to the possible dire consequences. But as Liam reframed it, I realized I could do exactly that: take my training one step at a time, and evaluate. Why hadn’t I thought of that!?
My body has surprised me! I’ve been thoroughly exhausted post boot camp and I’ve woken up sore, but I have not been damaged. Training with my fellow kickboxing candidates, I’ve realized that our time living has given each of us challenges to our practice. If we’re lucky, we get the chance to work through them together. I am so grateful to be able to enjoy the opportunity!