Here is today’s “aha!” moment.

I was seriously thinking I should give up my martial arts training.

Who am I kidding?? I’m 55, after all–I know people that old who have grandchildren older than my kids. I’m now, thanks to all my injuries and my seeking to comfort myself in cookies and endless cups of chai, more out of shape than ever. Every time I’ve tried to get back into sparring, I get hurt.

I should get the message, right?


I love the training. It’s hard, and I whine about it constantly. But I love what it does for my body, my mind and my spirit. It has improved my balance immensely, something that’s going to be increasingly important as I age.

And I just don’t want to give that up.

Well then, maybe I shouldn’t spar, right?

Except sparring serves an important function in the sport. It improves your timing. It forces you to “put it all together”, to actually use your kicks and strikes in real-time–not just “practice mode.” And…it’s fun. Nothing gets your heart pumping and your adrenalin rushing like sparring.

And here’s the “aha!” part.

Since I injured my hard, people have come out of the woodwork to share their own hand injury stories. I’ve been inundated with sad stories of broken wrists and damaged hands. Sometimes two broken wrists–ow!! It seems like almost everyone has had a brush with one-handedness or even no-handedness at some point in their life, or knows someone who has.

And how did all these people injure their hands?

Doing nothing. Doing stupid stuff. Doing ordinary stuff.

They slipped and fell down. They fell in the bathtub, down the stairs, and on the sidwalk. They shut their hand in a car door. (One of those at the clinic the other day as I waited to get my bandage changed.) They cut themselves while slicing a bagel. They tripped on their shoelaces, or stumbled over the cat. They dropped something on their hand. A woman today told me she’d decided she needed more exercise. So she’d gone out for a nice long walk, got back to her house, slipped on the sidewalk–and broke her collarbone. “At least you were doing something interesting!”she said. “I feel pretty stupid just falling down in front of my house.”

In other words, they were just living their lives, minding their own business, doing ordinary things–and they got hurt.

In fact, everyone seems kinda thrilled that I injured my hand sparring. I guess it sounds much more dramatic than saying, “I went out to get my newspaper and I slipped on the step.” When I came back for a follow-up doctor visit, the nurses kept coming by and saying, “Are you the lady that got injured doing karate? That’s so cool!”

So I can get hurt doing something stupid. Or I can get hurt doing something I love.

Okay, I’m willing to make a few concessions.

I will take it very easy when I return to sparring. Maybe only practice with black belts (who are supposed to have exquisite control, after all.)

And maybe I will find some sparring gloves that come a little further down over my fingers….

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.


  1. That’s the spirit!!! You truly are amazing… It has been two weeks since your “OW” entry and already you are working on strategies and solutions to continue with something you love. Fantastic!!!

    Keep up the good work! Mentally as well as physically!!



  2. I think you’re right. Even if you injure yourself again, the benefits you derive far outweigh the enforced time off. And good thought about the balance–you might break your hand sparring but you won’t be one of those feeble, frail old ladies who fall and break a hip. You’ll break yours in karate class. You go girl!


  3. I got a laugh out of your story–because just after Thanksgiving, I busted my dominant hand weightlifting. (I spent Christmas in a thermoplastic splint, telling everyone at parties, “I dropped my ego on it.” Which is pretty much what happened.)

    I went back to the gym, splint and all, the week after the accident, and did what I could. I did sit-ups and back extensions, and curled with my off hand. I got used as an example A LOT–trainers would point at me and demand to know why their client was giving up. “She’s here, and SHE’S in a CAST!”

    Wishing you a solid recovery, and the nerve to get back in there on the horse that threw you. Injuries are a part of having a body, and there is no way to be completely safe. You might as well get up and live.


  4. Well, I am one of those folks who would generally think, “yes, you should probably give up your dangerous martial arts,” but you have given me a completely fresh perspective on choices and risks and enjoying our passions.

    Thanks, Luann, for being so true to your heart.


  5. You go girl!! You have such a knack for telling a story that gets to the root of all life…not just hands, (not to minimize their particular importance to most artists) but bad things happen all the time – planes crash or we can slip in the bathtub… but that should not keep us from traveling by air – or worse, bathing! My latest casualty was a severe slip on the ice in the driveway with my dog… and I thought “hell no, this would suck, to be paralyzed by a slip on my driveway while dogwalking… maybe I’ll sky dive next summer.


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