Sunday, April 25, 2010

The price of glory

"Horrific," said the Physicians Assistant when she first glanced at the x-ray of my knee. But, after all these years, I kinda knew that.

After a leisurely cross country skiing trek around the Hickory Ridge Golf Course last December a few days after Christmas I drove home and suddenly realized I could barely walk from the car. My left knee felt like somebody inserted an egg scrambler and turned it on high.

She pointed to a ghostly aberration on the film and said it looked to be a 25-30 year old injury. "35" I said, remembering vividly the exact moment it occurred.

In the summer of '75 I was still an up and coming black belt fighter on the New England regional karate tournament circuit. At the time I had only earned a brown belt but tournament promoters did not require verification for whatever division you entered--as long as you paid the entry fee. And I wanted the experience.

The 'New Hampshire State Karate Championships' seemed like a relatively low-key event as karate tournaments go. Much to my surprise, top-rated Wildcat Molina, a bald headed, scary looking, Puerto Rican fighter from New York City had showed up and chewed his way through the middleweight division.

And point karate (kind of like fencing, where judges decide at every clash if a blow was cleanly landed but in so doing momentarily stop the match) was just then transitioning to full contact karate which was scored like boxing in that whoever did the most damage to his opponent wins.

I had won my division and Molina his after four or five fights from a field of perhaps 30 black belts per class--each contest two minutes where the most points wins. But the Grand Champion match between us two divisional winners would be two three-minute rounds continuous full contact. And for me that was a first.

Molina was a typical New York fighter in that he relied on a powerful rear hand strait punch from a pigeon toed stance with hips and shoulders at a 45 degree angle to the opponent. I always stayed completely sideways so my lead side was closer and could deliver kicks and punches faster and more efficiently, although not quite as powerful.

Relying on this reach advantage I used nothing but kicks and lots of them. He kept pressing forward trying to get within reach for that one all-powerful knock out punch. As round two came to a close he was more frustrated than ever and as the timekeeper announced "ten seconds" he started to lung forward as I launched a fear fueled sidekick with all I had and then missed. I felt the knee pop.

I had taken a year off from Umass to train full time, so with no insurance I couldn't afford to see a specialist. The knee hurt for a few months and I hobbled around with a limp that became less and less pronounced over time, but apparently never went away.

The next year I attained #1 in New England and would hold that ranking for six consecutive years. When I first had hip replacement surgery six years ago the Doctor asked if I had ever injured my left knee as it had a permanent bend making the left leg shorter than the right.

So now I'm off to the Cooley Dickinson Hospital joint replacement center to take care of some very old unfinished business...

Notice this was my right leg


Mary E.Carey said...

Good luck, Larry!

Tony Maroulis said...

Larry, did you do full contact karate in AAU, or was the Billy Blanks fight an AAU point fight? Some rough and tumble guys in the full contact circuit. I remember reading all about it in Black Belt magazine as a kid.

Good luck with everything.

TCC said...

Osama Big Larry, Here's to a successful procedure and speedy reovery! Icky

LarryK4 said...

Thanks Mary and Icky: went really well and I have a beautiful room with a view--plus Wifi.

Tony: It was a regular point tournament just outside Boston.

So technically they should have disqualified me for the headkick, but since it was so pretty...

Tony Maroulis said...

I must have mistyped. We talked about the Blanks fight before (and I think it's in the intro to the embedded video on the AAC website). I think what I wanted to ask: did the AAU do full contact karate or only point fighting? I only remember point fighting from youth karate days, so I'm assuming the full contact stuff was on the Open circuit, right?

LarryK4 said...

Hey Tony,
No, you know how traditional AAU was--they never did full contact.

But they still wanted to see "shuddering force" in order give you a point.

Point karate went from "no contact" to "light contact" (after Jhoon Rhee invented safety gear) to "full contact".

But each of the three had adherents and tournaments you could find.

Tony said...

...never get on Larry's bad side...never get on Larry's bad side...never get on Larry's bad side...never get....

TCC said...

Great news, Lar.

When you get a minute - love to get an update about what happened with the last mosque meeting and the Harkness Rd. neighbors.