Monday, April 22, 2013

Conquering back pain

In my family it has become known simply as "the book."  My wife and two adult children have read it.  I have recommended it to countless friends.  And I generally read it myself at least two or three times each year.  "The book" is Healing Back Pain by Dr. John Sarno, a highly regarded physician who has dedicated himself to identifying the link between physical symptoms and the innermost workings of our subconscious minds.
   Let me begin with a true story.  About 14 years ago I was suffering from crippling pain after my back "went out" one morning.  I could barely walk, and the pain ranged from intense to unbearable.  This wasn't the first time I had suffered severe back pain, but this was by far the worst episode.  A colleague at work suggested that I read something that had changed his life, and he gave me his copy of Dr. Sarno's Healing Back Pain.  That day I had to fly to Florida for a business convention, and I read the book from cover to cover while on the plane.  It's a slender book and an easy read -- but it worked a small miracle in my life.
   I hobbled onto the plane in the morning, and that afternoon in Florida I walked off as though I had never had back pain at all.  If this sounds impossible to you, I understand, because it doesn't sound possible to me either.  But it's true, because I lived the experience.
   Here's my very short summary of Dr. Sarno's explanation for what causes most incidents of lower-back pain: our subconscious minds deliberately produce physical symptoms in order to keep us from examining specific elements of anxiety or anger in our lives.  It's the brain's way of saying, "Don't go there."  And by throwing some pain at us, the subconscious mind gets us focusing on something that completely draws us away from the underlying psychological issue that needs addressing.
   This is a layman's very brief overview of a book that is written in plain English and may work a miracle in your life if you're suffering from lower-back pain, shoulder pain, heart palpitations, and a host of other problems related to the phenomenon that Dr. Sarno describes in his book.
   So why am I writing about Healing Back Pain today?  Ah, good question.  Well, this past Friday morning my back "went out" while I was training at the gym.  And the timing could not have been worse, since I was set to compete in a tournament the following day.  I'm sure that many of my readers understand how it feels to have all those months of preparation go down the drain the day before a tournament because of some dumb injury.
   But this story has a happy ending, thanks to Dr. Sarno.  I went home and read "the book."  One of the points that Dr. Sarno makes is that IF your back is structurally sound -- and doctors have found that mine certainly is -- then the pain is caused not by injury but by the actions of your subconscious mind.  And the best -- actually the ONLY -- was to overcome the pain is to accept that it's a fraud.  Rather than tiptoe around the pain, take it for what it is: a phony roadblock that your brain has set in your path.  Long story made short: after reading Dr. Sarno's book yet again, I was able to compete the next day, high kicks and all.
   Fifteen years ago this would not have been possible.  Back then I would have seen a doctor, who would have prescribed pain killers, physical therapy, and rest.  The doctor might also have said, "Oh, and stay away from that activity, because your back can't take it."  Thanks to Dr. Sarno, I now know that the enemy is psychological, not physical, and that there's no reason to baby my back.
   I'm 66, and perhaps one of these days I'll have an actual physical ailment that prevents me from practicing the Taekwondo that I love so much.  But I'm not there yet, and chances are you aren't either.  If you're sitting on the sidelines because of back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, or any other "problem" that's making life less fun than it should be, please do yourself a great favor.  Buy a paperback copy of Healing Back Pain.  Here's hoping the book works a miracle in your life . . . as it has in mine.
  All the best to you.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Put the YOU in AAU Taekwondo

A couple of weeks ago I had the good fortune -- and the good sense -- to compete in my first AAU Taekwondo tournament.  So now I ask: why did I wait 66 years for something this outstanding?
   Since this was my first AAU Taekwondo event, I really had no idea what to expect.  After all, every tournament I've attended has had a different sponsor, and each tournament has been wonderful in its own way.  But I must say that the AAU Taekwondo Middle Atlantic District Championship -- hosted by Grandmaster Louis Parlagreco -- truly raised the bar for other martial-arts tournament sponsors. 
   A major reason for this, as it turns out, is that the AAU has a highly detailed handbook that specifies precisely how a Taekwondo tournament will be run.  The handbook covers, well, just about everything associated with a tournament -- from how to obtain official AAU sanctioning for the event to the hand signals that judges will use when managing their events.  And, yes, the handbook even specifies what the certified judges will wear in order to give the event a highly professional look: white shirt and tie, black slacks, white sneakers, etc.  Does this really matter?  Absolutely.  From the moment you step into the competition hall, you have the feeling that things are very much under control.
   I found the judges to be well trained, highly consistent in their application of the rules, demanding but fair in their scoring, and completely in charge of their rings.  When the judges are on top of their game, the contestants and spectators go by the rules.  No bad-mouthing calls; no trash-talking; and no obnoxious second-guessing from the stands.  This is how it should be, of course.
   The other benefit of having certified judges running their assigned rings was that the entire tournament ran like a finely tuned Swiss watch.  Events began when they were supposed to, and competitors always knew where they were supposed to
be . . . and when.
   Okay, so this was an outstanding event.  What does that mean for you?  Well, it's time to put YOU in AAU Taekwondo.  Your next opportunity will be the AAU Taekwondo New Jersey State Championships, to be held on April 20th in Spotswood, NJ.  Click over to to find out how to join the AAU and how to register for the upcoming NJ event.   Or you can begin by looking at the tournament flyer at AAU Taekwondo NJ Championship.
   If you're a Taekwondo Senior, it's time to get back in the game.  And by the way: the AAU also offers tournaments in other martial arts, so don't feel left out if Taekwondo's not your style.  Visit the AAU website today.
   Hope to see you at a tournament soon.