To Show Strong Spirit

When the pressure’s on, a Shotokan workout will clear your mind, strengthen your body, and enhance your all-around health. Photography by Ethan Kaminsky.

My doctor called me a train wreck. I told him that I was folding laundry when a trajectory of pain shot like a .357 from my left leg up my spine and to my neck. I could hardly stand, let alone lie on my back and bring my knees to my chest and push them out again. Was my doctor some kind of sadist? My back went out, the saying goes, and as I endured his physical examination and answered questions about my diet, exercise, and work — not to mention the unspeakable vices — I caught him shaking his head. "What?" I said, indignantly. "Shoot me with a painkiller, prescribe a musclerelaxer, and let me go work," I thought. "I’m busy!"

The doctor told me to get dressed, sit up, and listen. "You stopped exercising regularly over a year ago, you eat only when it’s convenient or not at all, and you don’t even know how many hours you work in a given week," he said. "I’ll tell you where you’re headed ..." He went on and on, and I lost interest. For this harangue, I could call my mother. But one of his pontifications was revelatory and has an enduring ring. My pain, he said, had little to do with laundry and everything to do with poor everyday health habits.

"Everything you experience throughout the day triggers a muscular reaction in your body," he explained. "Your body has to be fit to respond."

[...] This article continues in the April 2006 issue, or subscribe to avoid missing future issues!

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