Sjögren’s syndrome and target training (Garage gym post!)

This is a garage gym post, but first I have to tell the backstory of my eyes/vision, since they’re the impetus for this workout.

I returned to my former eye doctor, the one I saw regularly for years. Thanks to him, I now have glasses with the correct prescription. I got single-lens glasses, mainly for driving and watching movies; progressive lenses were overkill since I don’t need to wear glasses all the time.

The disappointing part of the exam was when he told me that my Sjögren’s syndrome is not in remission, as I’d thought it was. I’d stopped seeing my rheumatologist and taking my meds in 2010, and I’ve been feeling better by my own standards, so this came as a surprise. But this eye doctor is the one who’d managed my case insofar as my eye health, so he’s the man where this is concerned.

I’m not going back to my rheumatologist at this time, because I do feel good compared to how I felt before; I’m just following Dr. C’s orders, which are “Prescription use of lubricating eye drops several times a day and before sleeping and after waking up.” (I already do the latter. I can’t keep my eyes open or see anything until I put in the drops. “There you go,” said Dr. C when I told him that. “You still have Sjögren’s. It’s just not as bad now as it used to be.”)

Dr. C’s whole point is that now I have permanent cornea damage because of the Sjögren’s. Turns out that the distortion in my vision is mostly the reason my last prescription seemed so off (though it was indeed slightly off). Dr. C explained that my vision will always be distorted, even with the correct lens prescription. Glasses can help with blurred vision, but not distortion.

The distortion isn’t severe at all, but it’s enough to mean that a). My night vision will always suck, i.e. when driving at night, I’m wont to turn into driveways that aren’t there, b). My depth perception will always suck, i.e. in hand-to-hand combat situations, I’m wont to miss my target and have trouble finding my distance, and c). At the firing range, I’ll have to learn to operate as a cross-dominant shooter (I’m right-handed, but I’ll have to use my left eye as my dominant eye, which it’s not.)

The only point of the above that really matters is the first one, because, you know, it’s useful to be able to drive at night and see what’s where. What’s most disappointing to me is the second point. The distortion in my vision makes it tricky to gauge where I am and where to strike in combat situations, something I’d already noticed in training, but I’d disregarded as “I’m rusty.”

ALL OF THIS TO SAY that I’ve now taped targets onto the punching bag so I can practice for accuracy. I need to train to compensate for my handicap. And that brings me to today’s garage gym workout post.

(The ideal course of action would be to get some target mitts and have someone hold them for me, but I don’t know who I’d ask for that assistance, so tape on the bag, it is.)

I used masking tape to create X targets in three columns around the bag at low, mid, and high levels. I threw combinations and single shots for power and speed, but mainly for accuracy.

 

Let's get into it!

Let’s get into it!

 

Uppercut

Uppercut

 

Spinning back fist

Spinning back fist

 

I had difficulty hitting the targets with my spinning back fists, so I need to work on those a lot more.

 

(Stalking the bag)

(Stalking the bag)

 

Superman punch on the high target

Superman punch on the high target

 

Jab

Jab

 

(Going for angles)

(Going for angles)

 

Backfist transition

Backfist transition

 

Walking back.

Walking back.

 

Anyway, Sjögren’s syndrome is a mere nuisance at this point. I really thought I was done with that crap, but other than my eyes being uncomfortable and red most of the time, I feel just fine. The vision distortion thing is the most annoying aspect in the practical sense, but I’m not complaining. Things used to be a whole lot worse. I’m not going to the rheumy to get put back on Plaquenil, Salagen, and Tramadol. I’m just over here training for accuracy with targets on the punching bag… and spending more money than usual on lubricating eye drops.

Garage gym updates and Tae Kwan Do techniques!

Coming back around to the promised garage gym update! Since our initial setting-up in January last year, we’ve made a few additions to the garage to further its transition into a small but functional training space. We also cleared out the relics that came with the garage when we bought the house – old cans of paint and such.

Now we’ve got the basics: 63 square feet of mat flooring (we added a couple of rows of rubber tiles to enlarge the floor), a standing punching bag, an MMA dummy on the floor, a mirror (thanks to Craigslist), a few sets of dumbbells, and speakers (for blasting dub-step, rap, and metal during boxing and Muay Thai training, of course). It’s a great space for the two of us, but as many as four people could train in there at once. Maybe five. Maybe six, depending on what we do. It’s small, but it works.

The South Korean flag still hangs in the corner. When I go in to practice Tae Kwan Do, I’m entering a do-jang  (the Korean equivalent of the Japanese dojo). There’s no music during a Tae Kwan Do session. Because of the quiet and the concentration required, I find that it’s akin to a moving meditation practice. I feel at peace. Perhaps more than anything, the flag carries sentimental value, as my Tae Kwan Do master handed it down to me before he moved out of state years ago.

Another thing – unrelated, but useful – is that I upgraded my phone last week, so now I’m equipped with a camera that’s much better than my old one!

(I’ll be honest… I only upgraded my phone to get a new camera. I was content with the phone, itself, but I wanted to take better pictures, and I didn’t want to invest in an actual camera. I was eligible for a phone upgrade, anyway, so it worked out well.)

So, with this new phone camera, thinking of how I could show what the space can accommodate, I decided to record myself doing a Tae Kwan Do form (hyung in Korean; kata in Japanese – this is TKD, so it’s hyung). I recorded the video on Sunday afternoon and used “pause” and “the snippy tool” to get the slew of Tae Kwan Do technique selfies posted here.

But first, observe the quality difference between my old and new cameras!

Old camera (Samsung Galaxy S4):

 

Home gym in the garage, one year later.

Home gym in the garage, one year later.

 

New camera (Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge):

 

Walking up to start...

Walking up to start…

 

I clipped this shot out of the video, so I’m blurry in movement, but notice the colors! The lighting in the garage was exactly the same in both images, and as per usual, there were no digital shenanigans involved to alter the pics. I’m in love with this camera. The phone part is pretty great, too, and yes, I’m totally raving about a Korean phone in a post about Korean karate. Coincidence.

Without further rambling about cameras and phones, here are a few of the Tae Kwan Do blocks and attacks I clipped from the recorded video:

 

Horizontal front chest block

Horizontal front chest block

 

Double-fisted groin block

Double-fisted groin block

 

Stomp attack with downward block (prep)

Stomp attack with downward block (prep)

 

Back fist (prep)

Back fist (prep)

 

(My striking fist did originate from further inside, but it looks awkward at this second of transition… )

 

Jump attack (prep)

Jump attack (prep)

 

Jump attack

Jump attack

 

Block to sides

Block to sides

 

Left hand groin attack (pull at the end of the technique)

Left hand groin attack (pull at the end of the technique)

 

Finished.

Finished.

 

Note that my feet are slightly too far apart in that finish.  I saw ALL of my mistakes while watching the video and pausing on the techniques, which makes the recording a valuable practice I should continue. You may see more training pics here in the future.  Just a head’s-up.

 

(walking back to stop the recording, haha)

(walking back to stop the recording, haha)

 

Anyway, our garage gym figures beautifully into my New Year’s resolution to get stronger. We’re going to add three or four sets of dumbbells to our little collection, so we’ll be able to get in some effective full-body workouts. Gotta love Play It Again Sports! We’re also going to add what we need to keep the space tolerable during the hot months.