My Dad Says I’m A Hagfish

My dobok

Until yesterday, I couldn’t have sketched my dobok, the white uniform you wear when kicking around in a taekwon-do session. But I hurt my hamstring doing a flying high kick just over a week ago and after consulting Dr Google at length I self-diagnosed a Grade 2 tear that would take six weeks to heal. Six weeks before I returned to taekwon-do. Then I read that having injured your hamstring once, you’re very likely to do it again. I felt deflated and low. I felt that my newfound interest was over before it had begun. I unfollowed the taekwon-do accounts I’d found on Instagram; I considered putting my spanking new white dobok carefully away, and I told myself it was overambitious to think I could just waltz into a martial art at my age with no ill effects.

“Stop thinking the worst,” said my husband Marcel. “Wait until you’ve seen the physio.”

The physiotherapist, it turns out, is a great believer in the power of positive thinking, in the power of the mind to effect positive change in the body, and in all kinds of little-understood things that up until recently I would have taken with more than a pinch of salt. Along with loads of wonderfully uplifting advice, his exercises involve repeating “I am healing” to myself with every action. After a few tests on my hamstring he told me I didn’t have a Grade 2 injury. Along with Western medicine, he is an expert in Chinese medicine, in particular in Chinese acupuncture methods, and the needlework he did on my leg made my muscles do things that can only be likened to those 19th-century photos of frogs whose legs kicked dramatically after needling, despite the fact that they were quite dead. (Or was it electric currents? I can’t remember.) I’ve had acupuncture before, but this was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. It was as if my muscles had lain dormant like those underground snake-monsters in the movie Tremors with Kevin Bacon, and the acupuncture called them into being. Very weird. After the various treatments – which felt marvellous, notwithstanding unauthorised chats between my muscles – the physio told me I could go back to taekwon-do the following week. I was so pleased that I practically skipped out the door, where I’d limped in: I was effusive in my thanks to the physiotherapist.

“Shane will make sure you don’t do anything risky,” he said.

Shane is Master Fitzgibbon, my taekwon-do intructor, and he and the physiotherapist are friends of long standing.

When I got home, I sang the praises of the physiotherapist. It may have been a little like the glowing reports I gave the taekwon-do instructors Ms Connolly and Master Fitzgibbon when my daughter Liv (14) and I began the sport in Gort and Galway City, respectively.

“You remind me of one of those fish that latch onto whales,” said my daughter Liv, “whenever you meet a new person.”

“Yeah, like a remora,” said Marcel.

“And the whale is like, okay, fine by me,” added Liv.

I told my dad what my family had said.

“Tell them you’re more of a hagfish,” he said, “and that you’ll suck their blood out if they’re not careful.”

My dad. Has my back now, and always.

I genuinely believe that the wonderful taekwon-do instructors to whom I trust life and limb are the same.

Think I might ease off on the high kicks for now, though.


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