And so it is.
I’d developed carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands by late 2012, and had become totally disabled. I had my first hand surgery in late 2013 on the left hand, which was the worst of the two. My surgeon had subsequently requested the right hand surgery, but it was immediately denied, which meant we weren’t allowed to ask again for another year.
Meanwhile, the surgery had dramatically improved my left hand. By early 2014, I was jonsing to return to Shinkendo. My surgeon, who was a black belt in Hapkido, understood my frustration, but he wouldn’t approve it.
My sensei came up with a plan. He made me an extra light bokuto that I named “Ageha,” which means “butterfly” in Japanese. It was strong enough that I could use it in tachi uchi (partner drill) practice, yet it was light enough not to tax my hands.
I told my surgeon about Ageha, explaining my sensei would testify that, while he’s taught students who have had past hand injuries, never in his many years of practice has he ever seen anyone hurt their hands practicing Shinkendo. In fact, the proper way to hold a either a bokuto or katana is very ergonomic.
As I described the special bokuto my sensei had made for me, the expression of my badass, black-belt, Beverly Hills hand surgeon melted. “Well,” he said, adjusting his glasses, “it’s certainly not going to make your hand any worse. You can go back, but with restrictions, okay?”
And so Ageha helped me return to the martial art I love.
The insurance company finally approved my second hand surgery in early 2015, which I scheduled as soon as I could. I kept using Ageha long after I’d been approved to return to work and train normally. Sensei even coated her with epoxy when her surface got rough so that she’d last longer.
But finally last night the epoxy itself splintered and cut my hand. It was a small wound and only bled a little, but I knew it was time. She’d served her purpose and I now had to let her go.
Domo arigatou gozaimashita to both my beloved bokuto and my sensei. You’ve been the best friends a girl could ever have.