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The uni-knee 4th Dan giving karate kid a run for his money

Marie Xeridat is a freelance karate instructor teaching at local school and in her own West London club. Each week Marie teaches several classes as well as undertaking three personal training sessions.

Since my early twenties martial arts has been a huge part of my life. Inspired by watching various martial artists, I initially trained in the evenings shriving for the perfect technique and improved performance. Participating in competitions and taking numerous exams, I opened my first ‘dojo’ (class) in North London after gaining my second ‘Dan’ (second degree black belt). My training gradually increased to a morning home session, lunchtime and evening classes. I competed at regional, national and international level, and took my fourth Dan four years ago, when my knee was already causing me considerable discomfort. 

I was aware something was wrong with my right leg when I began to experience sharp pain between my big and second toe, and my knee started hurting some time later. When the pain began, I gradually had to stop using certain stances where most of my weight would be on my right leg. I also found I could walk less and less which is another passion of mine – my life became increasingly sedentary. I was still maintaining a regular teaching and training regime but all the fun had gone from it. It felt as if all the joy had been taken out of my life.

I decided to see my GP for a referral to a physio as my work/training was substantially compromised by the pain in my knee. I accepted the fact that Karate moves the body in certain repetitive ways that will have an effect on the joints and symmetry, so was prepared to work at balancing this. After several visits to the physio and no improvement, I had x-rays taken of my knee followed by an MRI and the results were sent to Professor Cobb. At his Charing Cross NHS clinic, he told me that I would need a partial knee replacement or very soon I would be walking with a stick. I was 58 and in disbelief as only people of a certain age have this type of operation.

Told I could have a uni-lateral Oxford knee, I set about doing some research on full and partial replacements. Despite visiting numerous forums reading feedback from ex-patients, both bad and good, the best testimony I received was during a conversation with a lady in Professor Cobbs clinic who had not long undergone the very same operation and was extremely happy with the results – I was sold!

Following an hour long operation and a four day stay in hospital last August, I resumed teaching my classes again in mid-September. To start with I moved between stances slowly with my new knee, until I could once again use my right leg as a support, whilst kicking with my left. Having compensated for the last three years meant I have had to re-learn my weight distribution and the forces that I apply through my joints. The main challenge has been in regaining flexibility in my knee and finding the right balance of exercise/work and recovery for me. Now six months later I can walk better than I have for a long time and perform most of the techniques Karate requires.

An hour before the operation I visited the MSk Lab to be tested on the treadmill. I had trouble keeping up with the pace and was relieved when it stopped. Five months later, during a follow-up, I could have walked forever – my performance was enhanced with more fluid movement and greater speed. My gait was greatly affected due to the pain and damage, but I had not appreciated to what extent until I saw the results – it was very interesting and informative. 

I feel I have a new lease of life and am still working on increasing the flexion range of my knee. Now that it feels much better and I am pain free, I am considering taking my fifth Dan.