The Flying Kick

About a month ago a very unexpected thing happened in my Krav Maga class and now that I’ve confirmed that I’ll live and I’m nearly recovered I’ll share this mostly humorous story with you.
Soon after New Years’s Eve here in Germany, also know as the black day when hundreds of women were attacked near train stations at New Year’s Eve celebrations, I was feeling concerned, frustrated and angry about the situation. I decided that it was high time I used my muscles and fitness for more than being fit and turn my body into a defensible fortress. To be a successful fortress you need a stout wall (check) with weapons and soldiers in the ready for defense (room for improvement). So, I opened my iPad and searched for self defense courses. This is a bit tough since, especially at that time, I knew very little German and wasn’t so adept at using website translators.
During my quest, I came across a Krav Maga studio. Now, I’d been considering training in Krav Maga for about a year but I hadn’t taken it up yet. I maintain many fitness type hobbies and sometimes it feels like I just don’t need one more – boot camp, yoga, hot yoga, bicycling, running, hiking, sometimes swimming. Although when I moved to Germany, I found the cold, wet, short days in winter to be a bit limiting for outdoor training and I’d switched nearly completely to a gym routine and some yoga. I figured I might as well give it a shot and see what I thought.
Krav Maga is hard, physically and mentally challenging, and incredibly awesome! Also, my instructors teach in German so my language teacher started to drill me on the parts of the body. The other students and instructors are nice enough to translate for me when needed. But, I love that I see a physical action and hear the instruction in German, before I get the English version. It’s really accelerating my ability to speak German. I train a couple of nights a week for an hour and a half. The class is a mix of jumping, push ups, defensive maneuvers, boxing, and here’s where the fun began a month ago, kicking…
The theme of the course varies from class to class and I like that it’s always a surprise. On April 29 the theme was boxing and kicking, all sorts of interesting kicks. Up to this point I hadn’t been properly trained to use the hips during a kick. I was progressing quickly, bringing quite a bit more power into the kick. My training partner even commented that I’d quickly become “the best girl kicker in the studio”, which of course caused me to “bring it” even more into training.
We were all warmed up and I was feeling good when Guenther said, “now we learn the flying kick”. Ok, he said something in German, but I’m pretty sure he said flying kick and I watched the demonstration and then I laughed. I instantly had a flash of the karate kid and his epic kick move at the end of the movie. Seriously, me, a women in her mid-thirties (I won’t say which side of mid) was going to execute a flying kick. I even thought, hmmm, maybe I should sit this one out. But, here’s the problem, I was the only girl at class that night, and like I said I was killing it. Endorphins were flooding my system, we’d been training for more than an hour and I was warmed up and still feeling strong.
So, I started to learn the flying kick. It actually came much more naturally than I expected. The objective is the push off with one leg and knee your attacker with your other leg, targeting the chest area. Thus, the flying element, the moment you lift off the ground and propel through the air toward your attacker. After learning the basic technique, I began to practice the move with increasing force until one time, when I began to enter the kick, pushing off on my left leg and I felt a pop on the back of my calf. I actually thought someone had thrown a racquetball or maybe one of the fake knives at me as a joke. Which would have been very strange because we’re serious about safety and people don’t joke around in class. It’s a very respectful environment.
I wasn’t immediately in pain, but I knew something might be wrong so I went to sit down and elevate my leg on a stack of blocking pads. After a few minutes it started to tighten up and hurt a little. Guenther applied some freezing spray to my calf, and I figured I better get home since I was done training for the night. Here’s when it got really interesting… I stood up and went to stand on my leg, the same one I’d been leaping off of moments before, and it wouldn’t hold any weight. Nothing. I could not walk.
Now, this has happened to me once in my life when I was training for a marathon and my knee basically froze up exactly halfway through a 10 mile run. That time I was with my husband and we found a nice lady to give us a ride home. This time was quite different. My husband was in North Carolina, my mode of transportation was a bike, and I suddenly realized I’d left my wallet at home. Oh, and it was 9:30 at night… I have to admit I haven’t felt quite that perplexed and alone in a very long time.
I started to assess my options. The good thing is I had my iPhone and the number of my fiend Tilghman. We’re both over here as expats away from our families and we’ve basically become family. I suddenly realized she’s my person here in Germany. I was so happy when she answered the phone and then together we went into problem solving mode. My classmates encouraged me to order an ambulance. In Germany everyone is entitled to care, with or without insurance, so they reassured me they’d pick me up even without ID. Ok, which number to call…but Guenther took care of ordering the ambulance.
The next thing was to figure out how to get my wallet which was locked in my apartment. Tilghman offered to pick it up and my neighbors had a key from watching my cat. So, I called Thomas and asked him to let in my friend Tilghman to grab my wallet. I’m so glad I’ve met my neighbors and they’re wonderful, helpful people.
This is when I was reminded that the next morning I needed to drive to Frankfurt to pick up my parents who were in Seattle waiting to catch a ten hour plane ride across the ocean. Now, how was that going to work if I couldn’t walk??? I decided to figure that out later. At this point I just needed to wait for the ambulance. My class-mates were kind enough to put all my gear in my bag for me. I commenced my self diagnosis quest on Google to figure out what had happened to my calf. I googled “I was jumping and it felt like a ball hit my calf”. I quickly found link after link on calf muscle tears. One of them was so kind to point out it was a “common injury in men in their 40s to 50s”. Now, that really made me feel so much better (insert sarcasm here).
At this point, I’ll admit, I started to feel pretty bad for myself and I was on the verge of tears. But I was at a fighting studio, no place to cry, and I fought to hold it together. I thought, what the heck am I doing at a Krav Maga studio in Germany, alone, injured and in pain. Of course these thoughts don’t help, so I pushed them away and kept googling. Guenther was kind enough to stay with me and after about 20 minutes the ambulance arrived.
The driver and his assistant walked in to assess the situation. The conversation began in German and when I responded in English the first question was…you guessed it… “Do you speak German?”. Followed by the warning, “otherwise this will be difficult”.

So, picture the scene, I’m sitting in the lobby of the sports studio with my leg propped up on a chair, in a lot of pain, sweaty and unable to walk, and I’m expected to muster all my command of German to get some help. Surprisingly, I pulled it together, switched on the German side of my brain and described what happened in my best attempt at Danglish (Deutsch + English). I confirmed that “Ich Kann nicht Laufen”. At which time they brought in the German version of a wheelchair. Quite a funny contraption. I hopped over to the chair on my right leg and carefully settled in. Then they secured the five point harness, I’m not kidding, and we proceeded to the ambulance. I flash back now on much more pleasant occasions when I wore a five point harness – riding shotgun in a stock car on the Nascar track in Vegas, for instance. This was not such an occasion. Just for posterity, I asked Guenther to take a picture, because this was too comical to miss.
I was lifted into the ambulance and then strapped in for the five minute journey to the hospital in my neighborhood. I often walk or jog by this place, particularly because there is a fine collection of yarn bombing on the parking poles. Now, I had the chance to go inside. But first, I had the exhilarating experience of trying to text my friend the name of the hospital. Sounds simple, not so much when you’re typing on an English phone in German. Autocorrect is not helpful. After 5 attempts I got it right and off we went.
A few minutes into the ride the seriousness of my situation and the uncertainty around the seriousness of my injury started to hit me. I also remembered again that I needed to pick up my parents at the Frankfurt airport in the morning. And, I’ll admit it, I started to cry. The attendant became concerned, was I hurt? No, I responded, I’m just being a crazy girl. To which there was much relief and laughter. The forms were completed and then we arrived at the emergency room.
By now, I was really speaking almost exclusively in German, explaining my living situation and that I was originally from California, to which I got the typical question: “can you surf?”. For a moment I was distracted from my situation as I responded that yes, I can surf and ironically, I’d learned to surf in Surf City, North Carolina. I don’t know if they got it, but it made me happy to remember learning to surf.
As we chatted about surfing and California, the check in guy walked down the hall, looking for all the world like a California surfer dude. Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up. He confirmed that California was awesome and I was instantly cool in his book. No insurance card, no problem, just wait in the lobby and we’ll get you a doctor. I settled in for what I expected to be an hour or two of waiting. A guy in athletic gear hopped by on one foot, he had severed his Achilles’ tendon. Yikes! That gave me some perspective.
After about ten minutes I was called in to the examining room. Mercifully, the doctor was fluent in English. He had also trained some in Krav Maga at the same studio as me. I described to him what happened and he was a bit puzzled by my lack of obvious physical swelling to accompany the severe pain. So he sent me off for an ultrasound. By this time, Tilghman had joined me with my wallet. That was a relief. We laughed together at the absurdity of my situation. It also turned out to be handy to have a wheelchair pusher because they sent us out to navigate the empty halls ourself. The sweet ultrasound technician asked me the innocent question, “why are you in Germany”, which at that moment became a philosophical debate in my head as I lay in an emergency room…in Germany…with a useless leg. Hey, what doesn’t kill you, you know the rest…
Nothing was found obviously damaged and I was pretty much told that I should be able to walk out. No crutches, no brace, no muscle relaxers. This was old school! With the confirmation that there didn’t appear to be serious damage, I tenderly put weight on my foot. Slowly, carefully, with great pain, I was able to hobble. Clutching my prescriptions for pain meds and ibuprofen we went off in search of a 24 hour pharmacy. Mercifully we found one that was open. I borrowed Tilghman’s wanderen pole to hobble up to the window and buy my meds and some ice packs. Yeah, we’re back the ice shortage challenge. Instant ice was not possible, I had to tough it out for the night.
All the sudden I was hungry, not surprising considering it was 11 pm at night. So, where else to go but McDonald’s?! Just what we needed at that time of the night. Bonus: they have a drive thru, no walking required. Now, I’m nearly recovered and I’m pretty sure that what I had was a type 2 calf muscle tear. I took away from this a strong desire to restart my yoga practice, warm up and stretch to be a little more careful with my aging muscles. I hope to be up and kicking again soon.


ICE, and a lack thereof

ICE, and a lack thereof

Day 1 – we packed our bags and loaded up my car, which I’ve affectionately named “Super Z”. She’s a good car, with a roomy cage (a motorcyclists’ term for a car cab), GPS and space to stash two carryons and (very importantly) a cooler. This cooler is what truly pushed our trip into the category of American road trip. I mean, no red-blooded American takes off on a long car ride without a cooler loaded with cheese, salami, snacks and some cold drinks.

On this particular trip we were bound for Denmark so we also had another need for a cooler. My German friends had warned that beer, one of the primary food groups in Germany, was very expensive in Denmark. Something like 5 times as expensive!!! Now, I like beer, but my dad, who’s a home Brewer in Oregon also is a big beer fan. As well as my husband. We would likely be enjoying a brew at the end of our long drives when we checked into the hotel. You might be noticing a trend here that I’m a pretty budget conscious person. Besides German beer is really good and we didn’t have any experience with Denmark brews, so the plan was to load up on beer in Germany before we rode the ferry to Denmark.

Great plan, extremely difficult to execute. Can anyone guess the problem? There is no ice in Europe! Just think back to the summers of your youth when the fam was gearing up for a bbq and dad would send you out to grab a bag of ice? You’d just pull in to your local 7-eleven and there’s an ice cooler out front loaded with 1 lb, 5 lb bags, even maybe large blocks of ice? I mean way back then it didn’t even have a lock on it, so you’d walk in pay for a bag of ice, walk out, open the cooler, enjoy that fabulous blast of cold air, grab a bag from the bottom because it’s cooler, or maybe the one on top because you’re freezing now. Then return as the hero of the bbq because you brought the ICE!

Somewhere in the history of civilization this trend caught on in America, but never in Europe. As one Dane told me, “we don’t sell ice because no one would buy it”. I wanted to ask “But what about when you’re on a road trip and you don’t have access to your freezer at home?”. Then I realized that Europeans generally don’t road trip, they train or airplane trip it. Maybe this is where the grand ice tradition skipped a continent? I’m still working on getting to the bottom of this no ice mystery and hope to report back soon. In the meantime, if you have any cultural insights let me know.

In the end, all was well. The bar keep at our hotel in Malmö Sweden generously loaded our cooler with ice one night. As she astutely observed the machine would make more ice so she was willing to share this renewable resource. Other hoteliers and restaurant owners were not so generous with their ice. Fortunately, German beers are generally intended to not be consumed at the subzero temperatures preferred by Americans. You won’t find any cans where you know it’s cold enough to because the Rockies have ice on them. So, we didn’t have any thirsty nights or experience gouging prices.

Which, on the note of prices, we did go out and enjoy local beers in Denmark a couple of times. We were surprised to find the prices reasonable. This then created a second mystery for us – Where were the expensive beers? I found the answer to this question when I struck up a conversation with a friendly bar keep in Ribe, Denmark. It turned out he was a chicken farmer working in town to make some money before he moved to Copenhagen to study Ag Econ. As a side note, what are the odds I’d meet a chicken farmer in Denmark? The world is small indeed! He explained that beers are expensive and taxed heavily at the grocery store, at least 3 times as expensive as equivalent beers in Germany. But, here’s the loophole, if you buy them in a bar or restaurant it’s the normal price. I can only imagine what political wrangling led to this situation. Bottom line: don’t worry yourself too much with packing beers from Germany to Denmark (although the Beck’s we bought was delicious at room temp – who would have know?) and just enjoy the local flavors.

I meant to write about Bremen, Lubeck and lovely Wismar on this post, but now I must run to work. So, until next time, don’t take for granted those wonderful ephemeral treasures in life, like ice.

American style road trip through northern Germany and Scandinavia

American style road trip through northern Germany and Scandinavia

Less than 48 hours ago my apartment became quiet and empty again (except for my funny Tony cat) as my parents and husband headed back stateside. We had just completed a fantastic, 2000 kilometer road trip. This trip included one or more towns or cities a day, so I’ll cover it in a few blog posts. I’m a bit torn about which order to take, part of me wants to start at the end and then go backwards, like those cool movies (Memento comes to mind)… On the other hand, running through chronologically will illustrate how we took a nice loop with new scenery and beers (very important) to experience every day.

The perfume of blooming canola fields filled our car as we drove through the back roads of Denmark.

To begin, I’ll give you a run-down of our general route. Our journey began and ended in Dusseldorf, Germany. Along the way we stopped in Bremen, Lubeck and Wismar, Germany. Then we drove to Rostock and boarded the ferry to Gedser, Denmark. We drove from Gedser in a counterclockwise direction through the countryside and along the coast to Copenhagen via the islands of Bogo and Mon before entering Sealand. From Copenhagen we drove across a toll bridge (I’ll tell you more about that later….) to Malmö, Sweden. The next day we drove back to Copenhagen, then from there we drove up the Danish riviera to the northeast tip of Denmark. Then we headed southwest toward Soro in the lakes region. From Soro we took a slow coastal route toward Faaborg for a stay at a castle in the countryside and then our final night was spent in a 400+ year old hotel in Ribe – the oldest town in Denmark. Our return route took us on a lovely diversion through the island of Romo, before we jumped on the autobahn in Germany. We made one stop for a bucket list quest to eat a hamburger in Hamburg, washed the car in torrential rain, and eventually made it home.

Our reward for walking 994 steps down to admire Mon Flynts.

I’ll add a general map of our route later. Now you have the over-view and I’ll go into details of the trip in future posts. Along the way we preferentially drove country roads and stopped at huge and quaint (sometimes more impressive) churches). We stayed at a variety of hotels from modern establishments to a castle built in 1200, a 300 year old and then a 400 year old hotel, and most suprising of all, a really nice hostel in Copenhagen.

Hvedholm castle near Faaborg, Denmark

Next installment I’ll describe our journey through northern Germany.

Romo – the enchanted land of Danish horses and ponies.