How often throughout the days, weeks, months, or years could we say that we deeply reflect on our life? Sudden unexpected moments can certainly push these deeper thoughts to the forefront and change our perception of things going forward. Loss, and/or the risk of loss, is one such moment. In this guest article, Simon Hall, 2nd Dan practitioner and Instructor at Essex Soo Bahk Do, shares how facing and rising from a heart problem has changed his life, and how martial arts training played a key part in this.

Here is Simon’s story:

Around five weeks ago, I suffered three heart attacks, and had to have a stent fitted into my main front artery. Luckily, I’m now well on the road to recovery. At first I had pains in my left arm for around 10 days and was finding myself out of breath much quicker than normal. I initially thought that I had pulled a muscle in my arm and this was the effect.

When I visited the doctor, I was told that I needed a referral, and to wait for a letter. This turned out to be incorrect advice because I should have gone straight to the hospital. I would urge anyone with pain in either arm, chest pain, or notice that they’re getting out of breath quicker than usual, to go straight to the hospital. Don’t book a doctor’s appointment. This could save your life.

What does this have to do with martial arts? Well…

At every class, I tell my students:

“We are training to be the best we can possibly be with what we’ve been given, to be fit and strong through our training. This will hopefully enable us to live as long as possible.”

But what does this really mean?

During class, we learn many different defence techniques. We also learn about internal power (neh gong) and mental/spiritual power (shim gong). However, do we ever think about what if our own body attacks us?

Truthfully, I hadn’t thought about this before. A heart attack or any other life changing illness can be very hard to deal with on both a physical and mental level – before and after.

In times like this, it’s natural to panic. However, using breathing techniques from Soo Bahk Do training helped me to remain calm and slowed my heart rate down. Without controlling my breathing as I did, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be writing this article now.

After something like this, you end up asking yourself many questions:

  • Why me?
  • Is this going to happen again?
  • Will I recover?
  • Will I be able to still train?
  • Have I done anything wrong or have eaten the wrong things for a long time?

I don’t smoke, only drink the occasional pint or two if I’m out for a meal, and I’m always very active and keep myself fit. So, why me?

I was told that I was unlucky – and that it could happen to anyone at any age regardless of fitness. It’s also becoming more common these days due to a number of factors. These include: diet, exercise, and ingredients in food.

Whilst martial arts training makes us stronger both mentally and physically, do we really consider our food habits on a daily basis?

I’ve certainly changed my diet by reducing the amount of sugar and fatty food as much as possible since this. My fruit and vegetable intake has definitely increased. Over four weeks, I’ve lost a stone in weight as a result, and feel much better for it.

Although I feel very unlucky to experience this at 46 years old, I also feel very lucky that the blocked artery was caught in time. This has changed my perception on life and makes me thankful for every day that I’m still here. It’s taught me that life and death are much closer together than how people realise. In the blink of an eye anyone’s life can be turned upside down in an instant.

As my Father always said:

“If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything”.

Very wise words and I now realise what this truly means. 

I always try to take positives from a negative situation and pass on any knowledge or experience I have in the hope that others could learn from them. I’ve started attending a cardiac rehabilitation programme where I have been doing lots of fitness circuits. I’m feeling very fit and already have more energy than I’ve had for a very long time, which is great!

Although this chapter in my life has temporarily knocked me down, it’s also made me more determined than ever to bounce back stronger and fitter. My struggle becomes my strength. Watch this space!

What Simon’s message shares is that we can apply our martial arts training to help manage stressful and serious situations. His story also emphasises the value of a more rounded approach to our goal for better health and fitness by reflecting on our habits away from the mat.

What are your thoughts after reading Simon’s story? Is there anything that you’ve found interesting as a take away?

Photo: © Simon Hall, Essex Soo Bahk Do. Photo used with permission.

Sabrina Mistry

As a qualified Personal Trainer and 2nd Dan traditional martial artist, Sabrina combines both to deliver workout programmes, martial arts instruction and fitness classes that are designed with the longer-term health of the body in mind. Get connected on Instagram and Facebook: @beyondthedojang

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